Evidence from research points to the educational benefits of teaching and learning science through fieldwork in the natural and built environments. However, there is a concern that the provision and quality of outdoor education in science has been declining, and that opportunities for fieldwork are rarely taken up in practice.
In 2010 the Association for Science Education produced the report Outdoor Science, following a series of five seminars to examine this issue. The seminars were attended by more than 100 leading science educators, including teachers and lecturers, academics and researchers, representatives of learned societies, professional associations, NGOs and the charitable sector, government and nongovernment agencies, awarding bodies; advisers and inspectors; employers and business.
The report offers six key recommendations:
- Future reviews of initial teacher training, Qualified Teacher Status standards and continuing professional development must ensure that fieldwork training is expected and provided for all trainee science teachers. A co-ordinated programme of teacher training in fieldwork should therefore be established to promote effective pedagogy for all university tutors and school teachers involved in pre-service and early career training.
- A dedicated outdoor science website, aimed at teachers, technicians and outdoor educators, should be created to signpost, exchange and compare high-quality fieldwork training resources. The website should encompass local and context-specific support and include contacts for expert advisers, local support networks, existing good practice, training events and fieldwork providers as well as published materials.
- Performance management and designations (for example, to AST or Excellent Teacher level) should include an opportunity for early-career teachers to demonstrate their effective use of fieldwork and for more experienced teachers to demonstrate their own role in providing fieldwork training for colleagues in other departments and schools (including across age phases and transitions).
- Awarding bodies should be provided with the flexibility and support to significantly increase open-ended summative assessment and assessments that recognise skills which are primarily developed through fieldwork.
- A co-ordinated research programme should be developed to further investigate the full range of educational impacts of fieldwork in science including case studies in formal / informal contexts, day/residential venues, local/remote sites and rural/urban communities
- Leading educational bodies, learned societies and high-profile supporters of outdoor education should use their combined influence to support positive attitudes towards fieldwork in science amongst their contacts and audiences (including headteachers, governors and parents). These institutions and individuals should focus particularly on areas such as raising the profile of fieldwork in whole school policies and development plans, a reduction in health and safety bureaucracy and the development of in-service professional development programmes.
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