The KWL method is often used to teach many different strategies and is very effective in most field trip applications. KWL is an acronym standing for Knowledge the student already has, What the student hopes to learn and then what the student finally Learned through the process. The strategy can be implemented before a field trip, used throughout the field trip as well as after it.
This portion of the strategy should focus on what the student already knows about a particular subject. This can be listed on a large sheet of paper or a column on the board. Students should take the time to brainstorm and list as many different aspects of the subject as they can, no matter how insignificant they may seem to the students.
For example, if the class is planning a field trip to a salt water estuary, the students may know that there are fish in the water. They may know that there are birds flying around which interact with the environment as well. Listing as many different types of fish and birds, if any are known, would be a good step.
What to Discover (W)
After the initial brainstorming phrase is done, the instructor often leads a discussion about those various aspects to help build on the next portion of the strategy, which is determining what the students want to know or discover. Without executing the first step properly, this step could go very slowly because the students may not be able to even think of what they may want to know.
Using the estuary example, students may know there are fish and birds in a general sense. They may want to know what types of birds and fish, if the birds eat the fish (or vice versa) and if not what each species eats. They may want to know what other land animals may be close by and interact with the ecosystem. These are all goals that could be accomplished on the field trip.
What Was Learned (L)
The final portion of the strategy is reviewing what was learned. This may be done immediately after the field trip or at a later time, after the students have had time to analyze their information and perhaps present an individual report on the trip. Though many instructors may be tempted to skip this step, it offers a valuable review and reinforcement period for the students.
In most cases, understanding what was learned involves the instructor reviewing the K and W portions of the process, then asking the students to volunteer information about what may have been learned. The students should already be aware of this, since the preparation work was done to prepare their brains to cue on certain things during the field trip. Thus, it provides a comprehensive educational strategy.