Choosing A Field Study

The most important advice for any teacher who embarks upon a Field Study with a team of students is:  KEEP IT SIMPLE AND HIGHLY FOCUSED!

There is a tendency to become over-enthusiastic about the scope of the project, but two principles must be kept in mind:

  1. The Field Study is intended to TEACH the Critical Skills FIRST – to SOLVE the problem SECOND;
  2. The students MUST be successful in the Field Study – do not make the problem to be solved beyond their capabilities.

Based on experience working with students in Field Studies, the ideal project seems to be a limited market survey of client customers.  Accordingly, we recommend that Field Studies for small businesses be limited to market surveys and that the issues addressed by students remain within a reasonable scope to match their abilities.  The case study of the Wheaton Medical Clinic represents the upper limit of depth to which a Field study should be directed.  Projects with even more limited issues to address would be entirely appropriate.

The educational partner must be prepared to make a commitment of time and participate with the students in various phases of the project.  This participation should be limited to providing realistic guidance about what questions should be asked in the interviews, what expected results should be, and assistance in making contact with and/or introductions for individuals who should be interviewed.

Opportunities for Field Studies abound in every community and organization – large and small.  A school is limited only by its imagination to identify Field Study opportunities and projects and to have the discipline and patience to guide a student team through the Field Study process.

Remember:  The main purpose of the Field Study is to enable students to experience the learning process of the Critical Skills.  While the issues to be addressed are important, this is, after all, an educational program with specific learning objectives.