“Selling” fieldwork to the administration: A value proposition for undergraduate fieldwork

Authors: Terence Day*, Department of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science, Okanagan College, Kelowna, BC, Canada, Ken Foote, Department of Geography, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA, Derek France, Department of Geography and International Development, University of Chester, Chester, UK
Topics: Higher Education, Field Methods, Geography Education
Keywords: field work, undergraduate, university, college, administration, students, physical geography, human geography
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

How can university and college administrators be sold on the need for undergraduate fieldwork in geography? This project aims to answer that question by applying an established marketing research approach in a new context.

There is a broad consensus among instructors that fieldwork makes a major contribution to student learning, a viewpoint supported by findings from student surveys (e.g Boyle, 2007; Fuller and France, 2016). Fieldwork enables students to develop practical skills, and to engage with the world in a way that encourages critical evaluation of theoretical concepts. It promotes positive attitudes towards the environment, and thus enhances both cognitive and affective learning (Day and Spronken-Smith, 2018). Despite the well-documented benefits of fieldwork in the undergraduate curriculum, there has been a persistent and pervasive decline of fieldwork in Canada, the US, UK and Australia over the past few decades. Contributing factors include high costs, and faculty and institutional concerns about liability and appropriate training of faculty. Nobody has decided that fieldwork is undesirable, it’s just that in institution after institution, fieldwork is either not viable, or limited in scope. This project aims to address the decline in undergraduate fieldwork by standing back and looking at this problem afresh. We wish to construct a "value proposition" for undergraduate field work framed by our understanding of what university and college administrators do, the victories that they strive for, and the pains that they seek to relieve. We invite everyone (including current and former administrators) to come and discuss this issue with us.

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