Institute of Teaching and Learning

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning

Topic 10: Field trips

picture of student out in the field

Field trips are practical classes that are taken out of the laboratory, usually off-campus. Students love field trips and they can be a great opportunity to get to know the students in your class better. You should be accompanied on any field trip by a staff member providing technical support, as well as a person with first aid training. Often the technician is able to fill both roles.

Because you are working outdoors, there are special challenges in organising and running field trips. If possible go with the unit chair to preview the location and determine where and how the various prac activities will take place.

Safety

Working in the field means there are different risks that are less controllable than working in the laboratory. A requirement of each field trip is a Deakin University project safety plan, which must be filled in and submitted by the unit chair. If you are teaching on a field trip, it would be useful to ask the unit chair if you can read it and clarify any other formal procedures that must be followed before and during a field trip. Yourself and the students need to have appropriate clothing and weather protection (e.g. sunscreen).

Communication

Depending on the nature of the activities, individuals or groups of students may be spread out across a wide area or you may be guiding a single (and large) group around so you need to plan carefully how you're going to communicate with students. A briefing at the beginning should include all relevant instructions for students including timing and expectations of where and when to meet during and/or at the end of the field trip. You may need to manage "catching up" with students during the activities to see how they're going and to clarify and issues or give further instructions. Be aware that if the trip involves walking then the group of students will tend to get strung out and those at the rear may miss some instructions.

Management

You may need to act as a sheep-dog to make sure the class sticks together or alternatively if they are working in groups that you don't lose a group. You may need to take regular head counts. Some students may treat the field trip like a day's outing and may indulge in some frivolous behaviour due to the informality of the outdoor setting. The filed trip should have been designed with specific activities for students. You should be thoroughly familiar with these and it can be useful to draft up some questions/ideas to keep students on track and improve their understanding of the context of the activities in relation to the aims of the course.

Equipment

Detailed instructions are vital on field trips as it is difficult to explain procedures in the field. If possible explain the field activities and equipment to students back in the lab in a previous class or as a group when you first get to the location.

Students with disabilities or medical conditions

Special arrangements may need to be made to cater for students with disabilities or medical conditions. These should be made by the unit chair before the field trip but you need to be aware of them so it is useful to ask the unit chair.

 

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25th November 2010