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Fieldwork experience

“Fieldwork is an essential component of geography education. It enables students to better understand the “messiness” of “geographical reality”, develop subject knowledge, and gain a range of skills that are difficult to develop in the classroom alone.”

Geographical Association

Topics on this page:

  • What practical fieldwork should I seek to experience?
  • More opportunities to gain experience
  • How to make the most of the experience
  • Fieldwork booster webinars

What practical fieldwork should I seek to experience?

In order to understand the learning power that fieldwork offers for students in the way that is described above, you need to experience it first-hand. Fieldwork is an essential ingredient of the training to be a geography teacher and your ITE provider should ensure that you get some practical experience with students during your training year.

The best experience is to do some fieldwork with a class that you are teaching. In this way, you will have the experience of pre-fieldwork preparation, the visit itself and the follow up – so you can see the complete learning experience for the students.

However, logistics prevail and things do not always happen as neatly as this. You may need to discuss with your geography mentor or ITE trainer some ways to gain experience with other teacher’s groups, or participating in fieldwork with another school or at a field studies centre.

Try to arrange to participate in as many of these fieldwork experiences as you can during your training year (one visit may cover several of these).

  • A one-day visit, including the preparation and follow up activities.
  • A residential trip, so you can see at first-hand how this is organised and carried out.
  • Fieldwork using a variety of different approaches – see Fieldwork.
  • Fieldwork at both key stages 3 and 4, as well as post-16 if you are training for that age range.
  • Undertaking a risk assessment.

The above can be used as a checklist by an ECT to identify where their fieldwork experience may have significant gaps, so that opportunities can be taken to cover these during induction.

More opportunities to gain experience

  • Fieldwork is any learning or research undertaken outside the classroom and is not exclusive to geography. Try to join fieldwork activities in another subject if it is unavailable to you in geography for this will give you experience of learning outside of the classroom.
  • The school grounds are very useful for investigating geographical topics like mapping, microclimates and physical processes at work. This can be organised within a lesson and take much less administration than going beyond the school gates.
  • Ask if you could accompany a geography department from another school on a field visit. Trainees are often welcomed as additional support. You could prepare and lead an activity, supported by other geography teachers.
  • The Field Studies Council runs low cost courses from time to time for trainee teachers. These courses would give you a valuable experience of learning about planning fieldwork and different techniques and activities. It also provides an opportunity to meet other geography trainee teachers. Contact the Field Studies Council directly to find out if it is possible for you to join one of these.

 How to make the most of the experience

When joining other teachers’ fieldwork, see it as an excellent observation opportunity to:

  • discuss with the teacher their prior planning for the visit both in terms of organisation (risk assessment, parental permissions, transport arrangements) and teaching preparation
  • watch and take careful note of how the teacher manages groups outside of the classroom
  • see how a teacher responds to any ‘external’ problems during the visit e.g. weather
  • think about how resources are organised ‘in the field’ and how students record their findings
  • observe how fieldwork activities managed. How does the teacher ensure that all students are engaged and involved?
  • join in, or observe, the follow-up activities in the classroom after the fieldwork
  • meet the teacher afterwards to discuss the fieldwork. This will give you an opportunity to ask questions about what you observed.

For further information see the trainee webpages on Fieldwork.