Investigating the student experience of field work
Higher Order Thinking Skills:
Role of Activity in a Course:
Data, Tools and LogisticsRequired Tools:
Despite the affection with which fieldwork is held, there remain suggestions that its role is set to diminish within universities in the UK and elsewhere. There are a number of drives for this:
· Firstly, it is argued that some earth science and related disciplines have been moving away from the need for fieldwork; partly due to changes in curriculum, but also development of technological alternatives to fieldwork, such as remotely sensed data, GIS and virtual 'field' exercises.
· Secondly, it is argued that the growth of student numbers, combined with declining unit-funding, makes fieldwork too expensive. The subsequent need to charge students for fieldwork raising questions about whether field courses are equitable: Kent et al (1997) find that they can be 'manifestly unfair'.
· Thirdly, it is argued that the teaching time commitment of staff on field courses detracts from their ability to conduct research.
There is some evidence that fieldwork is holding its own (Gold et al, 1991, Kent et al, 1997), but there is also a growing view that it is not sacrosanct. In a nutshell, there is a lack of rigorous research findings that can be called upon to support claims that fieldwork is good (Gold et al, 1991; Kent et al., 1997; Winchester-Seeto & Hart, 2000; Johnston and Cooke, 2001; Healey and Blumhof, 2001), which makes its demise a popular target for University accountants.
Kern & Carpenter (1984, 1986) demonstrated the benefits of geological fieldwork in the academic domain. This poster reports on a project that investigated the "affective domain" as well as the "academic domain" through soliciting the student view of residential fieldwork across a range of geology, geography and environmental science programmes in the UK. The project collected evidence using pre- and post-class questionnaires addressing student perceptions of their experience. Statistical analysis of closed responses together with review of open text responses indicates that fieldwork is indeed good.
Gold, J., Jenkins, A., Lee, R., Monk, J., Riley, J., Shepherd, I., and Unwin, D. (1991) Teaching Geography in Higher Education: a manual of good practice, Blackwell, Oxford.
Healey, M. and Blumhof, J. (2001) Mapping the territory: the nature of fieldwork and fieldwork research in geography, earth and environmental sciences, paper presented to the National Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences workshop, the Geological Society, London, 5 June 2001.
Johnston, R. and Cooke, R. (2001) Standing and delivering: views from the trenches, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 25, 5-14.
Kent, M., Gilbertsone, D. and Hunt, C. (1997) Fieldwork in Geography Teaching: a critical review of the literature and approaches, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 21, 313-332.
Kern, E and Carpenter, J. (1984) Enhancement of student values, interests and attitudes in earth sciences through a field-oriented approach, Journal of Geological Education, 32, 299-305.
Kern, E and Carpenter, J. (1986) Effect of field activities on student learning, Journal of Geological Education, 34, 180-183.
Winchester-Seeto, T. & Hart, D. (2000) Field-teaching just a nice day in the sun? Presented at 3rd International Conference on Geoscience Education, Sydney, Australia.