From Classroom to the Field and Back: Understanding the Ways Fieldwork Empowers Geographic Learning, pp. 3 of 7

The classroom activities began with theoretical discussion about the aforesaid concepts and were followed by student-led activities (Figure 1), which provided a broader sketch. Students debated the applicability of these concepts and contextualizing them in relation to local aspects. Therefore, a need for organizing fieldwork around key concepts was felt. In relation to inquiry based learning, fieldwork could rightly fill the gap between concepts and real-world contexts. Keeping this in mind, the one-day fieldwork lesson was planned for the students of AAG 242 to understand the concepts better through the lens of real-world occurrences. The next section provides an overview of the organization of the fieldwork, a rationale for selection of the field-site and methods that were used during the fieldwork.

Organizing and strategizing for the fieldwork

Good research results demands ample amount of planning and preparations for the field visit (Phillips & Johns, 2012). With this in mind, our fieldwork was planned for a Saturday during the first week of October, 2014. While overseas fieldwork needs rigorous planning and preparations months before the planned visit (Irvine et al, 2010), preparation for local field-site, generally do not demand a similar quantum of time and effort. One week earlier to the planned fieldwork, students were provided with information about the fieldwork site, objectives, preparatory information and ethical considerations.

The nature of this fieldwork for human geography students demanded using qualitative methods. Two methods were selected – observation and visual methods. Through the observation method, it was expected that students would be able to “describe and map the world out there” (Phillips & Johns, 2012: 167) and link them to the classroom understanding of the concepts. Observation method has been adopted and adapted by human geographers depending upon locations and research needs (Phillips & Johns, 2012). Secondly, visual techniques are increasingly seen as a powerful method to project social practices and power relations (Rose, 2007). Photography, as part of visual techniques, has been used by geographers for decades. It is often used to complement observation techniques, especially in human geography. Both observation and visual methods provided the opportunity for students to make notes on everyday urban liveability and informality, take images and analyze them and learn more beyond the classroom understanding of the concepts.

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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