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    Student research investigates value of fieldwork

    Posted 18 March 2015

    Kate Fishwick

    Research being conducted by a Harper Adams University student hopes to identify if and how secondary school students benefit from fieldwork excursions.

    21-year-old Kate Fishwick is looking at the benefits of residential fieldwork for GCSE and A Level students, in terms of gaining academic, environmental and wider social skills.

    To conduct her research, Kate worked with three field centres including Preston Montford Field Centre near Shrewsbury, surveying the groups that attended the various courses on offer.

    Kate, who studies BSc (Hons) Countryside Management, said: “I worked for Preston Montford during my placement year and it struck me that often, courses are designed to meet the rigid specifications of examinations, whereas younger students are given more freedom in their learning.

    “So, I wanted to find out whether GCSE and A Level students do receive wider benefits from fieldwork beyond their academic work, such as learning more generally about the countryside and environment.

    “There is also the social benefits of fieldwork, such as working in groups and collaboratively.

    “With impending changes to the curriculum, this study could prove an opportunity to re-identify the place of fieldwork in our schools and shape how future courses are run.”

    During her placement year with the centre, Kate took on the role of Education Assistant – delivering fieldwork sessions and taking part in tasks such as mammal trapping and species identification.

    Through this she was able to survey around 20 school groups by distributing questionnaires on their first and last days on site and comparing the answers. She also ran four 30-minute focus groups with six A Level students per session to produce qualitative data.

    Kate, a former Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School student from Silverdale, added: “Initial results indicate that students do gain wider benefits from attending a residential field course.

    “In general, questionnaires were answered with more detail and thought following the course, suggesting in-depth learning.

    “I’m now working to conduct further analysis to identify trends in my research.”

    Following her final exams later this year, Kate hopes to pursue a career in environmental education, to impart her passion for the countryside to the next generation.

    As well as being a keen photographer, Kate enjoys field sports. She also co-produced a video for the Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s ‘Love Your River’ campaign, to encourage people to help to reduce water pollution.

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