Communicating Outdoors

Today I explored my communication skills in an outside environment, and was given the task of building a den with members of a team. Group and leadership Within my particular team I did not feel that there was a specific … Continue reading

Today I explored my communication skills in an outside environment, and was given the task of building a den with members of a team.

Group and leadership

Within my particular team I did not feel that there was a specific group leader, although there were a few team members who were perhaps more vocal than others at suggesting ideas.  We worked well together and managed to agree on individual suggestions relatively quickly. I feel that all team members were able to voice their ideas and everyone listened to one another respectfully. We all had a clear idea of the design of the den and a similar vision of what it should ultimately look like. As the den took shape, we were enthusiastic and this made it feel fun, we had plenty of laughs along the way. I didn’t feel any resentment within the team and we encouraged each other to get involved as much as possible. The most challenging part was communicating with the team members I didn’t know very well. I found it far easier to communicate with team members I already knew as I had an idea of what their strengths would be in this task.

Explaining

The group who were explaining their task did so very well.  I think this was due to one specific member being chosen to talk, instead of different members trying to communicate at the one time.  This kept their communication clear and concise and meant that all aspects of the task were communicated in a logical manner. A number of people did state that planning could have been better, that most members rushed into making the den, and that planning  happened as the den evolved.

Environment

Being outdoors is a wonderful setting for learning as it keeps things relaxed, informal, and provides a change of environment for learners who may not ordinarily perform well in a classroom situation. I felt that students in this task came to life and were perhaps more outspoken than usual.  Being outdoors also provided an opportunity for everyone to communicate as freely and loudly as they wanted. Communicating outdoors is more challenging than indoors due to natural noises and distractions. Our group appeared to be distracted by the team members working close by and also by birds and dogs making the odd appearance.  We chose to build our den within a group of trees, which was nicely sheltered from wind and did make it easier to hear each other talking, although we were talking far more loudly than we normally would indoors.  

Negotiation

Negotiations were unsuccessful and I think this was because the teams felt like a tight unit who had all contributed to the den building, and were therefore not willing to compromise on anything which was their own hard work.  There were plenty of offers made for various parts of our den which were declined, and we had all agreed early on that we were not willing to trade anything because we were all so pleased with our end result. I found it challenging to continually decline offers when other members were communicating well and in such a friendly manner.

Communicating in Other Environments

During an input for the Situated Communication module, we were asked to build a den. We were placed in groups, and although I have already had the opportunity to interact with all the members it was my first time working in a group with some. We worked well as a team and experimented with everyone’s … Continue reading “Communicating in Other Environments”

During an input for the Situated Communication module, we were asked to build a den. We were placed in groups, and although I have already had the opportunity to interact with all the members it was my first time working in a group with some.

We worked well as a team and experimented with everyone’s ideas to help solve problems, for example ways to secure our roof without using tape.

After reflection, and reading about Hargie’s purposes of explaining I have been able to identify strengths that the group we visited displayed in their explanation of their den (2011). The group explained their den well, with added comedy and also responded to our questioning positively. It was interesting to hear their descriptions of their den as without this input we would have missed some of the creative design features. It was also nice to hear some of the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

Being outside of a usual classroom or lecture environment pushed me out of my comfort zone but encouraged me to take a more fun approach to the task. I think that the environment made a more informal feeling which reflected in my communication. I communicated with the whole group and with individuals, which I often think is harder to do when doing group work at a table. Being outside meant that we were more spread out and could solve problems in smaller sections as well as with the whole group.

We were in a sheltered area which meant that the wind and other noises did not affect our communication. In other areas outside, the volume used may have to be louder if there are other noises to “compete” with or quieter if you are sharing spaces with other members of the public. I sometimes found myself distracted by other noises, and at the start I was distracted by trying to scout out good materials! This could be overcome by explaining in a different environment, to keep instructional communication outdoors limited or by finding an area with less distractions, like the clearing we stood in.

