Learning Styles: Field Trips

I’ve been discussing different learning styles, and mainly been focusing on the importance of active involvement and entertainment. One of the most engaging and entertaining methods of learning that I can think of is SCHOOL TRIPS!! (or as most of the research I have found is American –“ field” trips). This week, I’m going to talk about the impact of field trips in education, to see if they are beneficial and why.

Research suggests that field trips are beneficial for learning. One example is, Javlekar (1989) who found that a student’s knowledge on a certain subject will increase if they have been on a field trip, he found this by comparing students who had visited a scientific exhibit compared to students who hadn’t. When quizzed, the students who had visited out-performed the students who hadn’t. There are many reasons as to why researchers think field trips are so effective:

Hofstien and Rosenfeld (1996) believe one of the reasons field trips are an effective learning method is due to the informal learning experience. The informal learning encourages active-learning by allowing the students to interact physically and manipulate objects. Feher (1990) supports this as he believes field trips are successful due to the informality; students can move around the environment and experiment with objects at their own pace.

Furthermore, Lai (1999) suggests that it is the novelty of field trips that makes them so effective. Lai (1999) found that students perceive their usual classroom learning as boring, so they valued the field trips due to its rarity and the freedom they could have during the trip. Students would look at the learning experience form a new perspective; they developed a desire to break away from their teachers in order to give themselves a control over their own learning. Unfortunately they found that the desire to partake in proactive learning stopped once the children returned to the classroom.

Some researchers suggest that field trips can actually be a negative towards learning. Falk, Martin and Balling (1978) suggest that the novelty of the field situation can be a bad thing for learning as the children associate days out as fun social activities rather than a learning experience. Therefore, it is assumed that the students will direct all their attention towards the environment and the fun, distracting them from the actual learning activity. Another negative thing about field trips is that some children can become stressed due to the unfamiliar environment (Kagan and Fasan, 1988). It is suggested that because field trips can be stressful and cause anxiety for some children, they are not going to be able to focus on the learning activites and thus, not learn. Nevertheless, Hofstein and Rosenfeld (1996) believe that these issues can be resolved if the students are prepared for the trip beforehand. Meaning that, the children associating the day out as a social adventurous event will be prepared to learn and the children who become anxious will have more of an idea of what to expect from the trip.

One of my own ideas… As the majority of school trips (well, that I have been on anyway) usually take place outside, I thought maybe it is just the general outdoors that makes it so effective?? Eaton (2000) found that learning outdoors is effective for developing cognitive skills. Reasons for this could be due to the attention restoration theory (Kaplan, 1995). Suggesting that when we are surrounded by nature our minds unwind as we don’t have to constantly keep our attention focused on busy (and potentially dangerous) objects that we would usually find in manmade places (e.g vehicles, sirens, music, fire alarms etc.). So without these distractions, the students on field trips can focus their attention directly on the learning activity rather than diverting their attention to distractions in schools that they may find. Berman (2008) supports this as he found that nature enhances cognitive functioning.

To conclude, field trips are an effective learning style due to the promotion of proactive learning, which can be caused by the informal learning experience or due to the novelty of the trip. However, the novelty factor isn’t always a good thing as it can be overwhelming for some children. Despite there being some negative things related to field trips, there are ways to solve these problems. I personally think that school trips are beneficial and should be encouraged in schools, further research could look into ways to transfer the knowledge and attitudes gained on field trips into the classroom.

So sorry about writing so much, theres so much more I could write on this topic so I look forward to reading and replying to any comments you may have 🙂

school trip

Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological science, 19(12), 1207-1212.

Falk, J. H., Martin, W. W., & Balling, J. D. (2006). The novel field‐trip phenomenon: Adjustment to novel settings interferes with task learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 15(2), 127-134.

