Round Robin Field Methods Protocols for Improved Outcomes

Todd Halihan, Oklahoma State University

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This activity provides an approach to teach field methods that is programmed to avoid common pitfalls in teaching field methods to students. The two common problems that are avoided is familiarity with equipment and improved group function.

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This is utilized any time that there are at least 3 field skills that need to be conveyed over at least 3 field sessions. These sessions can be as short as 50 minute class sessions or as long as 3 hour or day long field laboratory sessions.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The students need to understand the basics of the equipment being used and the intent of the field measurement that is to be made. They also need to understand the pitfalls of the equipment and the reporting requirements that will follow the field activity.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is included as part of a sequence of activities depending on how many times you need to loop through sequences of three exercises.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Regardless of the equipment/sampling that is being conducted, the goals of this exercise include:
1) bringing correct set of equipment to the field that is in working order
2) calibrating and utilizing the equipment properly
3) reporting on the results using QA/QC protocols
4) working as a project team with a project manager

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

1) anticipation of field conditions
2) trouble shooting field equipment or sampling areas
3) negotiations with land owners or regulators

Other skills goals for this activity

1) competent written reporting of results
2) competent operation of field equipment

Description and Teaching Materials

Field exercises are usually far more difficult than laboratory exercises. Two factors are field conditions and lack of familiarity by the students of the equipment. The exercises generally fail due to students not knowing what to bring, students not feeling responsible for the exercise, and finally, only seeing the exercise once.

The round robin approach attempts to improve the situation by utilizing two features not normally included when teaching field exercises.

The first is a round robin approach where 3 field exercises are taught simultaneously. This allows the students to be affiliated with the same exercise three times instead of only one. As difficulties arise in the second and third round, students have experience to assist each other in taking good data from the mistakes they learned in round one.

The second adjustment is the nomination of a project manager from a student group. The groups should consist of 3-6 students with one of them nominated as project manager. The manager is the one that will communicate with the instructor (upper management). The other students much communicate their problems to the manager and the manager must assign tasks to complete the assigned project.

These two adjustments allow a more complete understanding of each exercise as they see it or are asked questions about it three times. The groups who complete the task in round three take lots of lessons from the first two groups completing the same task.

The project managers change the dynamic from any problem being the faculty's problem to the manager's problem. Thus managing field problems becomes part of the inherent exercise where it should be instead of a tension between the faculty and the students.

Slide explaining round robin approach (PowerPoint 309kB Apr29 13)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Round 1 of round robin takes additional faculty effort as three exercises are conducted simultaneously. Rounds 2 and 3 are much smoother and more valuable. Adjust grading for each rounds accordingly.


Team self evaluation and team reports are evaluated along with notes taken by instructor in the field.

References and Resources