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Outdoor School Evaluation and Assessment

Outdoor School for All!

Diverse Programming and Outcomes in Oregon

Call to Action:

Outdoor school has been an Oregon tradition for over 50 years. We know that engaging students in applicable, relevant, and engaging experiences in the out-of-doors contributes to academic success and environmental literacy. However, there has been limited quantifiable measure of these outcomes statewide. How do we track and compare best practices without a common measurement system? A common measurement system enables programs to consider statewide trends, as well as track their outcomes, looking at change within their individual programs over time, and among themselves.

Evaluation Project Overview:

Outdoor School for All! Diverse Programming and Outcomes in Oregon is a collaborative evaluation project which began in 2014 with support by the Gray Family Foundation. Stakeholders across the state came together to build understanding and knowledge about current outdoor school programming and its intended outcomes. We built a common measurement system based on legislative requirements, a wide variety of data sources, existing literature/knowledge base and substantial input from stakeholders. The data gathered in this project are expected to support several elements of the statewide program. These include:

  • Legislative reporting requirements (OR-SB 439)
  • Efforts to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Professional development and learning
  • Community engagement and outreach
  • Program and curriculum development
  • Research, evaluation, and assessment

The goal of the project is not to be prescriptive, but rather to be inclusive and useful in outdoor school curriculum design or assessment—at both the statewide and individual program levels.

Are You Involved in Outdoor School? Then Participate in This Evaluation Project: 

Are you a program provider?

  • Take this online survey. You'll be placed on our searchable list of providers shared with school districts and help us understand the diversity of programming statewide.  
  • Contact us to receive a packet of surveys, with return mailer, for your students to be administered in Spring 2019. You'll receive a confidential report in Winter 2020 (comparing your program with the state average) that you can use for reporting and program improvement. If you choose to share that report to select audiences, the OSU Outdoor School program (and related network) may be able to provide more targeted services to you (e.g., pairing similar programs for peer mentoring). A PDF preview of the student survey is here.

Are you a teacher or school official that witnesses the results of outdoor school?

  • If you attend or otherwise support the outdoor school experience and witness the results of students going to outdoor school, take this online survey.
Initial Project Results, What We've Discovered Thus Far 

The common measurement system was piloted with six outdoor schools of differing length, programming, and size; 82 teachers and 680 students participated during the 2017-2018 school year. Initial results show significant positive gains and a strong influence on many educational outcomes. These include:

  • Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Essential Skills (e.g, critical thinking, teamwork)
  • 21st Century skills (e.g, problem-solving, collaboration)
  • Interest in learning
  • Positive school behaviors (e.g, pay more attention)
  • Students' self-efficacy
  • Legislative requirements (e.g, behavior, engagement, performance)
  • Student learning: overall and specific to the environment
  • Environmental attitudes
  • Social Emotional Learning Core Competencies (e.g, empathy, responsibility)
Want More Information?

Please feel free to contact us (Dr. Spirit Brooks, Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Coordinator, or Dr. Steven Braun, Project Evaluator). For a comprehensive explanation of methods and findings, you can view the Pilot Study Evaluation Report.

Questions?

Please don't hesitate to contact us at outdoorschool@oregonstate.edu or 541-737-4391 if you have any questions about the Outdoor School Program!