Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:25 AM
GEOSCIENCE FIELD INSTRUCTION: MAPPING THE FUTURE
Field instruction has traditionally been a fundamental component of the geoscience curriculum. The field setting provides learning experiences that cannot be duplicated in the laboratory or virtual learning environments: direct experience with open, unconstrained, dynamic, and complex geologic systems; working with the geologic record that is often incomplete, ambiguous and uncertain; and, working over a range of temporal and spatial scales. As a historical and interpretive science, students must engage methodical observation and measurement of the natural variation within or between field sites. The field setting allows students to make their own informed decisions about what to observe, record or measure, for what purpose, how to represent these observations, and how to interpret and ascribe meaning to their work. The field setting also has strong affective impacts that connect students to the natural setting and to mentors and peers working in that environment. Field instruction is an important part of professional development in the geosciences and serves to initiate novices into the community of practice.
Traditional approaches to field instruction, ranging from day field trips to “capstone” in-residence field camps, have emphasized fundamental geologic skills: identification of rocks, structures, and landforms; mapping of many styles and scales; in situ measurement of natural features, and interpretive reports of geologic process and history. Modern field instruction is being extended to include discipline-specific focuses, long-term monitoring of natural phenomena, remote sensing, use of instrumentation, problem-solving, authentic research, and use of field-capable digital technologies. Future field instruction will define new learning goals, assessments, and methods, and must balance the traditional virtues with emerging opportunities and needs. With this changing emphasis, educational research is needed to demonstrate how students best learn in the field.