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The influence of fieldwork design on student perceptions of skills development during field courses

Peasland, Emma L.; Henri, Dominic C.; Morrell, Lesley J.; Scott, Graham W.


Emma L. Peasland

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Dr Dom Henri
Senior Lecturer, Director of Studies


Employability is a key issue for students and Higher Education Institutions and a key component of employability is possessing the skills a role requires. In the environmental sciences, fieldwork has been shown to provide an opportunity for students to develop employability-enhancing technical and transferable skills. However, students can have difficulty identifying the transferable skills they develop both during fieldwork and throughout their degree programmes. We investigated whether different pedagogical approaches to fieldwork (in which staff or students design the field investigations) influenced the skills that students developed and identified. Additionally, we explored whether students recognised that skills developed during fieldwork might enhance their employability, which was previously unclear. Collecting data daily throughout three residential field courses provided a novel approach to assessing student perceptions of skills development through fieldwork as much previous research has focused on post-course data collection. Overall, students recognised technical skills more frequently than transferable skills and were able to link their skills development to their future employability. However, when fieldwork investigations were staff-led, students recognised more technical skills, but when students designed their fieldwork investigations themselves they recognised more transferable skills. We suggest that to maximise the skills development benefits of fieldwork, field courses should include a variety of fieldwork teaching designs to allow students to develop the widest array of skills possible. Additionally, students should be encouraged to reflect on their experiences throughout a field course as reflection is thought to aid their ability to recognise how their skills have developed.


Morrell, L. J., Peasland, E. L., Peasland, E., Henri, D. C., Morrell, L., & Scott, G. W. (in press). The influence of fieldwork design on student perceptions of skills development during field courses. International journal of science education, 1-20.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 9, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 23, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 24, 2021
Journal International journal of science education
Print ISSN 0950-0693
Electronic ISSN 1464-5289
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-20
Keywords Fieldwork; Biology education; Ecology education; Employability; Skills; Field trips; Higher education
Public URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope: http://www.tandfonline....ope&journalCode=tsed20; Received: 2018-10-22; Accepted: 2019-10-09; Published: 2019-10-23