Academic journal article Education

Novelty and It's Relation to Field Trips

Academic journal article Education

Novelty and It's Relation to Field Trips

Article excerpt

Go my sons [and daughters], Bum

your books

Buy yourselves stout shoes

Get away to the mountains, the

deserts

And the deepest recesses of the earth

In this way and no other

Will you gain true knowledge of

things

And their properties!

Why is there such an emphasis on alternative methods of teaching and learning in the 1990's? Is this something new? The above quote from the 1500's highlights the timeless need for novel and innovative forms of learning, forms that schools consistently fail to utilize and take advantage of.

This article explores the theory of novelty and how it relates to knowledge acquisition, attitudes and field trips. The first section will consider the theoretical perspectives of novelty and how it relates to field trips and other novel sources (planetariums, museums, star labs) which I refer to as novel instructional resources (NIRs) in this article. The second section will look at how the facilitator at a novel instructional resource is vitally important and, in light of this, the third section explores why star labs in particular, and novel resources in general are not as effective as they could be.

I. Theoretical Perspectives of Novelty

The capacity to identify, adjust, and/or avoid possible dangerous situations in our environment helps assure survival (Tiitinen, May, Reinikainen, Naatanen, 1994). Novel situations provide a particularly unique set of circumstances that must be appraised. To gauge the degree of novelty, an individual will compare a situation that "is generated from an unusual event against a background of sequential experience." (Comerford & Witryol, 1993, p. 163). This means that individuals respond in various ways to various novelty, depending on the repertoire of responses available as determined by past responses in similar situations. For example, one student who attends a natural history museum may react negatively because that is where his divorced parent took him on their last outing. Another student, on the other hand, may react positively to the natural history field trip as she remembers a positive family outing there.

With respect to novelty and cognitive development, Alberti and Witryol (1994) hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between curiosity motivation (novelty) and cognitive functioning. Much of this hypothesis was grounded on earlier research by Berlyne (1960) who claimed that curiosity would strengthen the individual's teaming by "exposing" individuals to a wider variety of experiences in which teaming can take place. In a novel or curious situation, a learner is desirous to minimize or reduce the amount of uncertainty thereby increasing motivation to learn (see also novelty space - this article, Orion, 1993; Orion & Hofstein, 1991a). As defined by Alberti and Witryol (1994), novelty is "the presence of new, unfamiliar, or relatively rare stimuli against the background of familiar events in the child's perceptual history." (p. 129). The person's response to try and make the novel familiar forms the back ground for cognitive development in an individual.

Alberti and Witryol (1994) found that novelty producing the motivation to learn is independent of cognitive ability, thus having direct ramifications for field trips as a valuable resource for all students. This should be coupled with studies that show that boys and girls both show no significant gender differences in increases of positive attitudes as a result of a field trip (Orion & Hofstein, 1991b). They also found further support of the influence of novelty on cognitive growth.

Preference for novelty is an important

aspect of curiosity motivation that

brings the organism into contact with

new information that forms the

elements of cognitive development,

contributing to competence and

general adaptiveness. …

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