Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Effective Teaching in the Field: IMAGE, the Future for Geological Fieldwork?
Originator Jackie Burnett, Ruth Siddall, Sorin Filipescu, Paul Bown, Tim Hoare & Danny Howard,
Department Department of Geological Sciences, University College London, UK
Tel. +44 (0)20 7679 2424
Fax + 44 (0)20 7387 1612
Email j.burnett@ucl.ac.uk
WWW http://www.ucl.ac.uk/geolsci/edu/ugrads/field.htm  


Geology-specific fieldwork skills generally include using a variety of geological, geophysical and environmental testing equipment, collecting samples and data, keeping a field notebook and mapping and interpreting terrain. In addition, key skills include writing reports, working alone or as part of a team, and problem-solving. However, there are also less obvious skills which are incorporated into our programme: behaving responsibly in dangerous situations, assessing hazards and administering First Aid.

A common misconception of UCL geoscience undergraduates is that learning in the field is divorced from learning in the classroom. This feeling engenders a lack of enthusiasm for fieldwork among undergraduates, who fail to comprehend the necessity for actual fieldwork when geosciences can be learned in classroom comfort! The award of a HEFCE FDTL grant supporting IMAGE (Interactive Mathematics and Geoscience Education) has enabled further development of the field-teaching programme at UCL to provide more, and a more in-depth, interaction with classroom-based teaching, focusing particularly on learning and implementing field skills, without increasing supervision and marking loads for staff.

Specifically, this is achieved by introducing the student to particular field-courses through both the relevant course lectures, and through computer-assisted self-tutoring, interactive modules, in advance of each field-course, and by encouraging the use of data and specimens collected in the field in practical classes on their return. These approaches increase both the students' involvement in fieldwork and also their perception of its relevance to their degree courses.

Apart from teaching straightforward technical skills, pre-course tuition lessens the amount of time the student spends taking verbatim notes in the field by providing extensive regional and historical contexts for each the outcrop to be visited and requiring the student to demonstrate a level of comprehension of these. An ultimate goal is to introduce intra-field-course tuition modules via portable computers, and this could be extended to include modules which can be carried out by the students should the weather be unsuitable for outdoor teaching.

Although we have no intention of teaching First Aid via CAL, the Web-site gives students ready access to field-safety guidelines, checklists of common First Aid situations and a useful First Aid kit checklist for reference purposes. In the field, students are encouraged to make notes and assess hazards as they approach outcrops. Safety and risk-assessment videos and tutorials are also in the pipeline. These will include basic weather knowledge, how to read tide tables (not always intuitive!) and how to assess the landscape in terms of hazards both natural and man-made.

The ultimate set of modules will provide extensive background information supporting already existing trips, with both useful reference information and additional, self-tutoring, skill-forming modules attached. Our goal is to produce students who forge the link between classroom/laboratory- and field-based learning early in their undergraduate careers, and who can therefore take advantage of this first step towards gaining the confidence to combine their theoretical grounding with the necessary practical and social skills in the natural laboratory.

Keywords:

Computer-assisted learning
Fieldwork
IMAGE


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