The effects of field experience in a physical geology high school classroom

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The field trip experience has been around for the better part of two centuries (Emmons, 1836; Falcon-Lang, 2009; Hopkins, 1835a, b; Perry 1899). However, with fast-paced technological lifestyles, a shift to teach toward high-stakes testing, and transportation budget cuts, field trip experiences have been pushed increasingly to the outskirts when it comes to modern education. The purpose of this research is to assess the effects of geology field experiences on student learning in a high school geology classroom. A sub-question concentrated on student attitudes and engagement toward studying science. Seventeen public high school students ranging from sophomores to seniors completed the study in a single classroom. The students studied four different geologic sites specific to Indiana. Study sites included a meteor impact site as a non-treatment study and a glacial geology site as a treatment study. Students then studied a second non-treatment site identified as an ancient seafloor environment, and a treatment site focused on karst topography. A variety of data collection tools assessed students both quantitatively and qualitatively. Students completed pre and post-surveys, comprehension pre and post-tests, site-specific notes and drawings, as well as interviews. Teacher recorded observations and a reflective journal were kept to monitor students and their behavior throughout the study. During the non-treatment period students were told to take notes and draw field sketches based on a specific site in the classroom. During a treatment period students took a field trip to complete notes and field drawings at a specific geologic field site. It is important to note that this study was interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and so one non-treatment and one treatment site had to be completed as part of e-learning. I filmed one treatment site to generate a virtual field experience. Student results indicated an overall positive impact toward studying geology via field experiences. Although it was interesting that more students were engaged in the classroom rather than in the field, students displayed positive gains for both treatment units. Students surveyed and interviewed displayed an overall better attitude and appreciation toward studying science.




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