The Place of Fieldwork in the Profession and Curriculum
Based on Mogk and Goodwin, 2012
From the earliest days of geology, great advances and insights have derived from keen observations of Earth. Butler (2008) asserted that the four key paradigms of the earth sciences - uniformitarianism, the extent of geological time, evolution and the history of life, and plate tectonics - all derive from field observations and related interpretational skills. In reflecting on Hutton's cognitive breakthrough regarding geologic time at Siccar Point, Gould (1987, p. 5) noted, "Hutton broke through those biblical structures because he was willing to place field observation before preconception - speak to the earth and it shall teach thee."
Field studies have provided the conceptual framework and inspired research questions that have subsequently been investigated using modern high-resolution analytical methods, experiments, physical and computational modeling, and the formulation and application of theory. In turn, the direct study of Earth in field settings has been greatly enriched through application of the results of these modern approaches. There is an iterative, positive feedback mechanism in understanding Earth and its processes that is derived from the flow of information between research that is grounded in nature and laboratory-based studies.
Geoscience education also has a long tradition of teaching and learning through direct experience from nature and from each other in the field setting among a community of geoscientists. One of the earliest accounts of field instruction concerns John Wesley Powell, who was an instructor at Illinois Wesleyan University after the Civil War:
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