ERIC Identifier: ED259935
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Disinger, John F.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Field Instruction in School Settings. ERIC/SMEAC Environmental Education Digest No. 1.
Field instruction is consistently recommended as a key element for school-based programs directed toward environmental learning, but rarely do such recommendations progress beyond the platitude stage. In general, published surveys dealing with the instructional practices of classroom teachers in all fields of formal education indicate that they conduct very few field activities off school grounds. The extent of their use of school grounds is less well documented but is generally considered to be less than optimal.
In an extensive survey of classroom earth science teachers, Mason (1980b) identified a number of factors contributing to paucity of field activity: lack of planning time; lack of resource people for assistance; failure of the school to assume trip risk; lack of a satisfactory method for covering classes; restrictions placed on field work by school regulations; lack of administrative leadership, support, and encouragement; lack of funding; limited available transportation; too much "red tape"; and excessive class size. Though this list was compiled with instruction in secondary school earth science as its specific referent, it appears to be applicable to environmental education in its various countenances, and to K-12 formal education situations in general.
DOES TEACHER COMMITMENT EXIST?
Teacher commitment to the concept of field instruction is questionable even in situations where organizational, administrative, and/or budgetary constraints are less critical. All other things being equal, it is clear that field instruction places additional demands on the skills and energies of the teacher, when compared to other instructional devices. It is in fact "easier" to teach in the classroom than to plan and implement outside-the-four-walls initiatives. Generally, pre-service teacher education does not emphasize methodologies for field instruction, nor are role models of effective field teachers commonplace. In a word, many teachers do not know how to plan and conduct effective field instruction, and have little motivation to learn how to do so.
Proponents of field instruction frequently presuppose a premium on its educational values. In doing so, they often convey the impression that, in their view, the need for field instruction is self-evident and needs no verification. If such values were in fact self-evident, one would expect field instruction to be common practice, regardless of constraints. But it is not.
Over the years, a number of researchers have investigated educational values of various modes of field instruction. Summaries of such studies through the late 1970s were published by Koran and Baker (1979) and Mason (1980a). In this Digest, results of several recent studies targeted on field instruction, specifically field trips, are summarized.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY?--AFFECTIVE DOMAIN
It has long been an article of faith that a major value of field instruction is in the affective realm. For example, a positive relationship between eleventh grade biology students' attitudes toward science and environmental concepts and their exposure to field trip activities was demonstrated in a study by Ignatiuk (1978). Statistically significant differences in such attitudes between pretest and posttest measurements after varying amounts of field work during a 15-week study period were found; the students involved were using the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) text, Green Version.
Working with college students in an introductory level geological science course designed for general education, Kern and Carpenter (1984) found that a field-oriented approach had a pronounced positive influence on the affective responses of participating students. Interest and enjoyment both increased dramatically, and the students involved attached more importance to their work when compared with students in a control-group class employing a more traditional laboratory approach. Affective factors considered in the study were value (perception of importance of the field of study), interest (in the course itself), and attitude (enjoyment of the course), leading to an increase in student motivation.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY?--COGNITIVE DOMAIN
Less well-documented over time have been the cognitive-realm educational values of field instruction. However, a number of recent studies have dealt with various aspects of this concern. How well geography facts and skills are learned and how well such learning is retained was the subject of a study involving junior high school students in Australia (Mackenzie and White 1981). Comparing three groups--one treated to an excursion stressing processing of meaning of phenomena observed and experienced during a field trip, another participating in a traditional "passive" excursion, and the third participating in the same basic geography course, but without an excursion--researchers found that students receiving either form of field work outperformed students with no field trips on a test of geography knowledge.
In addition, those students who participated in the field trip stressing knowledge and idea processing outperformed students who participated in the passive field trip. This was true at the conclusion of instruction and again 12 weeks later. Information and skill links such as those encouraged during the exursion described seem to aid recall and retention of facts and skills.
