Student led learning and teaching on international fieldtrips
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Student-led learning and teaching on international fieldtrips. Alan Marvell 1 , David Simm 2 and Rebecca Schaaf 2 1 University of Gloucestershire, 2 Bath Spa University. Tuesday 15 th April 2014 Geographical Association Annual Conference University of Surrey.

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Student led learning and teaching on international fieldtrips

Student-led learning and teaching on international fieldtrips

Alan Marvell1,David Simm2and Rebecca Schaaf21 University of Gloucestershire, 2Bath Spa University

Tuesday 15th April 2014Geographical Association Annual Conference University of Surrey

Fieldwork why gain a sense of place

Fieldwork: why gain a sense of ‘place’?

Rationale for fieldwork:

  • Central tenet of the discipline (Haigh and Gold, 1993)

  • Tool for student deep learning (Hill and Woodland, 2002)

  • Immersion in-the-field cannot be easily replicated e.g. by virtual fieldwork (Coe and Smyth, 2010)

  • Applying theory to reality (Fuller et al., 2006)

  • Develops group and team work skills

    Importance of ‘place’:

“Place is … a way of seeing, knowing and understanding the world. When we look at the world as a world of places we see different things. We see attachments and connections between people and place” (Cresswell, 2004, p. 11)

Learning and teaching strategies for gaining a sense of place

Learning and teaching strategies for gaining a sense of ‘place’

1. Mobile methodologies - ‘walking and talking’ as a journey rather than stops (Coe and Smyth, 2010)

  • Negotiating familiarity and otherness (Smith, 2006)

  • Immersion in ‘place’

  • Comparing familiar with unfamiliar (della Dora, 2011)

  • Communicating to others through storytelling or visual aids, e.g. posters (Saunders, 2010), photographs (Sidaway, 2002), podcasts (Jarvis and Dickie, 2010).

    2. Active learning– learning by doing, e.g. field activities

    3. Student-led learning– tour guides (Coe and Smyth, 2010),students learn from each other

    4. Self-reflection, e.g. field diaries (McGuinness and Simm, 2005; Dummer et al., 2008).

  • Affective domain (Boyle et al., 2007), transformative learning in-the-field.

  • Applying student led learning to fieldwork

    Applying student-led learning to fieldwork

    • Characteristics of student-led learning (Coe and Smyth, 2010):

      • active learning and interactive teaching

      • deep learning and understanding

      • ethos of shared learning

      • building knowledge rather than as an end product

      • increased responsibility and accountability for student’s own (and others’) learning

      • increased sense of autonomy in the learner

      • interdependence between teacher and learner

      • mutual respect within the learner-teacher relationship

      • reflective approach

    • Student-led field teaching:Teaching in situ where students present materials to other students (Marvell, 2008; Marvell et al., 2013)

      • Overcomes students as passive recipients

      • Students as ‘learning partners’ (Coe and Smyth, 2010)

      • Empowerment

      • Higher-level transferable skills

    Background to the modules

    Background to the modules

    • International Fieldwork – Barcelona, Spain

    • Optional module (year 2 UoG and year 3 BSU)

    • Geography and Tourism/Events Management undergraduates

    • Broad aims and objectives:

      • attain a geographical sense of ‘place’

      • actively involved in logistical planning

      • each group delivers a student-led field presentation and field activity

      • conduct independent and advanced research

      • teamwork and project management skills

      • confidence and ability to cope with unfamiliar environments

      • critical self-appraisal of field experience and performance

    Background to the modules1

    Background to the modules


    • Lectures and workshops before fieldtrip

    • 7 day fieldtrip to Barcelona: 1.5 day staff-led,

      2 day reconnaissance, 2 days student-led

    • 24 students, 5 groups of 4-5 students

      Assessment (Level 5):

      Group pre-placement project proposalPass/Fail

      Group field presentation and activity 50%

      Individual reflective notebook 50%

    Background to the modules2

    Background to the modules


    • Lectures and workshops before fieldtrip

    • 5 day fieldtrip to Barcelona: 1.5 days staff-led,

      0.5 day reconnaissance, 2 days student-led

    • 30 students, 6 groups of 5 students

      Assessment (Level 6):

      Group pre-placement project reportPass/Fail

      Group field presentation and activity 40%

      Field notebook and self-reflective essay20%

      Essay: ‘Transformation of Barcelona’40%

    Examples of fieldwork topics

    Examples of fieldwork topics

    • Presentation topics:

      • Authenticity of ‘place’: the Barri Gòtic and La Ribera districts

      • Urban regeneration and social exclusion in El Raval

      • The Barcelona Model: fact or fiction?

