Online outdoor science lessons run during the pandemic boosted teachers' skills, study shows
Online outdoor science lessons run during the pandemic helped to engage children with the subject and boosted teachers' skills, analysis suggests.
FieldworkLive, a program of live-streamed outdoor science lessons produced by the Field Studies Council and Encounter Edu during April and May 2020, was a valuable tool for learning topics and techniques, when accompanied by written instruction and student tasks.
The live broadcasts helped to engage new audiences by providing an engaging and accessible introduction to relevant topics and technique, a study says.
Some teachers said participation had developed or enhanced their professional skills and pedagogical knowledge. Teachers as well as students gained access to a team of experts, through the broadcasts, the question-and-answer sessions, and guided resources.
Teachers were highly positive about the live broadcasts and video-based instruction in curricular science, geography and outdoor learning.
The study, by Justin Dillon from the University of Exeter, Bethan Stagg from the Field Studies Council and the University of Exeter and Janine Maddison from Newcastle University, is published in the journal Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research.
Researchers captured the experiences of approximately 377,000 teachers and students from 32 countries via an online survey and direct staff consultation.
Video-based instruction was a valuable medium for learning topics and techniques, when accompanied by written instruction and student tasks. The study highlights the importance of training facilitators in the use of digital tools and approaches that increase interactivity with learners.
During the lockdowns the Field Studies Council also ran an online science festival, virtual fieldwork packages, teacher CPD webinars and a series of live broadcasts for primary schools. FSC's location-based residential and day trips for schools have now resumed but there has been a permanent shift to a blended learning model alongside the in-person delivery.
Professor Dillon said: "FieldworkLive appears to have been a successful program of learning, as demonstrated by the high rate of participation and subsequent feedback. Teachers described the live broadcasts and associated learning as interesting, engaging, and worthwhile. A key reason for #FieldworkLive's efficacy was the caliber of the presenting tutors, with many teachers praising their expertise and personal attributes."
Some teachers said participation had helped them develop skills in technology enhanced teaching and learning. They specified elements of FieldworkLive that they planned to extract for use in future lessons, or novel approaches that they intended to apply.
In teacher feedback, some respondents praised the interactivity of FieldworkLive, although opinion was divided about the value of the tools and approaches that were employed, and some felt that the design and moderation of these needed to be improved. The number of questions submitted during live lessons was considerable, which presented a challenge for the responding tutors.
Live lessons were designed to promote active participation by linking to practical exercises and investigative work, which many teachers highlighted as a positive feature. The resource packs were an essential element for the active learning approach, and teachers commented on how the resources helped to provide context to the live lesson, increased learner motivation and interest, and encouraged reflection and deeper learning.
Some teachers felt that the logistical guidance and support for teachers could have been improved or were unhappy with the pace of delivery or level of content. A significant minority of teacher experienced technical problems that prevented them from participating or participating fully.
Dr. Stagg said: "As a result of this research we have developed our expertise in delivering digital alongside fieldwork learning, which we are now putting to good use in a blended delivery model to enrich learning for the secondary schools that come to centers for residential courses."
More information: Bethan C. Stagg et al, Expanding the field: using digital to diversify learning in outdoor science, Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s43031-022-00047-0
Provided by University of Exeter