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 🙂
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.