      • Catalan identity and the impact of tourism

      • Socio-economic impact of the 1992 Olympic Games

      • Reinventing Cerdà’s vision of L’Eixample: the ProEixample project

      • Rebranding industrial heritage: Poblenou’s 22@ project

      • The influence of globalisation in Barcelona

    • Student-led field activities:

      • Guided tour with debate

      • Interactive quiz or worksheet

      • Data collection, e.g. survey

      • Field observation and interpretation, e.g. textural analysis

      • Problem-solving exercise

    Project aims and objectives

    Project aims and objectives

    Aims and objectives:

    • To study students’ experiences of student-led field teaching

    • To identify the ways in which students engage with the field environment

    • To evaluate the learning and teaching strategies used (student presentations and activities) in getting students to engage with ‘place’


    • Daily reflective question set

    • End-of-fieldtrip reflective essay (BSU)

    • Post-fieldtrip questionnaire

    • Module evaluation


    • Students’ learning experiences as revealed by diaries and questionnaires

    • Evaluate the extent to which students engage with ‘place’

    • How student engagement translates into assessment

    Student experiences of field talks and activities

    Student experiences of field talks and activities

    • Recognition of skills: “Didn’t feel very confident in leading the presentation but appreciated doing it because of the key skills learned.”

    • Informality: “The student-led sessions seemed less formal and so I felt more relaxed in a learning environment.”

    • Accessibility:“I felt student-led teaching taught me more about place as the students used language similar to me.”

    • Responsibility: “I felt responsible for the learning of my peers when I was leading.”

    • Mutual respect: “Being led by peers made me pay more attention as I would want respect from them in my presentation.”

    Student experiences of field talks and activities1

    Student experiences of field talks and activities

    • Empowerment:“Being led, I became an active learner and realised how beneficial being in control of my own learning was for personal development.”

    • “Putting students in charge of tours is a great tool for learning as I feel it creates great enthusiasm for learning.”

    • Active learning: “I’ve also learned from watching other groups presenting … from the way they presented and dealt with different environments.”

    Student experiences of field talks and activities2

    Student experiences of field talks and activities

    • Group dynamics: “Disappointed with the fifth member of the group’s presenting skills as he is very loud and outspoken usually, however acted ‘shy’ in the field.”

    • Distractions: “Bad weather made people unhappy and cold and wet which meant their concentration levels were low.”

    • “Some people’s presentations were barely audible, which is frustrating.”

    • “Found it quite hard to keep concentrating when presenting as it sometimes felt that people weren’t taking notes so perhaps more interactive learning is needed.”

    • Varied itinerary: “The activities were successful in breaking up long speeches and tiring note taking.”

    Student experiences engaging with place

    Student experiences: Engaging with ‘place’

    • Value of being in situ: “In situ, students experienced a unique, multi-sensory experience of a place … From this experience, I can say active participation in situ is something that cannot be simulated easily in the classroom.”

    • Passing through – not engaging in transit between sites.

    • Limited view of place: “Sites chosen to deliver the presentations were carefully thought out to provide a relatively safe environment, away from traffic and large numbers of people.”

    Student experiences engaging with place1

    Student experiences: Engaging with ‘place’

    • Sense of place:“It is strange that places so close together can be so different.”

    • “Barcelona’s sense of place is very varied due to the different districts within the city.”

    • Personalised impressions:“We were warned of pickpockets … I was suspicious of EVERYONE.”

