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Year of Fieldwork

Student catching leaves

The Year of Fieldwork project took place in the academic year 2015-2016. It targeted all curriculum levels and was a collaborative project run in partnership with other organisations.

Fieldwork and other out-of-classroom learning experiences are increasingly being recognised across the curriculum as a highly valuable tool for raising standards and skills in participants of all ages. The Year of Fieldwork brought together a range of partners to celebrate these skills and opportunities and offered support for those who wished to develop these further. Although initiated originally within the field of geography, these skills and the associated benefits can be enjoyed by all curriculum subjects.

The principal purposes of the Year of Fieldwork were to:

  • increase the opportunities for pupils of all ages to experience high quality fieldwork
  • support the integration of fieldwork into the school curriculum from primary to post-16
  • raise awareness of the importance of fieldwork as a pedagogy and as a critical tool for geographers
  • promote the benefits of fieldwork as a skill across a wide range of subject areas.

As part of this, ESRI, Field Studies Council, the Geographical Association, Ordnance Survey and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) worked collaboratively to provide a range of resources and support.

Project activities and achievements

The 2015-2016 academic year saw significant levels of fieldwork planning as schools prepared for new models of assessment and content, from National Curriculum through to A level. Nearly 1300 schools attended CPD sessions organised by the GA alone. Schools and colleges across the country also joined us in celebrating fieldwork and the opportunities it provides.

A significant aspect of the project was the work the GA undertook to more clearly define the contribution of fieldwork towards academic achievement in geography, while acknowledging that it makes a positive impact on social and personal skills, character traits such as resilience and on attitudes and values. By defining fieldwork as ‘the application of knowledge and understanding to the particular circumstances of a real-world location’, we suggested that the act of observing and asking questions of, and in, the real world provides a unique learning experience. It develops investigative skills in distinctive and important ways, teaching young people to become geographers through careful observation and primary data collection. It gives them experience of the ‘messy’ world and invites young people to both appreciate and begin to make sense of its complexity. It also teaches them to appreciate that the ‘theoretical’ world of the textbook and their own investigative research is partial and limited – a critical insight into the nature of geography.

What did the Year of Fieldwork achieve?

Further reading

Breaking down barriers to successful fieldwork (Teaching Geography)

Colin Bye describes how he used the North Norfolk coastline and local contacts to devise a new low-cost fieldwork programme.

Progression in fieldwork (Teaching Geography)

Philip Monk’s article reaffirms the value of fieldwork and outlines ways of planning for progression in fieldwork. Philip also suggests that innovation can both add value to fieldwork and communicate its value, within and outside school.

Fieldwork on your CV (Teaching Geography)

John Snelling argues that fieldwork experiences should be included in job applications and CVs.

Fieldwork at home (Primary Geography)

Nick Lapthorn and Kate Lewis look at the rich potential of doing fieldwork in the school grounds.

From the archive: fieldwork past and present (Teaching Geography)

At the start of the ‘Year of fieldwork’ Victoria Cook selected five articles from the Teaching Geography archive to represent the changing views on the role and value of fieldwork.

The place of fieldwork in geography qualifications (Geography)

David Lambert and Michael J. Reiss argue that fieldwork needs to have a central place in examinations leading to qualifications in geography, by taking evidence from a workshop held in Spring 2014.

Become a member

GA membership provides specialist support and expert advice for geography teaching

Geography Quality Marks

Register for the 2025 Quality Mark before 31 July and receive a 20% discount off your fee

National Festival of Fieldwork 2024

The GA encourages everyone to take part in June 2024