We were unsuccessful in our negotiations, although we did try to trick another group into swapping materials with us. I think this was due to other groups also negotiating for other tasks and being distracted by the poem we were creating for the presentation!

It was challenging to consider what other groups may like in return, in order for the negotiation to seem fair.

Overall, it was enjoyable to challenge my communication skills in a different environment and with a new combination of people to work with in my group. This input has highlighted the importance of active outdoor learning in order to challenge learners in new contexts.

Reference

Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication. 5th Edition. London: Routledge

Communication in Other Environments

Group and leadership There wasn’t just one leader, we split into rough pairs and took different parts of the shelter each. Everybody contributed to a part of the den. When someone came up with an idea it was discussed with other members of the group and, if it was decided it was an idea we …

Continue reading “Communication in Other Environments”

Group and leadership

There wasn’t just one leader, we split into rough pairs and took different parts of the shelter each. Everybody contributed to a part of the den. When someone came up with an idea it was discussed with other members of the group and, if it was decided it was an idea we would use, that person would take control of doing that section and making it work. For the most part this worked well for our group. However, at times people were overshadowed by other peoples ideas or were not heard because of all of us talking at once. At these times, someone would step up and say something letting everyone get their ideas and thoughts heard. I think, looking back on the day, the hardest part was communicating exactly what everyone was doing. As there wasn’t an overall leader it was sometimes difficult to understand what everyone was trying to achieve and who was trying to achieve the other challenges we were given. Overall, I think we functioned very well as a team.

Explaining

The group that was explaining their den were slightly unclear with their explanation of how they built it but clearly put across their overall concept of their den. They explained what their initial idea of their den was and then went onto add some imaginary aspects (underground levels). Their explanation of their den was clear because they were able to “simplify [their] complex idea” Hargie, O. (2011)¹ and put across clearly and concisely what they had been thinking and discussing. However, their explanation of how they built it was unclear. This was mainly due to us running out of time there for it was rushed and not completed. Overall, this means that the planning of both groups was not very good because we allowed time to run away from us, but the presentation was good and all other steps that were needed to explain their ideas to us were done.

Environment

The physical environment didn’t impact  that much on our communication, but I could see that if we had different weather (i.e strong winds, rain or snow) then our communication could have been hindered. The main changes I noticed in the way I communicated in an outdoor environment instead of in the classroom was the way I tended to demonstrate things more rather than just explaining how I was going to do it. I also noticed that I tended to speak quieter and made more eye contact. I think the reason I spoke quieter was that I was more aware of the fact that I was only speaking to a small group rather than a whole class. It was not that difficult to communicate above any natural sounds because it was a rather quiet spot. However, if there was more people around, more wildlife or more sounds from the wind or rain then there might have been some difficult in communicating. To ease any difficulty the speaker and the listener would have to maintain good eye contact, make sure they were standing fairly close to each other and make sure they are able to hear each other as they talk. The environment didn’t distract me that much but I can see how it would distract other people as it is a very beautiful location. Primary children, in particular, could become very distracted in an environment like this. In order to avoid distraction I would allow time at the start of the session to allow them to explore and then get them to settle down for the task we were out their for.

Negotiation

The negotiation we were tasked with was to get someone to come and help us for five minutes, for free. This did not work very well. We were able to get someone to help for a short amount of time (less than one minute) but were not able to get anyone to help for a longer period of time. This was because of the fact that we were not offering anything in return, it was also partly due to the fact that the people that we asked we joking around and did not want us to complete our task. It was very difficult to try and negotiate with someone for their time when you were not offering anything in return. Most people will not do a task for nothing. I think this is something you have to keep in mind when working with anyone, especially children. You have to be willing to have a give and take relationship and be able to negotiate with children. There will be times when you have to be firm and not be able to negotiate but there will be times when you have to be able to have an open discussion and negotiation with children.

 

The communication, explanation and negotiation skills I have learned through this are ones that are essential in classrooms, indoors and outdoors. Without these skills classrooms would not be successful environments and it would be harder to function in classrooms where these skills are not being implemented by teachers and students alike.

