The Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project (EFL) started in 2010 as a successful bid to the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme project strand of the Higher Education Academy.
Three National Teaching Fellows, Professors Derek France (University of Chester), Julian Park (University of Reading) and Brian Whalley (Queen's University Belfast, now Sheffield) established the project to enhance student experiences and active learning via fieldwork. Dr Katharine Welsh (University of Chester) joined as a full-time researcher in 2010 and Dr Alice Mauchline (University of Reading) joined in 2011.
The original 3-year cross-disciplinary project continues to run with new collaboration and support from the British Ecological Society. Fieldwork is an essential form of undergraduate and post-graduate learning in many geoscience, bioscience and allied areas. It contributes a range of subject specific and generic skills, such as data collection and field analysis.
Impact of work
EFL focuses on the pedagogy of using affordable, ubiquitous mobile and social networks and a wide variety of apps to enhance learning and engagement in the field. This ensures that students are well prepared for fieldwork and make full use of their learning experiences to aid future employment.
The project team links pedagogy with recent technological advances to provide active student engagement and dissemination. As a team, eight events have been convened and a further 41 additional institutional, national and international one-day workshops have been co-convened. In addition, research has been disseminated at 139 conferences across five continents.
As well as showing the use of technological aspects of fieldwork data acquisition and processing, EFL has produced research papers on student and staff experiences of mobile technologies in the field including exploration of 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) and accessibility issues.
Plans for the future
The team offers an annual programme of events, a support network of friendly contacts for equipment evaluation, support for budget holders and inspiration to ensure learners are able to make the best use of the opportunities available. In addition to 19 academic papers, EFL has written their own book ‘Enhancing Fieldwork Learning using Mobile Technologies’ and contributed five additional chapters on mobile technologies and learning. The team plans to continue to support staff and students to ensure optimum learning environments during fieldwork activities.
University of Chester