The Field Study

The Field Study is a disciplined problem solving process that starts with identification of an issue and ends with written and oral presentations about how to deal with that issue based on solid facts, findings and conclusions.  In essence, it is a “Critical Thinking” process that combines the “Critical Skills” of communications, production, information, analysis, interpersonal/teamwork, technology and time management.

There are FIVE phases of a Field Study:

  1. Project Planning
  2. Data Collection
  3. Analysis
  4. Report Writing
  5. Report Preparation

While well-conducted Field Studies can provide a unique educational opportunity quite different from the classroom experience, they have their limitations:

  • Field Studies require a considerable amount of work on the part of the teacher/coordinator.  The amount of preparation time, contact with students, thought and effort to confront the “unexpected” that exists in every field study, and overcoming student reluctance to take the initiative makes field studies a labor-intensive and sometimes exhausting experience.  The amount of time spent on a per-student basis is higher than in any other form of teaching other than one-on-one tutoring.
  • Field Studies require creativity and flexibility.  Real world problems are usually not “cut and dried.”  The unexpected happens – frequently.  Students are often faced with the need to develop findings, draw conclusions and make recommendations based on data that is incomplete.
  • Field Studies require the student team to behave in ways that they are perhaps not prepared – dealing with accurate problem definition, intensive fact gathering, and effective team management and behavior.  Since Field Studies do not fit into the traditional classroom setting of the teacher, lecturing and the student taking notes they present a unique and oftentimes difficult transition for the student team.  Traditional classroom experiences just do not equip students with the background to conduct Field Studies.
  • Performance appraisals for Field Studies are based on “authentic assessment.”  Students are assessed against each element of the project to be completed.  The ultimate test is the presentation an delivery of a high quality product – either that goal is reached – or not.

But, they are worth the time and effort!  Your students experience perhaps the richest form of project-based learning as documented in the US Department of Labor’s publication, “Teaching the SCANS Competencies.”

So, don’t be afraid to give a Field Study a try!

Just DO IT!