Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


CAULKINS, Joshua L., Department of Geosciences, University of Rhode Island, 9 East Alumni Avenue, 136 Woodward Hall, Kingston, RI 02881, PETCOVIC, Heather L., Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241 and STOKES, Alison, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom,

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 by the geoscience community as integral to both learning and professional preparation. Yet, to date, little research has addressed questions of what types of field experiences are valuable, and what outcomes are desired. Here we report the first empirically-driven attempt to characterize why undergraduate field education is valued within the geoscience community. Data were collected anonymously at the 2010 and 2011 Geological Society of America national meetings using a mixed open- and closed-response survey. Participants (n=172) responded to survey items from the perspective of Learner, Instructor, or Industry Professional. Of the three groups, 50.5% self-identified as Learners (about half undergraduate and half graduate students), 35.8% as Instructors (dominantly holding academic positions), and 13.6% as Industry Professionals (dominantly working in government or industry).

Whereas 89.5% of respondents indicated that fieldwork should be an integral and required part of undergraduate education, 79.4% indicated that a residential field camp should be required. Only 36.5% agreed that a course in bedrock mapping exercises was necessary; mapping was commonly perceived as too specialized for most students. Analysis of the open-ended survey items indicate that fieldwork is valued across all three participant groups mainly for promoting cognitive gains such as knowledge and understanding, and for enabling learners to interact with geological phenomena in its natural state. Although also recognized as important, less value is placed on the role of fieldwork in enhancing attitudes and motivation, and in career preparation. We found few statistically significant differences between values held by the three groups, suggesting that students, instructors, and professional geologists hold largely similar opinions about the value of field education. This work contributes to the ongoing conversation among geoscientists about the purpose and value of undergraduate fieldwork by helping to identify long-term goals and outcomes of educational fieldwork experiences.