Chapter 26 Fieldwork in the undergraduate geography curriculum: developing graduate skills
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Field-based disciplines like geography have long used time in the field as an educational tool. Usually, this experience concerns using the field location as a locus for teaching and practicing technical skills and for improving group identity in support of better learning outcomes. This work can take the form of: 1) students working independently in a field location, 2) students working alongside staff, and 3) students following a staff-led itinerary in a larger group, including geographic expeditions. All three forms of fieldwork carry with them unique benefits for pedagogy and academic, personal and professional development, but also risks relating to physical safety and mental wellbeing which need to be managed carefully. This is particularly important if students are working in difficult circumstances, such as areas of high poverty, poor access to health care and absence of easily-navigable infrastructure. In this chapter, we explore the benefits and potential issues associated with all three forms of student field work, and draw comparisons across them in order to evaluate the role of field work in the curriculum. This focusses on tangible achievements such as technical skills and successful group labour division and management, as well as intangible achievements such as the empowerment these students feel through having overcome practical challenges themselves and taking ownership of field-based tasks.

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