Hofstein, A., & Rosenfeld, S. (1996). Bridging the gap between formal and informal science learning.
Javlekar, V. (1989). Learning scientific concepts in science centers. In Bitgood, S Proceedings of the 1989 Visitor Studies Conference (Vol. 2).
Kagan, D. M., & Fasan, V. (1988). Stress and the instructional environment.College Teaching, 36(2), 75-81.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of environmental psychology, 15(3), 169-182.

Lai, K. C. (1999). Freedom to learn: a study of the experiences of secondary school teachers and students in a geography field trip. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 8(3), 239-255.

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10 thoughts on “Learning Styles: Field Trips

  1. niamh92 says:

    Falk looked into this matter again in 2010 with Dierking, to assess the long-term affects of school trips by assessing how much individual’s remembered. In the study, children and adults were to describe a past school trip they had been on, including where it was, what content they remember from it and who was there. With children making up a large proportion of this study, it it is unsurprising that 96% of the participants remembered a school trip. It is interesting that participants were generally remembering the main reason for the school trip, in relation to what they were learning in school, and many had context dependent memories, as would remember the trip when in a similar environment. This study however lacks thoroughness. To begin with, the adults were purely made up of females. The reason for this was not stated but gender differences may impact the types of trips that were remembered, and how much of the content could be retrieved. Secondly, participants were asked to merely recall one field trip. Relatively speaking, this is not an incredibly difficult task to achieve and if for example a participant went on 20 school trips during their education, asking them to remember one does not account for the strength of field trips as a whole as they could have forgotten the other 19. Finally, as I noted briefly above, whilst they may be accurate that 96% of participants could remember a field trip, when a majority were school children, it is likely that they have been on one in the last one or two years and this does not give an indication of the effect long-term, of school trips. This study does indicate that there are benefits to school trips, with the main point of the school trip being remembered, however the method of such studies needs to be closely analysed.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2151-6952.1997.tb01304.x/pdf

  2. psud46 says:

    Novelty space is a term used to refer to the new dimensions experienced by students, particularly in experiential learning activities. Research by Orion and Hofstein (1994) demonstrated that students that participated in novelty space reduction activities prior to a field trip demonstrated significantly increased learning performance.

    This seems to suggest that for students to gain the most from a field trip, directly before they should be primed with information preparing them for the novel environment they are about to enter, so they can therefore focus their attention to relevant information. This can be done by ensuring that the field trip is timed to be conducted right after the relevant information is presented in a curriculum.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.3660311005/abstract

  3. Tom (PSUC83) says:

    Hi Sinae,
    Initially I wasn’t going to comment because I thought you included lots of research and provided a solid argument. When researching for another blog I cam across some a piece of research by Tal (2005). Tal suggest a form of learning called ‘Environmental learning’. Tal ran a series of classes in the real environment that worked along the following principles:
    -Children interact with their peers and adults while making a contribution to the environment.
    -Hand on exploratory learning leads to advancements in cognition and adaptation of knowledge.
    -Assessment occurs in the natural environment and can measure adaption, generalisation, key skills.
    Tal found that students who lernt in the environment demonstrated more discusion and active learning as well as greater levels of critical thinking. Taylor et al (2006) support this. Taylor et al argue that in terms of science, environmental learning encourages adaptation of knowledge that truly demonstrates learning. Taylor et al argue this is accomplished through teachers being “co-creators” and by allowing assessment to be experience driven.
    In sum, field trips can be beneficial even on a regular basis, when classes are formed around regular interaction with environments , students show the capability to demonstrate higher levels of understanding. In addition the research i have noted gives an insight in to how field learning and assessment can be linked to better assess learning.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504620500169767
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11422-006-9027-8?LI=true

