2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 21
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM

What Can Social Learning Theory Tell Us about Fieldwork?

STOKES, Alison, Experiential Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), University of Plymouth, 3-15 Endsleigh Place, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom, ajstokes@plymouth.ac.uk

The field is a social environment. When students participate in fieldwork activities they engage not only in physical and cognitive tasks, but also in a series of social interactions with both their peers and with ‘experts', e.g. technical staff or members of faculty. On residential fieldcourses these interactions continue outside of the field environment, often within a specific social and cultural context, and form a vital component of the students' learning experience. The field also plays a significant role in shaping students' identities as geoscientists. In particular it provides them with the opportunity to engage in shared experiences, through which they gain competency in subject specific skills and develop a vocabulary which is specific to the geoscience community. Hence learning in a social context helps students to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to ‘think and practice' like expert geoscientists.

Despite the social nature of fieldwork there has, to date, been limited research into how the social processes operating in a field environment can influence learning. Using the findings from a study into the experiences of students learning geological mapping, this poster will introduce some key theories of social learning and invite discussion on how these might help us to further understand how students learn in different environments.