 


1 – Hargie, O. (2011) Skilled Interpersonal Communication. 5th Edition. London:        Routlege

Communicating in Other Environments – A Reflective Journal

During our outdoor learning session, our section was split into four teams given the task to create a fort that can stand by itself, has at least three sides and can have everyone in the group sit inside. Group and … Continue reading

During our outdoor learning session, our section was split into four teams given the task to create a fort that can stand by itself, has at least three sides and can have everyone in the group sit inside.

Group and Leadership

When completing our task, I found that I emerged as one of the natural leaders of the group. We did not formally choose our leaders I believe I was at the forefront of delegating and making sure everyone was able to speak. I was actively trying to include every member of the group in both saying ideas and physically making our fort “Casa De Tipi”. Looking back on the day the most challenging thing was physically getting started. Our group overcame this by voicing as many ideas as we could and filtering down from there until one of the group members said the design of a tipi, which would fit all the criteria of the task. Then we were able to start and build from there.

Explaining

I, unfortunately, was looking after our fort while the rest of my team was getting the explanation of the building of someone else’s fort. So instead I will reflect on how I explained our fort to another group. I explained how we constructed our fort from concept to final product. I added an entertaining flair to it to keep it from feeling purely fact-based; however, I could’ve been more thorough in explaining our preplanning because the other team had to probe to find out how we got started. Other than that I felt I was articulate and spoke well, being sure to keep my tone pleasant and intonation varied to keep my listeners engaged, thus making myself clear.

Environment

Although the physical environment didn’t impact our team’s ability to communicate, I do understand we were lucky with the weather we had. Had there been strong wind or rain I could see where issues of miscommunication could happen. In the future, I’ll be able to use the skills I learned from my classmates. The main change to how I will communicate in an outdoor environment is being physical. I noticed as we were sharing ideas members of my team would physically show what they were meaning as well as saying the idea, this aided in cementing what a group member meant. Looking at this specific idea and expanding the concept further, had the weather impacted how our team was able to communicate I would be sure to use non-verbal communication to its fullest. Making use of gesture and proximity, making sure to be an adequate distance from the group and putting more physicality than usual to convey ideas more explicitly. As a listener, I would be sure to engage actively with whoever is speaking. In an outdoor environment this, for me, would mean being near the speaker. Also, I would be sure to maintain decent eye contact with the speaker to ensure I catch as much information as I can. In this particular exercise, I didn’t notice any distraction for myself but could see the environment distracting others as it was a picturesque part of the university grounds. Although taking a minute to enjoy the surroundings isn’t a bad thing and we should appreciate nature, I can understand if this was with a group of primary children finding that balance of appreciation before it becomes a distraction a tough challenge. To overcome this, I would be sure always to be iterating to the learners what they should be doing and avoid mentioning things they shouldn’t be, so it’s not an even an idea to them.

Negotiation

During the task, our team had to negotiate to acquire something from another team that seemed essential to the structure of their fort. We were successful but had difficulty with this acquisition. The main obstacle was that most teams had an emotional attachment to their creations and thus were less than keen on parting with anything, nevermind something essential to the structure. I took the lead on negotiations as I felt I could be the most persuasive. Another team was scoping out the others and asked if they could have something from us. I was using a classic business negotiation tactic of “If I do this will you do that?” this structure keeps control with me but lets the other party think they’ve had input in the agreement. In the end, we were able to acquire the block in question for our cardboard walkway, in my opinion, a worthwhile trade. The success of our negotiation was down to having receptive other parties willing to listen and counter-negotiate, had they not been willing to do either we would’ve very likely failed.

Reflections

To summarise this experience was eye-opening and a great way to entice engagement from my peers and I. I plan to take aspects of this, active listening, interpersonal communication, negotiation, and general outdoor learning and try to incorporate these into a classroom environment when I am delivering the curriculum.