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Fieldwork and outdoor learning

outdoor fieldwork

State of Geography Education Research in fieldwork

Fieldwork is at the heart of the subject discipline of Geography from primary education to undergraduate study. 

As Lambert and Reiss (2014) suggest fieldwork ‘expresses a commitment to exploration and enquiry, and geography’s concern to discover and to be curious about the world.’ Although fieldwork is rooted within the subject and identity of geography and the contribution fieldwork makes to geographical learning has been recognised by the DfE (2013)and Ofsted (2011), it has been recognised that fieldwork is underdeveloped at both primary and secondary level. 

In terms of research much that has been written regarding learning through fieldwork is grounded in experience rather than in a firm foundation in research studies. Much of the existing work seems to offer personal advice, guidance and support from an anecdotal point of view rather than from rigorous research. It is worth noting that research in fieldwork may overlap with other areas within geography e.g. enquiry, GIS, technology etc.

Gaps in Geography Education Research for fieldwork and future possibilities

There seems to be gaps in fieldwork both in the UK and internationally. Over the years many gaps in research have been identified to demonstrate the need for research into both the practice and assessment of fieldwork. One area of critical importance is the evaluation of geographical fieldwork for its educational effectiveness (Kent et al., 1997). Although this article is dated, many of these issues still require researching.

There is also a need to consider fieldwork from different perspectives e.g. what children/young people think about fieldwork; what is the effectiveness of different types of fieldwork; what are children/young people’s experiences of fieldwork places; what do children/young people learn from fieldwork; how do personal geographies affect fieldwork learning; how can fieldwork experiences be built on and enhanced in their geographical learning; ways in which geographers undertake and respond to geographical enquiries in fieldwork; what are teachers’ attitudes towards fieldwork?; the value of virtual fieldwork; planning and progression in fieldwork etc. 

There is a lot of scope for future research possibilities into geographical fieldwork within Geography Education. 

Key sources of Geographical Education Research for primary geography

Key research articles

Many of the items are dated but still relevant as key pieces of research in the absence of any more recent geography research on fieldwork. The list below gives a flavour of the key research articles, but is not exhaustive.

Other useful articles published for general reading

Research networks / support groups


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