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The Place of Fieldwork in Geography and Science Qualifications

Lambert, David and Reiss, Michael (2014) The Place of Fieldwork in Geography and Science Qualifications. [Report]

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Abstract

1. The place of fieldwork in geography and science qualifications across the 14-19 age range remains contested, unclear and sometimes under threat. This report explores these issues and was informed by a one-day, invitation-only workshop that we ran at the behest of the Field Studies Council. 2. We focus on issues relevant for those countries that use GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education) as qualifications for 14-16 year-olds and Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and General Certificate of Education Advanced (A) levels as qualifications for 16-19 year-olds. We hope that this report will also be of value to those working in other jurisdictions that have or are introducing fieldwork at school level. 3. Fieldwork, which can be defined as any curriculum component that involves leaving the classroom and engaging in teaching and learning activities through first-hand experience of phenomena out-of-doors, has a long tradition in geography and in certain of the sciences, notably biology and environmental science/studies. 4. In geography, learning in the ‘real world’ is thought to be absolutely essential, contributing particular qualities that run through geography’s identity as a subject discipline from primary education to undergraduate study. It expresses a commitment to exploration and enquiry, and geography’s concern to discover and to be curious about the world. 5. In the sciences too, fieldwork is crucial. It can be regarded as that sub-set of practical science that is particularly valuable for introducing students to investigating the complexity and messiness of the real world. 6. Despite its benefits for student learning and motivation, fieldwork is perceived by some school managers as expendable; desirable but not a core requirement. 7. High quality qualifications in geography at GCSE and AS/A level require that students have experienced, from start to finish, a first-hand geographical investigation of a specific aspect of the world. 8. In geography, the individual study should be the method of assessment of fieldwork at AS/A level. At GCSE, where the 2014 criteria provide no option but to assess fieldwork through terminal examination, the potential of enhancing the place of fieldwork in specifications in a way that invests in curriculum and pedagogic advancement should be examined further, for example through the use of moderated student portfolios. 9. In the sciences, at both GCSE and AS/A level, it is important that practical work, of which fieldwork is a unique component, is subject to high quality assessment. The use of moderated student portfolios for the assessment of fieldwork has many strengths and should be explored to see if it can be introduced as a component within formal, summative assessment. 10. The more widespread practice of excellent fieldwork in the sciences and geography will require enhanced initial teacher education and subsequent teacher professional development. It takes time to become a teacher who can ensure that students have an outstanding fieldwork experience.

Item Type: Report
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 13 May 2014 12:55
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 10:30
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