Mechanisms influencing student understanding on an outdoor guided field trip
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Field trips are a basic and important, yet often overlooked part of the student experience. They provide the opportunity to integrate real world knowledge with classroom learning and student previous personal experiences. Outdoor guided field trips leave students with an increased understanding, awareness and interest and in science. However, the benefits of this experience are ambiguous at best (Falk and Balling, 1982; Falk and Dierking, 1992; Kisiel, 2006. Students on an outdoor guided field trip to a local nature park experienced a significant increase in their understanding of the rock cycle. The changes in the pre-field trip test and the post-field trip test as well as their answers in interviews showed a profound change in the students’ understanding and in their interest in the subject matter. The use of the “student’s voice” (Bamberger and Tal, 2008) was the motivation for data analysis. By using the students’ voice, I was able to determine the mechanisms that might influence their understanding of a subject. The central concepts emerging from the data were: the outdoor setting; the students’ interest; the social interaction. From these central concepts, a conceptual model was developed. The outdoor setting allows for the freedom to explore, touch, smell and movement. This, in turn, leads to an increased interest in subject matter. As the students are exploring, they are enjoying themselves and become more open to learning. Interest leads to a desire to learn (Dewey, 1975). In addition to allowing the freedom to explore and move, the outdoor setting creates the condition for social interaction. The students talk to each other as they walk; they have in-depth discourse regarding the subject matter -- with the teachers, each other and with the guides. The guides have an extremely important role in the students’ learning. The more successful guides not only act as experts, but also adjust to the students’ needs and act or speak accordingly. The interconnections of these three concepts-- the outdoor setting, the students’ interest, the social interaction - worked to provide the mechanisms by which the students increased their understanding of the rock cycle.