Field Trip Around the Room

The field trip is a technique that can be used in a meeting to organize how members of the group discuss several topics and integrate their ideas for how to address them.  It uses small group conversation and successive discussions of the same topic by different groups to help to integrate the ideas of the whole group around specific topics and questions.

Steps in a Field Trip Around the Room

1.   Prior to the meeting, decide on the key topics and questions or topics that will be discussed.  The topics or questions should be issues that matter and ones where those who will participate in the meeting have experience.  The topics/questions should each be written on a flip chart and placed at distance from each other around the edge of the room.  If the purpose of the meeting is action planning, possible questions might be: What needs to change to make this happen? What could keep this from working?  Who should be held responsible for making this happen?  How will we know that it has improved?  The questions can be anything that would benefit from group thinking.

2.  At the beginning of the meeting, the group leader explains why this meeting is important and what are the issues the group will work on.  The facilitator then explains the process:

  • Divide the participants in groups—one group for each issue to be discussed (ideally, 5-8 people per group).  The groups should be “mixed”—made of people from different levels or sites.  (A quick way to divide participants into groups is to have them count off in sequence—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.—and join the group of the number they said.)
  • Have each group stand by one of the flip charts.
  • When instructed to do so, each group discusses the questions and writes their answers on the flipchart.

3. Carry out the field trip: Each group has the opportunity to address the issues on each chart sequentially in 10-minute intervals. Each group has 10 minutes to make notes on the chart in front of them before moving on to the next chart. Each group leaves one person behind to explain what their group has just put on the chart – that person has 1 minute to explain before moving on to rejoin his or her group.

4. After every group has worked on every flip chart, have the groups return to the flip chart they started at. Give each group 5 minutes to study the comments left by all groups. 

5. The large group reconvenes.  The facilitator asks each group to give a 3-minute report-out of the key ideas noted on the chart and suggest next steps to follow up on these ideas. 

6. The leader thanks the groups and talks about what will happen next.

Report Author(s): 
Nancy M. Dixon
Common Knowledge Associates
ASSIST publication: 
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