More Than Just Learning Discipline Skills: Social Interactions in Science Fieldwork Could Enhance Student Well-being and Cognition
AbstractFieldwork is typically used to develop students’ technical skills in a range of scientific domains. Fieldwork may also be particularly conducive for enhancing social learning because of increased opportunities for social interactions. However, few studies have explored the value of students’ social interactions during science fieldwork. This pilot study used a mixed-methods survey to investigate 107 undergraduate students’ perceptions of science fieldwork. Participants had completed science subjects with repeated on-campus fieldwork. The survey questions examined students’ perceptions of the potential influence on their well-being and cognition. Most respondents reported long-lasting benefits to their well-being (57%; 42 students) and/or cognition (69%; 52 students). Commonly reported benefits related to well-being included enhanced enjoyment, relaxation, increased motivation and engagement, and stress reduction. In examining cognition, commonly reported benefits included gaining a deeper conceptual understanding from ‘hands-on’ activities and improved information retention. Whilst a variable response rate must be considered in interpreting our findings, our preliminary results suggest science fieldwork has a broader value to learning and the student experience. Students recognise that the benefits of fieldwork activities extend beyond the development of technical skills. Future studies could further explore how science educators can generate more effective social interactions during fieldwork-based education in science.