Pernille Eidesen, Tina Dahl
Studies have shown that field work is associated with improved learning outcomes of both discipline knowledge and practical skills (e. g.(Lonergan & Andresen, 1988; Lisowski & Disinger, 1991; Kent et al., 1997; Fuller et al., 2014; Eidesen et al., 2017; Fleischner et al., 2017). Another benefit associated with field work is promotion of group interactions, both among students and between teachers and students, creating a beneficial learning environment both during the time spent outside and for the remaining classroom part of a course (Harland et al., 2006). However, how we organise the learning activities in the field, promote different learning environments, and to some extent the learning culture.
In two different courses, students were divided into project groups of three to four students, and each of the groups had to develop an inquiry-based research project. Data collection was done during a one-week field cruise. In the first course, the different student groups collected data subsequently, so in each sampling location, only one group collected data at the time, and they were supposed to instruct the other students to help out collecting data to their project. In the other course, all groups worked in parallel. The latter reduced sampling intensity per site, but increased the number of sites/locations sampled.
Different group organization had pro and cons. By helping each other, all students got a better introduction to the other projects, and experience with e.g. the challenges of communication, delegation of responsibility, and the importance of good sampling sheets. These interactions created higher risk of conflicts, but introduced a wider range of skills and knowledge. In the other course, the different groups were much less involved in each other’s projects. This resulted in less conflict during sampling, and higher quality of the data collection. Less conflict is however not equivalent to good learning culture.