At their core, successful field trips are those that cultivate a student’s sense of belonging, and any barriers to this impacts the effectiveness of their experience.
As a field trip lead, this has been a central concern when developing trips. When it comes to field trips, there’s the potential for situations to cause anxiety for students or lead to them feeling excluded – from the experience of travelling, to being in challenging physical environments and being away from their support networks. We’ve since been reflecting on how we can ensure all students have the best experience they can when on field trips.
We’ve focused our efforts on ensuring locations are inclusionary – not only in terms of rights of entry, but also to reflect wider issues of inclusion from disability and mental health, race, sexuality and gender to name a few. This led to the development of an Equality Impact Assessment to coincide with sustainability audits and risk assessments to be conducted for any potential field trip.
Again, location is not the only factor in considering inclusivity. We have to take into consideration activities and experiences to make sure we are fostering a feeling of belonging for students.
Student feedback from our most recent field trip gave us an average score of 9 out of 10 for making people feel included, but we know there’s always more work to do in this area, especially as we transition back to international trips.
Like every industry in the last few years, conversations about the use of technology in enhancing working environments have made their way into our discussions about field trips - we’ve discussed enhanced use of 360 tours, virtual field trips and the potential use of virtual reality.
Whilst virtual field trips offer many opportunities, it needs to be balanced with the importance of learning through experience, which includes experiencing other places that are core to the geography degree.
I think it’s unlikely that virtual experiences will completely replace our in-person trips and the tangible experience of collecting data in the field. However, virtual experiences could enhance field trips, giving students a chance to get used to the environment they will experience and test out their skills ahead of the trip.