Background and Anatomy

A “Field Study” is a project conducted by a team of students to address a problem or issue in the “real world” under faculty supervision.

Field Studies are rigorous projects designed to enable students to practice the “Critical Skills” while working productively with an educational partner in the real world.  Such a project should have real value for the educational partner and contribute meaningfully to each student who participates as a member of the Field Study team.

Field Studies offer a kind of educational experience that is quite different from the traditional classroom.  Students must deal with data that is often incomplete, sometimes unclear, and quite often not definitive.  There are no multiple choices from which to pick a “right answer,” and more often than not, the problem or issues to be addressed need to be defined by the students themselves.

Field Studies are not designed to make experts of students in the subject matter of what the project is about.  For example, students may or may not have an interest in medical science or health care in order to benefit from practicing the “Critical Skills” with a medical practice or, for that matter, with any other kind of business.

It is the PROCESS that is being taught and practiced – the process of defining a problem, gathering data, analyzing the data, developing findings, conclusions and recommendations, and communicating the results clearly.

Field Studies are highly appropriate for the college-bound student.  Field Studies require the students to formulate a problem, break it down into its component parts, determine the issues to be addressed, determine the data needed to address the issues, develop interview guides, conduct fact to face interviews, analyze data, develop findings, conclusions and recommendations, prepare a written and oral report, and present the report.

Field Studies involve problems and issues that confront owners and operators of small businesses and not for profit organizations.  They require teamwork by participating students, an understanding of how to define a problem in order that it may be solved, how to determine what information is necessary to analyze a problem, how to obtain that information, how to analyze a problem, and how to present results in a clear, logical and persuasive manner.

Although the final field study product may appear clear and simple, field studies are not easy to conduct.  They require a different kind of thinking that students are accustomed to using in both high school and college classes – they require an understanding of how to gather, analyze, use, apply and present information, identify fact from fiction, and develop findings, conclusions and recommendations.  They require clearly written and articulate oral reports.

Field Studies are process driven.  The content of a field study is usually less important than the process by which the Field Study is conducted.  Experiencing the process itself is the ultimate goal of a field study project for students at all levels of secondary and higher education.

Field Studies come in all forms, sizes and shapes – limited primarily by the level of the student team’s ability and the ability of the faculty to supervise.  Experience with Field Studies at the high school level suggests that while students are capable of high performance, the scope of the field study should be rather narrow and kept at a level where the problem may be solved or the issue addressed completely.  The level of sophistication of the Field Study must not be beyond the students’ ability to succeed in the process of conducting the study.

With these things in mind – what are you waiting for?  Gather a team of motivated students, find a suitable business or not for profit partner, and get to work!