Deepening Secondary Students’ Understanding of Coastal Management at Labrador Park through Fieldwork, pp. 5 of 7

deepening geographical knowledge and experience through structured fieldwork

This section explores the integral place of fieldwork in the learning of geography to help students learn about the real world. Observation skills were included in each site to encourage students to a get a sense or “feel” of the environment as part of the stage of “concrete experience” whereby students learn to encounter or “grasp new information or experience” (Jenkins, 1998; Healey & Jenkins, 2000, p. 187). We deliberately structured questions to help students become sensitive to the environment through inquiry (Roberts, 2003). When asked about what was most enjoyed about their learning at Labrador Park, Student 2 replied:

It’s something I’ve never experienced before and cos’ it’s an outdoor learning journey. [pause] The environment and the part where my teacher explained to me regarding tides and how they came about. The one that is on the deck, Station 2. The one where you close your eyes in Station 2, to feel the environment around me…Can make me reflect…on how the environment has made an impact on my life. It was enriching…[pause] enriching as in….there are a lot of new things that I can learn from this trip. For example, how effects can lead to great impacts. [pause] boring as in as there are only two questions and in each station we spent quite a long time in it. I feel there should be more stations.

The facilitator (teacher) is fundamental to how the activity is carried out and affects how the students come to appreciate, understand and relate to their environment. It has also enabled Student 2 to develop new ways of seeing how she has a personal relationship with the environment and the multitude of cause-effect relationships that can occur in a particular context. Student 3 also described how sketching and map-reading (see Activity 3 in Appendix 1), was important to her sensing of the environment:

Sketching… because it makes us observe about the colonial house and cable cars.  People were fishing, but I remember the littering and saw the seawall.  Also, I have never done it before. I never thought I could draw. 

Student 1, however, noted that the map-reading exercise required more guidance from the teacher as there was a dissonance between map-reading skills taught in a geography classroom and his/her ability to apply the skills in a real world context:

Yup map-reading also, but I think the map-reading should be more, more guided. Yeah, and then because, maybe because we are not, we are not doing on paper and real surroundings and then can be lost.

This reflects the importance of closing the gap between what is taught in the classroom and the real world. Teachers should therefore focus on the transferability of these skill sets. However, these “gaps” in learning also provided fertile ground for students to develop personalised ways to make sense of new information gathered. As such, the structuring of activities using Kolb’s learning cycle also offered intellectual room for “active experimentation” as students thought of ways to collect and process information. These processes can lead to a more meaningful and extended learning experience. Fieldwork experiences should also take into consideration the sequencing of activities, students’ prior experiences, and collaboration between learners (Roberts, 2003).

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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