North-Central Section - 47th Annual Meeting (2-3 May 2013)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 2:10 PM


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

A perception exists that fieldwork, either in the form of course trips, multi-day excursions, residential camps, or research, is essential to gaining expertise in the geosciences. Given the financial, logistical, and liability challenges of extended field-based instruction, we ask: why does the geoscience community view fieldwork as such an essential experience? And what particular types of fieldwork are considered most valuable?

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.