Deepening Secondary Students’ Understanding of Coastal Management at Labrador Park through Fieldwork

The impetus for action research on experiential learning of geography stems from a desire to introduce a more “engaged” form of geography, whereby students move beyond the academic study of geography in the classroom to making sense of geography in relation to their reality (Morgan, 2012). Through an environmental scan of the inclusion of fieldwork into the new Geography syllabus commencing 2013, we sought to find out how fieldwork is integral to the study of geography in Singapore schools. The choice of coastal geography as a topic for inquiry was strategically aligned to its inclusion in the new syllabus and its relevance to Singapore’s geography as an island. The feedback obtained from teachers participating in Professional Learning Circles (PLCs) also suggested that students found it challenging to understand abstract geography concepts, in particular, physical geography processes and how they take place in real world contexts. As such, a “disconnect” or a learning gap has been created between geography presented to the students in the textbook to that of their real world contexts. The decision to explore how to bridge students’ learning gaps through fieldwork as a pedagogical practice was also guided by our Humanities Department action plan to effectively engage our students through Outdoor Classroom Experiences (OCE). We chose Labrador Park as a research site due to various factors, such as its geographical proximity to the school, evidence of human management of coasts, preservation of historical features, and availability of resource materials.

Methods

The research was conducted from April to October 2011 and consisted of three key phases: planning, data collection and data analysis (see Table 1). 

Phase

Focus

Time frame

1

Planning

  • Environmental and subject scanning
  • Brainstorming of research ideas
  • Formulation of thesis question and sub-questions
  • Defining research scope
  • Recce of field sites
  • Development of fieldwork booklet

April to June

2

Data Collection

  • Administration for fieldwork (e.g., information to students and parents)
  • Selection of students
  • Fieldwork activity on 20th July
  • Class reflection 

July to August

3

Data Analysis

  • Transcription of interviews
  • Categorization of student responses
  • Evaluation of student responses
  • Consolidation of findings

September to October

Pages

Related Teaching Materials

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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