    • Emotional interaction with environment: “When participating in a field activity … I found myself becoming far more involved and emotionally attached than I would in a lecture.”

    Students definitions gaining a sense of place

    Students’ definitions: gaining a sense of ‘place’

    • “A sense of place is created by a number of things such as amenities, historical influences, cultural aspects, community, atmosphere, and others … I would define place as the atmosphere and feeling a location provides through the influences it celebrates and draws upon.”

    • “Place … represents an area which has social meaning. This sense of meaning that people have differentiates space from place, and include social, economic and environmental issues.”

    • “I cannot stress the importance of people in defining a sense of place … their lives, legacies, cultures, languages and beliefs … are all stories that they leave behind.”

    • “Some people’s sense of place is underdeveloped as they may find it difficult to connect with their emotions. Because of this they cannot relate a place with personal feelings.”



    • Students do not feel short-changed by student-led teaching

    • Students recognise they are acquiring other skills

    • Marking criteria must be appropriate to the format of assessment

    • Engagement with learning process and greater immersion in the place

    • Students start to question their own relationship with the place and people

    • Value of self-reflection – importance of depth of reflection

    Next stage of the project

    Next stage of the project

    (i) To trial innovative modes of learning in-the-field:

    • Prior familiarisation of locality using Streetview in Google Earth

    • “What is this place?” activity – identify geographical issues using observation and existing knowledge

    • Design activity in situ – more experiential, alleviates restrictive pre-prepared presentations

    • Photography competition with narrative, evolve into a ‘digital story’?

    • Peer assessment – if students take ‘possession’ of fieldtrip, surely they should assess each other?

      (ii) To seek reflective statements of immediate response in situ – e.g. interviews, video blogs.



    • Boyle, A. et al. (2007) Fieldwork is good: the student perception and the affective domain. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 31(2), 299-317.

    • Coe, N.M. and Smyth, F.M. (2010) Students as tour guides: innovation in fieldwork assessment. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 34(1), 125-139.

    • Cresswell, T. (2004) Place: a short introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

    • della Dora, V. (2011) Engaging sacred space: experiments in the field. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 35(2), 163-184.

    • Dummer, J.B., Cook, I.G., Parker, S.L., Barrett, G.A. and Hull, A.P. (2008) Promoting and assessing ‘deep learning’ in Geography fieldwork: an evaluation of reflective field diaries. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 32(3), 459-479.

    • Fuller, I., Edmondson, S., France, D., Higgitt, D. and Ratinen, I. (2006) International perspectives on the effectiveness of geography fieldwork for learning. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 30(1), 89-101.

    • Haigh, M. and Gold, J.R. (1993) The problems with fieldwork: a group-based approach towards integrating fieldwork into the undergraduate geography curriculum. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 17(1), 21-32.

    • Hill, J. and Woodland, W. (2002) An evaluation of foreign fieldwork in promoting deep learning: a preliminary investigation. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 27(6), 539-555.

    • Jarvis, C. and Dickie, J. (2010) Podcasts in support of experiential field learning. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 34(2), 173-186.

    • Kent, M., Gilbertson, D.D. and Hunt, C.O. (1997) Fieldwork in Geography teaching: a critical review of the literature and approaches. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 21(3), 313-332.

    • Marvell, A., Simm, D., Schaaf, R. and Harper, R. (2013) Students as scholars: evaluating student-led learning and teaching during fieldwork. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 37(4), pp. 547-566.

    • Marvell, A. (2008) Student-led presentations in situ: the challenges to presenting on the edge of a volcano. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 32(2), 321-335.

    • McGuinness, M. and Simm, D. (2005) Going global? Long-haul fieldwork in undergraduate Geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29(2), 241-253.

    • Saunders, A. (2010) Exhibiting the field for learning: telling New York’s stories. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 35(2), 185-197.

    • Sidaway, J.D. (2002) Photography as geographical fieldwork. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 26(1), 95-103.

    • Smith, F.M. (2006) Encountering Europe through fieldwork. European Union and Regional Studies, 13(1), 77-82.

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