  4. Steph says:

    I always loved field trips though my school did not run many of them. I think the main reason I used to like field trips was because they were a fun day out although any sign of educational learning went out the window. My high school did however used to run one week in the school year called experience week up until year 10. There were a variety of different places or trips you could do, each one was a different price ranging from £0 – £600. Some students went to Rome, others went to Wales doing rock climbing and kayaking etc and then some students went bowling, the zoo and did arts and crafts etc. If you came from a poorer background then chances were you may not be fortunate enough to go abroad however it was a week that all the students looked forward to as it was a break from the classroom setting. The reason I have mentioned this is because although it was not considered academic learning children often learnt practical skills, social skills, team building and time management etc. which can be highly important in the real world. An article I found online explains how you need non academic skills as well as key skills in areas such as Maths English and Science some of these skills are Time management, etiquette, teamwork and public speaking. By allowing students to get out of the classroom and experience life in a different environment they may be able to develop some more life skills that they may not necessarily learn in the classroom.

    http://graduationandbeyond.utoronto.ca/senior-year/skills-for-real-life/

  5. francesdevine says:

    Hi Sinae,

    Whilst researching field trips I came across this piece of research on virtual field trips (VFT). Stainfield, Fisher, Ford, and Solem (2000) who claim that VFT have a valuable role in supporting and enhancing real fieldwork as well as empowering students who are disadvantaged financially or physically. Whilst virtual reality (VR) is quite a way off becoming a ‘reality’ in mainstream education, it has been shown to increase children’s motivation to learn, especially those that suffer from disabilities (Harris & Reid, 2005). To keep things simple, educational psychologists such as Moore (1995) believe that the value of VR for education lies within it’s ability to immerse the user in different environments; realistic, novel, or abstract, which allows the user to experience, interact with, and discover digital knowledge firsthand. Finally it may also bring information to the user which is not normally available in traditional educational settings.

    Harris & Reid (2005) http://www.fizjoterapeutom.pl/files/29/Harris%20K%202005%20The%20influence%20of%20virtual%20reality%20play%20on%20childrens%20motivation.pdf

    Moore (1995)
    http://ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet11/moore.html

    Stainfield, Fisher, Ford, & Solem (2000)
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/713677387

    • Sinae says:

      Hi Fran, thanks for the comment! That’s a really good way to look at things – maybe we don’t actually need to leave the classroom in order to get the field trip experience!!

      Virtual field trips (VFTs) can be just as effective as the real thing. Some advantages of VFTs compared to actual trips are: there doesn’t have to be a“set day” to go on the trip (Belanger & Jordan, 2000) so if a student was unwell and couldn’t make it to an actual field trip, this wouldn’t be a problem for the VFT as they could just do it another day. Woerner (1999) explains how field trips can be unsafe, VFTs don’t have this problem the teachers can even wrap their children in cotton wool and make them watch the VFT in a bubble-wrapped room if they insisted! And my favourite reason to use VFTs – you don’t have to stand out in the rain (Whitelock & Jelfs, 2005).

      I don’t want to contradict my argument; I’m still totally up for field trips! Just maybe VFTs are something to consider due to certain circumstances 😀

      Belanger, F., & Jordan, D. H. (2000). Evaluation and implementation of distance learning: Technologies, tools, and techniques. Igi Global.
      Whitelock, D., & Jelfs, A. (2005). Would you rather collect data in the rain or attend a virtual field trip? Findings from a series of virtual science field studies.International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life Long Learning, 15(1), 121-131
      Woerner, J. J. (1999). Virtual Field Trips in the Earth Science Classroom.

  6. ccpeers92 says:

    Hey Sinae, this was an interesting read, I always found field trips really fun and obviously it was always good to get out the classroom and enjoy a different setting! I hadn’t really considered the counter argument before but I can understand completely how they would be stressful for some students and it can be associated as just a ‘fun day out’. What about the teachers too? Is it worth the stress? Field trips for teachers means more planning time, collecting up money and consent, dealing with parental queries, organising transport and chaperones, and dealing with the problem of students having more freedom which could lead to discipline issues, just to name a few.

    references:
    http://www.netplaces.com/new-teacher/beyond-the-classroom/are-field-trips-worth-it.htm

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love school trips. My school sent us on a trip to Granada Studios Tours. That was it. However before we started at Uni I went on a school trip with some 5 year olds to a farm and I was quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever been in my life.

