Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Group Projects: an Effective Fieldwork Teaching Strategy
Originator Sarah Maguire
Department Department of Environmental & Biological Studies Liverpool Hope University College, UK
now at Teaching and Learning Development Unit, School of Environmental Studies, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, BT52 1SA
Tel. +44 (0)2870-324-686
Email cs.maguire@ulst.ac.uk


Students at Liverpool Hope University College studying in the Environmental and Biological Studies Department undertake a group project whilst on compulsory fieldwork towards the end of their second semester.

Kolb (1984) has stated that for effective learning to take place students need to be actively involved in every stage of experiential learning. A well structured project provides opportunities for all stages of the learning cycle to be engaged with:

In addition, projects provide students with an opportunity to develop and practise practical and research skills in the field and allow opportunities for them to develop their own interests. The use of projects also provide an assessment which reflects a student's active involvement in fieldwork.

Why Use Group Projects? Many of our graduates' future employers have stated that their need is for team players (CIHE, 1996; Harvey et al., 1997);

"Graduates will need to be able to work effectively in teams as there is little demand in a flexible organisation for introspective, individualised working". Harvey et al. (1997)

There is, therefore, adequate reason to include the development of group and team working within the curriculum of our degrees. The many pedagogic benefits of utilising group-work within our teaching are also apparent. The quality of learning is improved by peer support and pressure, with the students gaining experience in communication, negotiation, organisation and task management (Gibbs, 1994; Gold et al.,1991) and often the end product is of superior quality (Gibbs, 1994). In addition, the security of working within a group provides an excellent first stage in the students' progression to independent and autonomous learning.

The project aims are:

Students self-select the group they wish to work with and are provided with clear criteria and instructions describing how they will be assessed. A selection of research projects are put to the students and each group negotiates with a tutor and agrees a plan of action. In addition, students are provided with support materials outlining how groups function and suggesting ideas for managing this task.

Did The Projects Provide A Formum For Effective Teaching (Learning)?

The combination of these factors contributed to a successful and enjoyable learning experience for both students and tutors.

References:

Keywords:

Experiential learning
Fieldwork
Group work
Projects
Self assessment


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