Exploring the Transformative Experience of Undergraduate Geologic Field Camps Through the Lens of Gender and Diversity
Geologic fieldwork is considered to be transformative for geology students in the development of expertise and confidence. Engagement in fieldwork can have positive outcomes on undergraduate students' cognitive and affective development. Fieldwork plays a critical role in developing students' science identity and influences career decisions and persistence in geology. Although there are many positive outcomes, negative experiences occurring during fieldwork may drive students, particularly women or diverse students, away from further study in geology.
Our study is focused on multi-week, field-station based programs for advanced undergraduates. This is a mixed-methods study designed to measure both transformative experience and perception of bias of gendered/diversity-related experience in treatment, environment or student performance measures. Other items measured are related to geologic identity, value of the experience and career aspirations. Both students and instructional staff are invited to participate to triangulate their experience.
Transformative Experience is a body of research describing changes in interest and identity that happen due to specific educational experiences. It is defined by three characteristics: motivated use of new knowledge, expansion of perception due to an experience, and the high personal value of an educational event. Our study employs a survey designed to measure constructs of science identity and a mastery mindset, both of which have been shown to be results of having a successful transformative experience. We are examining qualitative data derived from post-field interviews for additional constructs related to interest, emotions related to the field experience, the value of the experience, and changes in disposition to geologic science and careers. From this data we extract aspects of participants' experience that are reflective of surrender (i.e., the willingness to suspend critical reflection and to be carried away by the immediate learning experience) which we have determined to be a significant element of transformative experience occurring in geological field settings.