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Extended, in-depth engagement in the field with a diversity of spaces and places is an important mode of geographical learning, and can enhance students cultural and social capital, and their employability. Taught fieldwork is required as an element of an undergraduate degree in Geography by the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement. Programmes should aspire to extend the benefits of field learning to all students through the development of well-designed and appropriately supported field experiences. Virtual fieldwork has significant value in supplementing and enhancing field-based learning but is not normally a substitute for in-situ field learning.

The following list of online resources is dynamic. If you know of other relevant resources you think we should be sharing, we’d be happy to hear from you at rhed@rgs.org. The Society does not accept responsibility for the content of the external sites. Inclusion on this list does not equate to an endorsement of any content or organisation. Please contact the external site for questions regarding individual resources.

 

QAA Subject Benchmark Statements

Quality Assurance Agency (UK)

Subject Benchmark Statements describe the nature of study and the academic standards expected of graduates in specific subject areas. They show what graduates might reasonably be expected to know, do and understand at the end of their studies.

QAA Subject Benchmark Statement: Geography

'2.2 An essential and characteristic aspect of geography is the role of fieldwork and other forms of experiential learning in the development of knowledge and understanding. Rigorous fieldwork and experiential learning are underpinned by knowledge of, and skills in, the theoretical and methodological approaches that inform their conduct. Experiential learning contributes significantly to curiosity and enquiry about human and physical environments, the development of discerning observation and measurement, and recognition of the importance of scale. Graduates understand the evolution and significance of the distinctiveness of places and environments, including different approaches to their interpretation, and a parallel understanding of the role of spatial linkages in social and physical processes.'

'3.16 Geography is intrinsically a field-based subject. Field experience is an essential part of geographical learning and all geographers require the opportunity to plan, undertake and report significant fieldwork during their course. Students are familiar with, and practice methods and strategies of, field research in human and/or physical geography, taking a critical view of the challenges and opportunities of field-based research.'

'5.4 An education in geography involves an active engagement with the external world. Fieldwork and experiential learning constitutes an essential aspect of this engagement and thus has a variety of roles in:

  • providing an opportunity to apply theoretical, technical and scientific laboratory methods and findings to more complex, uncontrolled field environments

  • identifying problems and framing research questions, testing hypotheses and designing research

  • encouraging consideration of the ethical aspects of research processes

  • developing a sense of place, identity, awareness of difference, and sensitivity to others

  • promoting generic skills such as teamwork and observation.'

 

QAA Subject Benchmark Statement: Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies

'4.3 It is impossible for students to develop a satisfactory understanding of ES3 without significant exposure to field-based learning and teaching and the related assessment. The integration of fieldwork with other learning methods is core to achieving skills such as the ability to visualise and extrapolate data in three dimensions or understanding the application of practical methodologies. Much of the advancement in knowledge and understanding in these subject areas is founded on accurate observation and recording in the field. Developing field-related practical and research skills is therefore essential for students wishing to pursue careers in ES3. Field-based studies allow students to develop and enhance many of the generic skills (for example, team working, problem-solving, selfmanagement and interpersonal relationships) which are of value to the world of work and active citizenship.'

 

The role of fieldwork

The future of Higher Education fieldwork in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Katharine E. Welsh and Derek France, University of Chester (UK)

A report on the current state (2012) and future directions of fieldwork in HE, published by the Higher Education Academy.

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Enhancing fieldwork learning resources

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning (UK)

A growing online repository of resources from the collaborative project.

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Doing fieldwork in a pandemic

Deborah Lupton, University of New South Wales (Australia)

A compilation of tools and resources for collection data, including online discussions, interviews and videos.

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Selected readings

  • Casinader, N. and Kidman, G. (2018) Fieldwork, Sustainability, and Environmental Education: The Centrality of Geographical Inquiry, Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 34(1), pp. 1-17. Access the article.

  • Dunphy, A. and Spellman, G. (2009) Geography fieldwork, fieldwork value and learning styles, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 18:1, pp. 19-28. Access the article.

  • France, D. and Haigh, M. (2018) Fieldwork@40: fieldwork in geography higher education, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 42:4, pp. 498-514. Access the article.

  • Fuller, I., Rawlinson, S. and Bevan, R. (2000) Evaluation of Student Learning Experiences in Physical Geography Fieldwork: Paddling or pedagogy?, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 24:2, pp. 199-215. Access the resource.

  • Fuller, I., Edmondson, S., France, D., Higgitt, D. and Ratinen, I. (2006) International Perspectives on the Effectiveness of Geography Fieldwork for LearningJournal of Geography in Higher Education, 30:1, pp. 89-101. Access the article.

  • Glass, M.R. (2015) International geography field courses: practices and challenges, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39:4, pp. 485-490. Access the article.

  • Hope, M. (2009) The Importance of Direct Experience: A Philosophical Defence of Fieldwork in Human Geography, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33:2, pp. 169-182. Access the article.

  • Wall, G.P. and Speake, J. (2012) European Geography Higher Education Fieldwork and the Skills Agenda, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 36:3, pp. 421-435. Access the article.

  • Wilson, H., Leydon, J. and Wincentak, J. (2017) Fieldwork in geography education: defining or declining? The state of fieldwork in Canadian undergraduate geography programs, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 41:1, pp. 94-105. Access the article.

 

 

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