Maximising the benefits of environmental field-work for a diverse student body
Fieldwork is widely recognised as a valuable part of an undergraduate education in environmental disciplines. Benefits include the opportunity to engage with learning in a real-world context, which can mediate a deeper learning experience and the development of employability-enhancing knowledge and skills. This can include both subject-specific knowledge and technical skills or transferable skills important for demonstrating graduate employability. However, not all students engage with fieldwork and those who do may visit differing locations and study a range of concepts. This project seeks to assess whether these differing experiences mediate the same outcomes for employability and, indeed, whether staff intend them to. Additionally, students’ awareness of the development of employability-enhancing skills through fieldwork will be assessed, and employers’ perceptions of fieldwork will be sought, particularly, the ability for fieldwork to develop the transferable and technical skills necessary for employment. Initially, the project focus will be on students’ fieldwork choices and will investigate whether students’ perceptions of fieldwork value and self-efficacy influence their choice to either opt out of, or participate in, fieldwork. Findings from this research will be used to inform field course design to maximise the employability-enhancing opportunities for all students.
My interest in this project was brought about by my experiences undertaking fieldwork both as a student and a tutor. My undergraduate degree included residential field courses and regular short fieldwork activities throughout the Bristol and North Somerset area. As part of this course I undertook a sandwich placement with the Field Studies Council. During this year in industry my interest in education and fieldwork was developed further, and, on completion of my degree, I returned to the Field Studies Council to teach ecology and geography fieldwork for seven years. This project provides the opportunity to combine my interests of fieldwork and education with an interest in research.