    There were problems though. Problems that research by Michie (1998) highighted. There’s no doubting that school trips are effective (Hofstien and Rosenfeld,1996) however the actual process of organising and running the school trip appears to be a nightmare.

    As one teacher pointed out to me when I was at the farm, about to go and feed the goats (it was so much fun), that the kids like to wander off, and that it’s like ‘herding cats’ trying to keep them in order. Michie (1998) said that the behaviour of students needs to be monitored constantly due to the differing levels of ability, and that this in itself brings about a whole load of administrative problems.

    For me, most importantly, Michie also comments on how the learning and support materials are not up to standard, and that this stifles their creativity and effects the childs learning. If this can be addressed, school trips certainly have a particularly useful place in the curriculum to aid with childrens learning.

  8. Ben says:

    I love school trips. My school sent us on a trip to Granada Studios Tours. That was it. However before we started at Uni I went on a school trip with some 5 year olds to a farm and I was quite possibly the most excited I’ve ever been in my life.

    There were problems though. Problems that research by Michie (1998) highighted. There’s no doubting that school trips are effective (Hofstien and Rosenfeld,1996) however the actual process of organising and running the school trip appears to be a nightmare.

    As one teacher pointed out to me when I was at the farm, about to go and feed the goats (it was so much fun), that the kids like to wander off, and that it’s like ‘herding cats’ trying to keep them in order. Michie (1998) said that the behaviour of students needs to be monitored constantly due to the differing levels of ability, and that this in itself brings about a whole load of administrative problems.

    For me, most importantly, Michie also comments on how the learning and support materials are not up to standard, and that this stifles their creativity and effects the childs learning. If this can be addressed, school trips certainly have a particularly useful place in the curriculum to aid with childrens learning.

    I really need to get to grips with this signing in thing 😛

  9. natberry2013 says:

    Your blog was really interesting and offered something very different to many of the other blogs. Like Tom I was not going to comment, as you have covered a lot, but after going to Fay and Jesse’s Share and Inspire talk last night, I felt I had to comment.

    Fay Short gave a presentation about “putting the edge into education”, the ‘g’ standing for gallivanting. Fay stated that higher education is really behind the current school system and that students want to actively engage in field trips, so why are they not really being given the chance? Fay has attempted to bring field trips back into university life through a trip for second year students to Auschwitz, and a potential trip to Freud’s house. This is relatively unheard of for undergraduate students, particularly those who study psychology.

    Clearly, schools implement this on a regular basis and, as you noted, field trips have been shown to have a positive effect on learning. Your view that informal learning enables pupils to move objects around and encourages active learning is valid, with additional research finding that when pupils attended an interactive science centre, the pupils engaged more in the learning process than in a classroom setting (Wellington, 1990). Another point to add in terms of the formality of learning is that pupils often get to see their teachers in a more informal way than in the ordinary classroom setting. I always remember everyone would find it weird when the teachers turned up on the school coach in ‘mufti’ (casual clothes) and somewhat horrified at the tight jeans worn by many of the male members of staff. However, this enabled us to see our teachers in a new light and thus engage more with the material taught. Pianta, Hamre, and Stuhlman have supported this notion finding that students who have a personal relationship with the teacher are more likely to actively engage in the classroom.

    This point, combined with all of the others you have illustrated, demonstrates the importance of field trips to increase engagement in learning, but also relationships with their teachers. As Fay stated in her talk, why cannot this be implemented more in higher education, where the research into effectiveness is ironically being conducted?

    References:
    Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B., & Stuhlman, M. (2003). Relationships between teachers and children. Handbook of Psychology
    Wellington, J. (1990). Formal and informal learning in science: The role of the interactive science centres. Physics Education, 25(5), 247. doi: 10.1088/0031-9120/25/5/307

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