Melissa Glackin and Kate Greer from King’s College London make the case for residential biology fieldwork.
As a result of the pandemic, as schools return to a more ‘normal’ state, school leaders, alongside their heads of subjects, will face a range of resourcing decisions. Difficult choices will be necessary concerning the allocation of the subject timetable, alongside the distribution of, almost certainly, a restricted budget. As school leaders juggle new and pressing demands, and teachers become accustomed to alternative approaches introduced to substitute fieldwork during the lockdowns, there is a credible argument that the decline of fieldwork could accelerate, particularly for residential visits.
This situation seems somewhat ironic given the phenomenal call from young people around the world for more, and better quality, environmental education. Hence, we have recently published an article in the Association of Science Education’s School Science Review as a form of preventative action and argue that the pandemic strengthens the case for A-Level Biology fieldwork, particularly residential field visits.
In the article we set out a research-informed case to support our rationale for the inclusion of fieldwork in schools and present an accessible list for teachers who want or need to make a case for fieldwork post lockdowns. Whilst many of the reasons are generalisable, this list arises from a recent research study, which focused on the often omitted but important perspectives of teachers and young people who are studying A-level biology, and who are living and working in urban environments.
Below is a summary of the eight emerging reasons to attend a residential A-level Biology field visit. We grouped the reasons into three themes. The first group of reasons attests to field visits as enabling students to meet the A-level Biology practical skills assessment criteria effectively and efficiently. The second and third group of reasons acknowledge the important benefits that influence broader A-Level achievement in the Biology exams. In short, in view of the post-pandemic ‘catch up’ discourse, this list points to field visits as an effective way for students to ‘catch up’ on skills and assessment and to improve their overall A-Level achievement. Additionally, our list, specifically the second and third group of reasons, indicates the post-pandemic value of field visits in relation to individuals’ wellbeing and social needs. We know that the pandemic has resulted in social losses for students (and teachers), and that students have lacked opportunities to experience anything beyond a very restricted geographical area. Our list also highlights that these visits build resilience by helping students to ‘get out of their comfort zone’ and strengthen connections amongst peers and between staff and students, again super important in light of the restrictions we have all faced.
If you find yourself needing to make the case to colleagues or your senior leadership team this coming autumn, hopefully this list will provide some support.
Full article citation
Glackin, M., & Greer, K. (2021). Making the case for A-level biology residential fieldwork: what has nature got to do with it? School Science Review, 102 (381), 21-26.
Eight reasons to attend a residential A-level Biology field visit:
Related to the A-level assessment
1. To complete practicals related to the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC).
2. To experience the ecosystems listed by the examination board.
3. To acquire a bank of shared memories to use as a recall resource back in school.
Related to personal growth
4. To build individual, and collective, resilience towards ‘being out of our comfort zone’.
5. A unique opportunity to establish and foster peer and student-teacher relationships.
Related to broadening perspectives
6. To showcase the importance of ecology and the subject’s interconnections across the curriculum.
7. To meet, get to know and learn from, over an extended period, ‘real scientists’ in their workplace.
8. To engender an appreciation of nature and the environment.
Melissa Glackin is an NAEE Fellow and a senior lecturer in Science Education at King’s College London. Kate Greer is Associate Director of the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project at the University of Melbourne. As with all our blogs, authors’ views are not necessarily shared by NAEE. Corresponding address Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org