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Role-based assignments support critical encounters during geography field trips

Authors: Jesse Minor*, University of Maine - Farmington, Matt McCourt, University of Maine - Farmington
Topics: Geography Education, Field Methods, Higher Education
Keywords: assessment, experiential education, field-based pedagogy, First Year students, Geography education, retention
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Full student engagement on field trips can prove challenging to promote and maintain. We present results of a pilot experience with first-year, mostly first-generation college students on an intensive week-long field trip that occurred before the beginning of their first semester. Our course, titled “Making Change in Maine,” was centered around encounters with 20 ‘changemakers’ engaged in creative solutions to rural sustainability in interior and coastal Maine. These changemakers represented a wide range of interests ranging from disruptive philanthropy and community development to local food, public safety, and waste management. Before each encounter, students were assigned formal roles with concrete responsibilities to the group, including acting as spokesperson, photographer, asking big-picture or follow-up questions, being attendant to factual details or setting, and “caring” for the group. Pairs of students rotated through the various role assignments over the course of the trip. Assigned roles allowed division of labor and created teams within which students could strategize about tasks and reflect on the experiences. Pre- and post-trip assessments reveal that students report greater comfort with skills such as teamwork (55%), “caring” for others and innovation (44%), and monitoring/evaluating information (33%). Students report greater capacity in habits such as group speaking (55%), organization (33%), and planning (28%). Students report lower frequencies of skills such as leadership (11%) and decisionmaking, logistics, and implementation (5%) and in habits such as tolerance for uncertainty (5%). Pre- and post-assessment show student growth through the assigned roles, which map onto traits that predict college success and retention.

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