|Ph.D Student||Lavie-Alon Nirit|
|Subject||Field Trips in Nature: Guiding, Learning and Learning|
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Tali Tal|
|Full Thesis text|
Field trips are a common educational activity in Israel. A variety of outcomes is expected from outdoor education - acquisition of knowledge and understanding of nature and the environment, and outcomes in the affective and social domains. Unlike school visits to museums and science centers, this area of out-of-school learning in natural environments is less studied.
Guides and their practice can determine its outcomes. Guiding in nature is a complex process with many influencing factors. This study focuses on the characteristics and outcomes of school field trips that are carried out in natural environments. The research questions were: (1) What are the pedagogical characteristics of guiding in nature with regard to: a. guiding strategies; b. the way the guides use the environment during the field trip; c. the teacher’s function and the relationship with the guide? (2) Do the pedagogical characteristics contribute to learning outcomes and, if so, how? (3) What are the expectations of students, teachers and guides from field trips and to what extent are these expectations met?
In this mixed-method approach study, the participants are students in grades 4-9 (ages 9-15), teachers, and guides who took part in 43 field trips to natural environments. All field trips were guided by professional guides from two environmental organizations in Israel or by school teachers. The school groups came from diverse socioeconomic statuses and geographical distribution. Data sources included observations, interviews and a Likert-type student-questionnaire that was administered to all students after the field trip.
The findings show mainly didactic and guide-centered pedagogy and only limited student-centered activities, including active learning. We found that the guides used the environment in different ways during the field trip
Teacher involvement in carrying out the field trip ranged between supervising and giving technical help, on the one hand, and much involvement in the cognitive and social domains, on the other hand.
Students indicated that they are very fond of field trips and nature, and think it is important to protect the environment. We found that field trips in which environmental issues were explicitly discussed or environmental action was practiced made a greater impact. To draw relationships between the characteristics of the field trip and student self-reported learning outcomes, we used student questionnaires that were analyzed using the Classification And Regression Trees (CART) method, which is used mainly in data mining. CART is most effective when there is large number of independent variables. The analysis showed that the most important variable that affected the three domains of outcomes was the guide's storytelling. It appears that in a learning environment, which is mainly guide-centered, where active learning is limited, interesting stories are a powerful method.
This research contributes to the understanding of what makes a good field trip and what good outdoor education practices are. In the practical aspect, formal and informal educators can learn from the study whether field trips are fulfilling their expectations. The study allows recommending formal and informal educators on how to design and carry out effective and educative field trips.