Geoscientists’ perceptions of the value of undergraduate field education

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Blogs and Editorials
Petcovic, H. L., Stokes, A., & Caulkins, J. L. (2014). Geoscientists’ perceptions of the value of undergraduate field education. GSA Today, 24(7), 4-10.
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Learning in “the field” has long held a prominent role in the education of geoscientists. Despite the expense, time, and liability risks associated with fieldwork, field experiences are widely perceived as integral to both learning and professional prepara- tion. Yet, to date, little research has addressed questions of what types of field experiences are valuable and what outcomes are desired. We report findings from survey data collected at the 2010 and 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meetings that characterize why undergraduate field education is valued within the geoscience community. While 89.5% of respondents (n = 172) indicated that fieldwork should be an integral and required part of undergraduate education, only 36.5% agreed that a course in bedrock mapping was necessary. Fieldwork is valued mainly for perceived cognitive gains, such as knowledge and understanding, and for enabling learners to interact with geological phenomena in their natural state. We found few statistically significant differ- ences between self-identified groups, suggesting that students, instructors, and professional geologists hold largely similar opin- ions about the value of field education. This study helps to identify long-term goals and outcomes of undergraduate educational field- work experiences and points to actions needed to align fieldwork experiences with educational goals, workforce needs, and actual learning outcomes.

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This page last updated 19 May 2019 - 4:08pm