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Capturing the Student Field Experience: What are the options? Kirsty Magnier & Matthew Sharples Experiential Learning CETL University of Plymouth.

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Presentation on theme: "Capturing the Student Field Experience: What are the options? Kirsty Magnier & Matthew Sharples Experiential Learning CETL University of Plymouth."— Presentation transcript:

1 Capturing the Student Field Experience: What are the options? Kirsty Magnier & Matthew Sharples Experiential Learning CETL University of Plymouth

2 Outline Introduction to methods Observation Interviews Questionnaires Residential field trips Local 1 day field trips Observation Interviews Staff and student quotes Western Ireland Researcher experience Conclusions

3 Qualitative and quantitative research We are hoping to combine several research methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon: Triangulation. Direct observation Interviews Questionnaires By combining multiple observers, theories, methods, and empirical materials, we hope to overcome the weakness or intrinsic biases and problems that come from single method, single-observer, single-theory studies.

4 Advantages and Disadvantages of the methodologies MethodologyAdvantagesDisadvantages ObservationDirect information about the behaviour in natural, unstructured setting. Requires well-qualified, highly trained observers Observers interference Informal Interviews: In depth Affective and cognitive aspects of responses. Time is needed to get systematic information. QuestionnairesAllows time to consider response Unprompted by outside sourceresearcher Response rate. Only tells you the user's reaction as he/she perceives the situation.

5 Pilot study (i) Residential Field trips Stage 1 Geology: St.Ives field trip October 23 rd to 26 th 2006 Our initial focus was to see what sort of information was possible to gather from observing fieldwork, and to consider how this would support other aspects of the ELCETL research. Trial out various research methods, questionnaire, observation and informal interviews. ‘Questions’ we would have in mind when undertaking the study will include:  What is the nature of the interaction between the “experts” and the students?  How do the students interact with each other?  How is information communicated between students and staff?

6 Audio recordings: digital recorder was used to capture the informal conversations which I had with the students on the three days. ‘To be introduced into new field techniques in order to identify geological features and to re-inforce map work.’ ‘Fun, proper learning experience, necessary field experience, learn to observe samples at its original condition and learn its history of forming. To be able to socialise and make friends from people in the same course, enjoy the scenery of Britain.’ ‘To learn team work skills, be able to take in other peoples ideas and come up with group ideas.’ Questionnaire: The students were asked to fill in two questionnaires which had one open question about their expectations for the week.

7 (ii)1 day field trips Two 1 day pilot studies: Cholwell catchment (GEOG).  Show and tell (am).  Staff project (pm). Wheal Exmouth and Frank Mills (ENV SCI).  Show and tell (am).  Student/staff led projects (pm).

8 Observation techniques DateTripResearcherLecturer/StaffSheet number TimeWeather/ location Activity (What they are meant to be doing) Experience (what the students are actually doing) Learning (what and why are they learning) Questions asked by students Comments Structured observation (FIAC) (Flanders,1970) Unstructured observation (Hamersley and Atkinson,1995; Mayhew,1861) Semi structured observation. (Mayhew,1861, Brown, 2007)

9 Male student (February 2007, Dartmoor); Interviewer: So, I’m just wondering, how valuable do you find experiences like this? Student 1: erm not too much really. I: You’re not really into field work? I: OK fair enough. So what kinds of things don’t you like about fieldwork? I: OK, right do you prefer just to be… S1: yeah sat in a classroom. S1: Just the fact that I’ve got to get and do stuff really. S1: No I’d rather be in a classroom… where it’s warm. I: …to listen really? S1: Yeah… I suppose it makes a change

10 Male member of staff (same field trip); Interviewer: Do you think there are any problems with field work? I mean some of the students just don’t enjoy it. You might think perhaps they’ve chose the wrong thing to study if they don’t enjoy that side of things but the students who don’t enjoy field work, what do you think they get out of it? Lecturer: (spoken slowly) I don’t think I’ve come across any students who don’t enjoy field work. I’ve had one or to who “oh heavens were going to get our feet wet” you know it’s a rivers course. But apart from that I’ve haven’t personally come across any who have said grumpily “oh I don’t like being here”

11 Western Ireland research methods Pre and post trip questionnaires. Based on Boyle et al (2007). Field interviews and observations (day by day). 6 volunteers for interviews each evening. 6 volunteers per day canvassed in the field for evening interviews (video and picture prompts used for stimulated recall). Incentives. 3 types of field day format over the trip; Cooks tour, staff led, student led.  Require different research approaches.

12 Western Ireland female student evening interview; Interviewer: One thing about today is that it’s not assessed. So you were learning today, perhaps taking notes but you’re not being assessed on it. I: erm, maybe? I: Ok so you wouldn’t take notes if you weren’t being assessed. S: Not really. I’d still pay attention cos I like learning stuff about new places… I took extensive notes cos I thought we’re being assessed. S: I hope I wasn’t taking notes for no reason! (laughter) Student : I think the notebooks are aren’t they?

13 Western Ireland male student evening interview I: And what was helping you learn there? What was..? Student: Well he just got us to sketch it. Which is, well no need to ask for us, which we’ve done many a time in field work, so we know what’s expected, we know to pick out the key components.

14 Researcher experience General issues: Weather Social Experience: Sharing living and learning space. Observation and interviews as valuable research tools? Off the record opinions.

15 What's next? Analysis of data; Transcription and coding of interviews (nVivo, n6). Coding of Questionnaires (Excel). Dissemination of our results and analysis to Department of Geography staff members and students. Same time next year?

16 References Boyle, A., Maguire, S., Martin, S., Milsom, C., Nash, R., Rawlinson, S., Turner, A., Wurthmann, S.,Concie, S. Fieldwork is Good: the Student Perception and the Affective Domain. Journal of geography in higher education Brown,N Henry Mayhew: London Labour and the London Poor, 1861, (Accessed 16/04/2007)http://www.csiss.org/classics/content/25 Flanders NA (1970) Analyzing teaching behaviour. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Reading, Mass. Hammersley & Atkinson (1995) – Ethnography, Principle in practice. Routledge. Kirakowski, J. (2000). Questionnaires in Usability Engineering: A list of frequently asked questions [online]. Available: (accessed April ) Mahoney, C(1997) Common qualitative methods in Frechtling et al. (Eds) User-friendly handbook for mixed method evaluations, Division of Research, evaluation and communication,.


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