Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools: A Reader

By Maggie Smith | Go to book overview

12

Fieldwork in the school Geography curriculum

Pedagogical issues and development

Ashley Kent and Nick Foskett


The development of fieldwork in school Geography

In the English literature it is not hard to find eulogistic references to the benefits of school Geography. For instance:

Fieldwork is the best and most immediate means of bringing the two aspects of the subject (i.e. a body of knowledge and a distinctive method of study) together in the experience of the pupil. Therefore, fieldwork is a necessary part of geographical education; it is not an optional extra.

(Bailey 1974:184)

Fieldwork is not a separate teaching style to be adopted in geographical education, but a sine qua non of all good education through geography.

(Lidstone 1988:59)

Geography without fieldwork is like science without experiments; the 'field' is the geographic laboratory where young people experience at first hand landscapes, places, people and issues, and where they can learn and practice geographical skills in a real environment. Above all, fieldwork is enjoyable.

(Bland, Chambers, Donert and Thomas 1996:165).

Then? Well not quite, since in several parts of the world the tradition of school fieldwork is far from established. For instance, in the USA 'fieldwork is not a common part of the geography education in the United States' (Bednarz 1999:164). This is arguably also true of college level fieldwork in the USA where according to Allender (1999), fieldwork is an elective in most courses because of other reasons: it is expensive, there are legal liability worries, virtual reality fieldwork seems more cost-effective and there is a lack of skilled instructors. A similar story is told from China, where 'it seems unlikely that fieldwork will assume a key position in geography in China' (Zhang 1999:175), and from the Netherlands, where 'class-based study of secondary sources has become more important than enquiry outside the classroom' (Swaan and Wijnsteekers 1999:171).

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