Field experiences can be planned to capitalize on the effects of novelty of setting to meet students' needs, according to a series of studies conducted by personnel associated with the Smithsonian Institution's Chesapeake Bay Center for Environmental Studies (Falk 1983).
Elementary students can learn a great deal from a single-visit, structured tour of a specific area of a zoological park (Falk and Balling 1982). Though field trips typically have been considered of more use in affecting student attitudes and motivation, this study demonstrated that children do learn on well-structured field trips. The study stressed the critical nature of the design and execution of the field trip, including the need for pre-trip orientation.
The most effective pre-trip orientation reported was that conducted by the student's classroom teacher trained by a targeted workshop, as opposed to orientation by a resource person from the zoo or by a classroom teacher supported by mailed printed materials only.
Using pre-trip instructional materials significantly increased student test scores in a cognitive-gain study dealing with a museum field trip experience for junior high school earth science students (Gennaro 1981). In the study, an experimental group showed statistically significant differences in gain score when compared to a control group which made the same field trip, but did not receive pre-visit instruction.
DOES "HOW TO" GUIDANCE EXIST?
"How to" information for teachers involved in planning and implementing field instruction with and for their classes is available from a number of sources, many of them highly localized (that is, for specific trips to specific places for specific purposes). The fact that many of them are home-made guarantees a wide range of quality and usefulness and often limits their generalizability. However, many are of particular value for their designed purposes. More general "how to" documents are also available and can be of particular use to those needing overall guidance and basic checklists.
For example, a volume developed by Krepel and DuVall (1981) deals with a broad range of concerns-- values of field trips as teaching tools, teacher liability, school board policies, administrative support, teacher responsibilities, safety, supervisory assistance, pre-trip activity, follow-up activities, and trip evaluation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Falk, John H. "Field Trips: A Look at Environmental Effects on Learnng." JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL EDUCATION 17 (Summer 1983):137-142.
Falk, John H., and John D. Balling. IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF SINGLE-VISIT FIELD TRIPS TO THE NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK. DEVELOPMENT OF PRE-TRIP MATERIALS AND AN ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING AND BEHAVIOR. Edgewater, MD: Chesapeake Bay Center for Environmental Studies, 1982.
Gennaro, Eugene D. "The Effectiveness of Using Previsit Instructional Materials on Learning for a Museum Field Trip Experience." JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING 18 (May 1981):275-279.
Ignatiuk, Gerald T. INFLUENCE OF THE AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT IN FIELD TRIP ACTITIVITES ON STUDENT ATTITUDE TOWARD SCIENCE AND THE ENVIRONMENT. Regina, Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, 1978. ED 180 758.
Kern, Ernest L, and John R. Carpenter. "Enhancement of Student Values, Interests and Attitudes in Earth Science Through a Field-Oriented Approach." JOURNAL OF GEOLOGICAL EDUCATION 32 (1984):299-305.
Koran, John J., Jr. and S. Dennis Baker. "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Field Experiences." In WHAT RESEARCH SAYS TO THE SCIENCE TEACHER, VOLUME 2, edited by Mary Budd Rowe. Washington, D.C.: National Science Teachers Association, 1979. ED 166 057.
Krepel, Wayne J., and Charles R. DuVall. FIELD TRIPS: A GUIDE FOR PLANNING AND CONDUCTING EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association, 1981.
Mackenzie, Andrew A., and Richard T. White. FIELDWORK IN GEOGRAPHY AND LONG TERM MEMORY STRUCTURES. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Los Angeles, California, April 13-17, 1981. ED 201 541.
Martin, W. Wade, John H. Falk, and John D. Balling. "Environmental Effects on Learning: The Outdoor Field Trip." SCIENCE EDUCATION 65 (July 1981):301-309.
Mason, Jack Lee. "Annotated Bibliography of Field Trip Research." SCHOOL SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS 80 (February 1980):155-166.
Mason, Jack Lee. "Field Work in Earth Science Classes." SCHOOL SCIENCE AND
MATHEMATICS 80 (April 1980):317-322.
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