Student Assessment

We assess students using our digital assessment system, comprised of a logbook (more details below), workbooks, benchmarks and field-based practical exams. Students make daily updates using a tablet to track their progress, the end result being the creation of their training documentation portfolio.

  • Logbook A factual record of what takes place.
  • Workbooks Designed to log information on topic-specific items.
  • Benchmarks Accomplishments to be checked off as completed.
  • Practical Exams Where performance is evaluated by physically performing a task.

With assessment systems, the sooner you learn the system the more you can focus on the associated information. Our digital assessment system was designed with this in mind; to make it easy so students can focus on the information, not the system.

How Do You Know?

In training guides and outdoor educators, how do you determine when they are ready to move on from being a student? When are they ready to assume the duties of being an instructor or lead a group down a remote river? How do you know?

When we started Jack Mountain in the late 1990’s, there was no template for how we were to answer these questions. We were inventing the process as we went, based around the principles learned in a masters degree program in education. So we improvised. As the years went by and the number of semester courses we had run went from a handful, to double-digits, to approaching 60, we’ve continued to improvise. Once a year we take a hard look at how we assess students, how we document this, and how it can be improved.

In a professional training program, documentation is a key factor.

As the years have progressed, so has our assessment system. In 2019 we moved our assessment system from paper to digital. This had some distinct advantages, including making it portable, easy to make copies of work done, the ability to add media to the portfolio, and having all of the work in one place. It also came with some disadvantages, such as needing power on remote trips, the need to keep things dry, students having to learn how to the process worked, the lack of a wired internet connection at the field school, and a few more. Every advance comes with a few speed bumps, and this was no exception. But overall, it has been a tremendously positive transition.

Gear Needed And How It Works

When participating in a professional training program at Jack Mountain, students need a tablet (or phone) that runs Google Docs. We choose these over laptops because of the lower power requirements.We highly recommend an external keyboard to make entering information less of a chore. Students will also need their own battery that can be recharged via usb, which they can charge at one of the field school charging stations. Details:

Gear Required For Digital Assessment System

•  Battery that charges via USB. This one from RAVPower has worked well over the years.
•  Tablet or Ipad that runs Google Docs.
•  Bluetooth Keyboard (optional, but it is really challenging to type on a phone).
•  Our system for using these is explained in this blog post. These items are required.
•  Personal solar panel. Optional. You will be able to charge your battery via USB from one of our solar panels. These do not go into the field with us. For more information see the blog post linked above.

In a nutshell, students are responsible for keeping their battery and device charged. On a daily basis, they maintain their logbook, add to workbooks, and complete other assessment and documentation tasks. These can be done in the field or in our library cabin, which is dedicated to quiet study.

When a student enrolls on one of our professional training programs we create a folder in Google Drive that contains all the necessary templates for their logbook, workbooks, and everything else they will need. The student downloads this to their device before arriving at the field school, then makes daily additions to their portfolio.

During a field school program, students keep track of what they have accomplished and what remains to be done with a checklist. Example: WBS Student Checklist

Documentation-Based Vs. Reputation-Based

Our assessment system and certifications are designed to be documentation-based instead of reputation-based. What does this mean? Consider two people being interviewed for a job. In their separate interviews, they are both asked if they know how to make a bow drill fire. The first person answers the question by stating that they are a graduate of school X and learned how to make bow drill fires there. They are relying on the reputation of school X to impress their potential employer. The second person, when asked, refers to their training documentation portfolio, explains that they have made 25 bow drill fires using various combinations of materials under various weather conditions. They show the interviewer the documentation. This person is using the documentation of what they have actually done to demonstrate their skill. They may also explain that they are a graduate of school Y, but their of experience is more descriptive of what they can do than simply the reputation of school Y.

Why Documentation Matters Now More Than Ever

We live in the era of YouTube and social media, which is filled with posers and people not telling the truth about their background and experience. We have instant experts from television shows who have the right look (according to producers), but rarely the experience and background. How does the wheat get separated from the chaff? Documented experience.

