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Evidence, explanations, and recommendations for teachers' field trip strategies Public Deposited

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  • Field trips are well recognized by researchers as an educational approach with the potential to complement and enhance classroom science teaching by exposing students to unique activities, resources, and content in informal settings. The following investigation addresses teachers' field trip practices in three related manuscripts: (1) A study examining the details of teachers' pedagogical strategies intended to facilitate connections between students' experiences and the school curricula while visiting an aquarium; (2) A study documenting and describing sources of knowledge that teachers draw from when leading field trips to an aquarium; (3) A position paper that reviews and summarizes research on effective pedagogical strategies for field trips. Together these three pieces address key questions regarding teachers' practices on field trips: (1) What strategies are teachers employing (and not employing) during self-guided field trips to facilitate learning tied to the class curriculum? (2) What sources of knowledge do teachers utilize when leading field trips? (3) How can teachers be better prepared to lead trips that promote learning? The Oregon Coast Aquarium served as the field trip site for teachers included in this study. The setting suited these questions because the aquarium serves tens of thousands of students on field trips each year but provides no targeted programming for these students as they explore the exhibits. In other words, the teachers who lead field trips assume much of the responsibility for facilitating students' experience. In order to describe and characterize teachers' strategies to link students' experiences to the curriculum, a number of teachers (26) were observed as they led their students' visit to the public spaces of the aquarium. Artifacts, such as worksheets, used during the visit were collected for analysis as well. Subsequently, all teachers were surveyed regarding their use of the field trip and their sources of knowledge for their practices. A subset of eight teachers were interviewed using guided conversations in order to shed further light on their use of the aquarium field trip and their pedagogical preparation. Data from all sources were organized by repeating ideas relevant to the questions of interest. The resulting evidence was interpreted to support distinct categories of teacher strategies and experience and related claims about these strategies and experiences. Thus, findings reveal that teachers attempt to link the curriculum to the activities, resources, and content encountered on the trip using a variety of connections. However, these curriculum connections are characterized as products of opportunistic situations and reveal limited depth. Evidence further indicates that teachers treat the aquarium visit as a background experience for their students rather than as an opportunity to introduce new concepts or do an activity that is integrated into the curriculum. Nevertheless, teachers included in this study were leading field trips that created countless learning opportunities for their students. Because training specific to field trips is rarely included in preservice programs, teachers were asked about influences on their field trip practice with specific focus on observed strategies. Findings suggest four categories of training experiences that teachers apply to their practice: (1) informal mentoring; (2) past experience trip leading; (3) outdoor education training; (4) traditional education training. Overall findings along with a review of previous research are suggestive of many ways in which efforts to enhance students' learning opportunities may be developed by means of support for teachers. Foremost among recommendations is the idea that field trip pedagogy be integrated into science methods courses required for preservice teachers (the premise for the final manuscript). Furthermore, the findings of this study may serve as a starting point for museums interested in the development of specific support and teacher professional development activities intended to enhance teachers' use of their resources as learning opportunities for their students. Among the implications is the idea that museums and other institutions developing teacher professional development activities might capitalize on teachers' existing sources of knowledge, for example by providing structured support for peer-mentoring and guided reflections related to field trip preparations and skills.
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