In the social studies elective we have been looking at the importance of fieldwork and taking children outdoors to enhance learning. Foley and Janukoun (1992) and Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) define fieldwork as the field being the place where the learning is taking place and fieldwork being the activities taking place there. They also both suggest that fieldwork allows for a bridge to be made between the classroom and the wider world. There are three types of fieldwork Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013, p.48) discuss, these are the “look and see” style; when the children go somewhere such as a museum, and a guide or teacher provide information regarding what is on display, second is “field teaching”; when children are active in the learning but are limited in using their own enquiry and third is “enquiry based fieldwork”; when children are allowed to explore and construct their own learning. Job (1996) cited in Owen and Ryan (2001) agrees with Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) suggestion for the three types of fieldwork that can take place, but he believed there are a further two. Job (1996) cited in Owen and Ryan (2001, p.105) believes another type of fieldwork that could be used is “discovery learning”; where children are exposed to an environment in which they will learn a variety of things which have not been planned by the teacher and secondly he believes fieldwork could take the form of “earth education”; meaning children can use the environment to develop understanding through using games and role-play. Job (1996) cited in Owen and Ryan (2001) and Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) give a definition of fieldwork and the types of fieldwork we could use in the primary classroom, but the key discussion is in what ways can fieldwork enhance children’s understanding of the world through teaching and learning within social studies.
Catling and Willy (2009), Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) and Witt (2013) all agree that fieldwork brings learning alive, making it more interesting for children helping to enhance their understanding of the world around them. They also all agree that fieldwork helps to develop a wide range of skills but one skill in particular it helps to build is enquiry, they believe that fieldwork motivates learners and encourage them to ask questions. Harnett and Whitehouse (2017) take this point slight further and suggest that fieldwork allows children to have an opportunity for free exploration to develop their investigative, examination and questioning skills. Catling and Willy (2009), Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) and Witt (2013) all agree that ultimately fieldwork creates some of the most exciting and memorable learning experiences for children, hence why it is believed it enhances their knowledge, understanding and skills development within social studies. Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) discuss what they believe to be the biggest advantages of using fieldwork to enhance learning, these are; it makes learning accessible for all pupils, it provides new opportunities and context for children to practice their enquiry and investigation skills and it allows for quality learning experiences which help to raise academic achievement across subjects. However, Catling and Willy (2009) debate this, they do not disagree with Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013), however they make a very valid point, they suggest that these advantages can only be achieved if a teacher is clear on what they want to achieve from the visits and the outcomes these related to, meaning that fieldwork must not just be for fun but the educational context and value must be explicitly clear.
To discover how fieldwork can enhance learning I decided to go to Dundee’s new V&A Museum to find out if this would be a useful place to develop knowledge and understanding in social studies. There are many areas of the curriculum that can be explored through a fieldwork at the V&A, particularly in relation to social studies as the children would be able to develop their understanding of areas of Scottish history. The children would take part in “enquiry-based fieldwork” (Job, 1996 cited in Owen and Ryan 2001, p.105; Pickford, Garner and Jackson, 2013, p.48) as they would have opportunity to explore the museum and the artefacts on display, to observe and question the artefacts they find interesting. There would also be an opportunity for “look and see” fieldwork (Job, 1996 cited in Owen and Ryan, 2001, p.105; Pickford, Garner and Jackson, 2013, p.48) as a member of staff from the V&A would take the children around the artefacts showing significant events in Scottish history and explain to the children what they are and how they came to be in the museum. Children would also have opportunity to develop their investigative and questioning skills through the education workshops that are available at the V&A. When planning a trip to the V&A Museum to develop children’s knowledge and understanding of Scottish History I would be using this as an introduction to the topic, I would provide the children with a means of taking photographs and ask them to photograph areas of the museum they find most interesting and would like to investigate further. I would encourage them to ask lots of questions during the visit to help develop their initial enquires. From this, on the return to school, there would be a class discussion and a vote upon an area of Scottish History the class found most interesting during the visit and would like to learn more about. This would then lead the direction of the enquiry and the children will investigate further into this area and develop their understating of this event, its impact and how it has influenced life today. Pickford, Garner and Jackson (2013) give an example of using fieldwork to a museum before beginning an area of learning just as I have explained, they suggest that doing this helps to create questions and an initial hypothesis. From there the children can do research and use other resources to test their hypothesis and find the answers to their questions (Pickford, Garner and Jackson, 2013).
Taking part in fieldwork should encourage children to develop their understanding of the world and their place within in it as citizens, they should seek to enquire about what they see; investigating, making connections and asking questions (Pickford, Garner and Jackson, 2013). Fieldwork allows children to learn through enquiry, to develop their understanding of the world through an engaging and memorable learning experience (Hoodless, 2009; Catling and Willy, 2009; Witt, 2013).
Catling, S. and Willy, T. (2009) Teaching Primary Geography. Exeter: Learning Matters.
Foley, M. and Janikoun, J. (1992) The Really Practical Guide to Primary Geography. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.
Harnett, P. and Whitehouse, S. (2017) ‘Creative Exploration of Local, National and Global Links’ in Cooper, H. (ed.) Teaching History Creatively. 2nd edn. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 157 – 170
Hoodless, P. (2009) Teaching Humanities in Primary Schools. Exeter: Learning Matters.
Owen, D. and Ryan, A. (2001) Teaching Geography 3-11 The Essential Guide. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Pickford, T. Garner, W. and Jackson, E. (2013) Primary Humanities: Learning Through Enquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications
Witt, S. (2017) ‘Playful Approaches to Learning Outdoors’, in Scoffham, S. (ed.) Teaching Geography Creatively. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 47 – 58.