What Is A Logbook And How Does It Work?

Your logbook is a public document that serves as a factual record of what you’ve accomplished which you can use as proof of your experience and accomplishments. The logbook is not a personal journal or diary where you record your deepest, darkest secrets. Nor is it a notebook where you record the how-to information and personal musings that arise when taking a course. These both detract from its usefulness, and would necessitate anyone reading through it to sift through the parts that don’t belong. It can be viewed by anyone wishing to determine your level of skill and training.

In the past we used bound notebooks (the black and white composition books) as logbooks, but we’ve transitioned to typing them on a computer for the ease of distribution and reproduction. We still use the composition notebooks on trips.

If you have an interest in teaching bushcraft or guiding, a well kept logbook is a great way to begin the marketing process. If you have an interest in being a teaching assistant or instructor with us, keeping an accurate and detailed logbook is a must.


Logbooks should be maintained daily during training. The experience of past students is that if the day’s events are not recorded that evening or early the next morning, their memory soon becomes lost. Since our programs are intensive immersion experiences, every day is a busy, full day. So in order to have your logbook document the full scope of your experience, be sure to add to it daily – don’t skip a week and try to recap everything at a later date.

What To Include In Your Logbook

A logbook entry should include the date, location, a summary of the day’s activities, a list of accomplishments and observations, and any reflection on how the accomplishments and activities of the day relate to the course. Similarly, it is useful to devote a page in your logbook to keeping lists of different activities and how many times you’ve successfully completed them. An example of this is friction fire – it is useful to keep a list of how many bow-drill and hand drill coals (separate lists) you have gotten. Also shelters you have built and slept in, etc.

Instructor’s Signature

To verify that the content of your logbook is accurate, an instructor should regularly sign off on it. This can be weekly, bi-weekly, or at the end of a course.

Sample Logbook Entry

Date: 10/17/2003

Location: Croque Brook Campsite, Allagash River, Maine

Summary: Today we poled and paddled from Back Channel campsite on Round Pond downriver to Croque Brook. We left Back Channel at 8 am after a breakfast of oatmeal. We stopped at the spring near the ranger’s cabin on Round Pond to fill up water bottles on the way. While there we identified several plants. We traveled through Round Pond Rips, a challenging section of river at such low water levels. The trip downriver was uneventful except for one of the boats hitting a rock and spinning around – it needed to be lifted off the rock and its occupants needed to step out to get it floating again. Once we arrived at Croque Brook we set up camp and had lunch, then poled across the river to get firewood. When we had enough, we brought it back to camp, sawed to length, then split the big pieces. We spent the remainder of the afternoon learning about lining canoes and tying lining bridles onto our boats. I started the cooking fire with a bow drill, and with a dinner of chicken stew we baked sourdough biscuits in the reflector oven. After the dishes were cleaned, I took a swim and after dark we had a short lesson on celestial navigation.

Accomplishments And Observations:
1. I worked on snubbing (poling downstream), and my downstream ferrying with the pole became much stronger.
2. Got my 23rd bow drill coal to start the dinner fire.
3. Pressed a specimens of Viburnum trilobum and Eupatorium maculatum
4. Saw bull moose with a full rack in the river just downstream from Round Pond
5. Felled, limbed and sectioned several trees with my axe for firewood.
6. Carved feather sticks with my knife
7. Learned to tie a lining bridle onto a canoe and line through rapids
8. Mixed and baked sourdough biscuits in the reflector oven

Reflections: My snubbing vastly improved today, as did my ability to put the canoe exactly where I want it with the pole. I feel confident in shallow class 2 whitewater, and if I encounter water I’m not comfortable poling or paddling, I confident in my ability to line a canoe through it. My axe use has improved greatly on this trip as a result of using it every day. I was much more confident and felt safer using it.
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