Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Role-Play in Fieldwork
Originator Linda Stanier & Rodney Pearson
Department Division of Geography, University of Derby, DE22 1GB
Tel. +44 (0)1332 622222
Fax. +44 (0)1332 622747

Role-play in fieldwork is designed to encourage students to become pro-active participants rather than passive receptors of this form of curricular activity. The overall framework of location and topic is established by the tutorial staff. All details of logistics, including transport, accommodation and itinerary, are made known to students, who are also furbished with maps and other source material, such as Rough Guides to the field study area. Using this information students, working in parties of four or five persons, are required to devise an itinerary suitable for a designated client group. Exemplars of these groups include town-twinning delegates, party of twelve adults with impaired mobility, NFU/Young Farmers, allocated randomly.

The student groups are expected to engage in pre-visit preparation to devise a client-based programme. During the field experience they must perceive the landscape, sites and locations visited from the perspective of their clients, bearing in mind the questions of time, physical distance, costs, as well as the needs of their clients in terms of transport, accommodation and excursions. If some aspects of the real fieldwork package are deemed to be unsuitable, then a sensible and costed alternative must be produced. At the end of the field visit, each group will present a verbal and written report (assessed), outlining and defending their itinerary.

The exercise has been well-received by students, who focus on the needs of their client groups with enthusiasm, while contextualising the practicalities of organising and prioritising needs into a feasible and cost-effective itinerary. This can lead to creative tensions between their own needs as students and the apparent needs of their client group.

Benefits of the exercise include the reinforcement of significant transferable skills, notably teamworking, participatory and enterprise skills, in addition to the observational and interpretive skills expected of geographers. Students share an organisational perspective with tutors leading the fieldwork, and are cognizant with the fieldwork logistics as well as content. Setting up a role-play exercise also challenges tutors to reappraise their own views of fieldwork and location. Role-play is applicable to one-day excursions or to extended residential field courses both at home and abroad. However, caution should be exercised to maintain a balance between the requirements of the role and the geography syllabus.

Relevant Reference:

Maddrell, A.M.C. (1994) A Scheme for the Effective Use of Role Plays for an Emancipatory Geography, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 18 (2), pp 155-162.


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