Deepening Secondary Students’ Understanding of Coastal Management at Labrador Park through Fieldwork, pp. 2 of 7

The team adopted a qualitative approach to address the key research question: How does fieldwork enhance students’ understanding of coastal management? To achieve this, the team focused on three key areas: (1) the development of a fieldwork booklet focusing on Kolb’s experiential learning theory; (2) qualitative interviews of students, and (3) exploring the concept of understanding through the Understanding by Design Framework by Wiggins and McTighe (2005).

Fieldwork Activities

Based on the four stages of Kolb’s learning cycle: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation (Jenkins, 1998; cited in Healey & Jenkins, 2000), we modified the fieldwork booklet developed by Singapore teachers in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (Singapore) Curriculum Planning and Develop Division (CPDD) for the national Humanities Camp in 2010.

A total of 38 students from the best Secondary Three geography class participated in the fieldwork at Labrador Park. One of the goals of this fieldwork activity was to stimulate curiosity and interest in the topic. After a pre-fieldwork briefing upon arrival at Labrador Park, we divided students into two smaller groups to work on different sites. The sub-activities at the learning sites were aligned to different stages of the learning cycle in a sequential manner. Next, students had to conduct a reflective observation by consciously being aware of their experience and sorting their observations into categories typically associated with physical and/or human environments (see Appendix 1). Students then had to make sense of their observations by providing explanations and justifications for grouping them into different categories. Subsequently, they had to locate the new place-based information which they observed on a map. Finally, students drew conclusions and made recommendations based on their observations in the reflection section (see Reflections in Appendix 1, Question 3: Which coast, station A or B, requires more protection? Provide reasons for your choice).

Qualitative Interviews

To investigate the role of fieldwork in enhancing students’ understanding of coastal management, 3 students were selected out of the 38 students based on their past academic performance in the first semester of 2011. Student 1 had the highest test scores while student 3 had the lowest. In-depth and open-ended interviews were conducted one week after the fieldwork activity with the three selected students (see Appendix 2), and a general post-event feedback questionnaire was distributed to all 38 students (see Appendix 3). The interview questions focused on the areas of student experience, the structure of fieldwork activities, and the students’ understanding of coastal management. The interview questions provided guidelines for helping students to construct their reflections. However, students who were academically weaker required more prompting from the teacher interviewers who had to simplify the questions in order to scaffold their thought processes.

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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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