ERIC Number: EJ1107064
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Conflicting Perceptions of the Status of Field Biology and Identification Skills in UK Education
Goulder, Raymond; Scott, Graham W.
Journal of Biological Education, v50 n3 p233-238 2016
Reviews of the state of biology fieldwork in UK schools and universities at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Barker, Slingsby, and Tilling 2002; Smith 2004) were not entirely pessimistic; rather they suggested ways forward that might lead to an increase in fieldwork. Whether their hopes have been realised has, perhaps, been revealed by later studies. In 2006, the National Foundation for Educational Research comprehensively surveyed the extent of learning outside the classroom in English schools (O'Donnell, Morris and Wilson 2006). This survey included all kinds of fieldwork as well as that in biology and it concluded that, although many commentators had argued that there was a decline in fieldwork, there was little evidence in support of decline. Schools and local authorities considered that provision had increased or remained largely the same over the previous five years. Field work by primary schools on school sites was commonly reported as increasing. Less encouraging, however, are the findings of a metastudy by Lock (2010) of publications between 1963 and 2009, although only three out of 13 of these reported surveys were done after 2000, which addressed biology fieldwork provision for 16-19 year olds in UK schools and colleges. This study suggested that according to several criteria (time in the field, the number of teachers taking fieldwork, teacher perception of change and the amount of residential fieldwork) the extent of fieldwork had declined. Other criteria (the number and type of habitats visited) showed no clear evidence of change. The current status of fieldwork in UK universities, not withstanding the negative comment that has been reported in this article, appears to be buoyant. Maw, Mauchline, and Park (2011) surveyed academics from 27 institutions by questionnaire in 2010 and found no evidence of a decrease in biological fieldwork over the previous five years. Furthermore, when staff from 27 universities were interviewed by Skype or telephone in 2012 (Mauchline, Peacock, and Park 2013) there was no evidence of decline in fieldwork over the previous five years; fieldwork was greatly valued and a future increase was predicted in some institutions. The funding of fieldwork in UK universities has been anomalous in that students have sometimes been charged for fieldwork costs whereas expensive consumables used in laboratory classes have been provided without extra charge. Mauchline, Peacock, and Park (2013) suggested that the introduction of full-cost fees from 2012 has led to the deletion of extra charges for fieldwork; they suggest that this may boost fieldwork. Other suggested positive factors are that the promise of fieldwork enhances student recruitment, that fieldwork skills enhance employability and that students enjoy doing fieldwork. This is supported by the authors'experience with students at Hull University; they found that students valued fieldwork because of its leading to outdoor career opportunities and students largely enjoyed the fieldwork experience (Goulder, Scott, and Scott 2013; Scott et al. 2012). Here the authors posit that all in all, although there is clearly much difference of opinion, they are unconvinced that biological fieldwork and identification skills are currently at significant risk in UK universities; they also believe that fieldwork in schools has the potential for a positive future.
Descriptors: Biology, Science Instruction, Teaching Methods, Foreign Countries, Teacher Attitudes, Teacher Surveys, Questionnaires, College Faculty, Interviews, Prediction, Costs, Student Recruitment, College Students, Field Experience Programs, Employment Potential, Identification, Risk, Futures (of Society), Elementary Secondary Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom