GEOSCIENTISTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE VALUE OF FIELDWORK
To address these questions, we developed a mixed open- and closed-response survey asking about perceptions of fieldwork (including field camps and courses). Data were collected anonymously at the 2010 and 2011 Geological Society of America national meetings where participants (n=172; 46% female, 88% Caucasian, 89% working in the USA) completed surveys in a booth in the exhibit hall. Survey participants responded to questions as a member of one of three groups; 50% self-identified as learners (about half undergraduate and half graduate students), 36% as instructors (dominantly holding academic positions), and 14% as industry professionals (dominantly working in government or industry).
Over 90% of all respondents indicated that fieldwork should be an integral and required part of undergraduate education. However, while 80% agreed that a residential field camp should be required, only 35% supported the inclusion of bedrock mapping. Thematic coding of the open-ended items suggests that fieldwork is valued across all groups in promoting cognitive gains, affective responses, and preparation for further study and/or work in the geosciences. When rating the importance of possible fieldwork learning outcomes, all groups highly valued developing a better understanding of geologic concepts, improving problem-solving skills, and increasing confidence in problem-solving skills. Instructors also highly valued integrating knowledge from different disciplines, whereas industry professionals placed high value in developing a better understanding of how geologists think. This work will help the geoscience community identify long-term goals and outcomes of educational fieldwork experiences.