Student experience and sense of place on geoscience field trips
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Field education is a vital component of undergraduate degree programmes in geoscience, but many aspects of this experience are not well understood. The experience of the individual student during a field trip is strongly influenced by affective factors (emotion, motivation, and connection to Earth). How these factors interact in the context of different field trips is poorly understood. This thesis aimed to address how students connect to the locations of their field trips, by investigating their sense of place in a variety of teaching and learning environments. Mixed-methods approaches were used to compare different styles of field education in three studies: (1) field pedagogy/structure, (2) instructor and weather, and (3) student nationality/programme.
Study 1 findings show that on average, students significantly increased in their attachment to the situated field area and had no change in their attachment to the roadside field area. The situated field trip utilised more student-centred pedagogy and student perceptions of learning were closely aligned with instructor intentions. The roadside field trip was less student-centred, did not involve a regional-scale assessment, and students felt spatially disoriented in the field area. Student perceptions were not as closely aligned with instructor intentions on the roadside field trip. Additionally, the situated assessment allowed instructors to model landscape appreciation, whereas the discrete roadside assessments were less supportive of regional geological connections.
Findings from study 2 show that on average, students on all field trip streams had significant increases in their place attachment. There were no significant differences in attachment between streams, despite variations in instructor pedagogy. Instructors had consistent learning outcomes and valued the field area for its educational opportunities, both of which were clear to students. Inclement weather had no significant impacts on students’ sense of place or field experience. The field trip assessment was connected to the landscape and had in-built flexibility for the influence of external factors. Instructors also adjusted student autonomy in response to varied weather conditions.
Study 3 findings indicate that on average, study abroad students were significantly more intrinsically motivated, placed significantly more task value on the field trip, and had significantly lower test anxiety. Study abroad and local students had no significant differences in their control of learning beliefs and self-efficacy for learning and performance. On average, study abroad students were more pro-environmental (though not statistically significant), and had significantly higher place attachment and place meanings towards the field area.
Based on these studies, a new conceptual model for field trips was developed, highlighting the interrelationships between: (a) the individual student, (b) their peer group, (c) their instructor(s), (d) the landscape (field area), and (e) the field trip assessment. This model may be used when designing or modifying field pedagogies by adjusting these interrelationships. Specific recommendations are made for each of the contrasting field educational cases: (1) Situated field trip curricula should maintain aspects of autonomy and assessment integrated with the field area. Roadside field curricula would benefit from ensuring that students are encouraged to discover regional connections for themselves, and we recommend that this is supported through the assessment structure. (2) To support resilience of field trips to differing instructors and weather, it is important that instructors value field education, have similar intended learning objectives that are clear to students, appreciate the field area for its educational features, and exercise flexibility in the assessment structure. (3) Student outcomes on study abroad field trips may be enhanced by more applied, environmentally-focused, or place-based curricula. Curricula should be adapted with a specific audience in mind, rather than applying local field trips without consideration.
The thesis highlights ways in which student connections with field places may be strengthened to better address learning outcomes and develop more environmentally and socially conscious graduates.