Research into the Future of Fieldwork in Higher Education

We are interested in exploring the future of fieldwork teaching and learning in Higher Education. Therefore, we are conducting a research study into the changes to fieldwork teaching in HE that may happen over the next few years.

What is the purpose of the study?
There have been considerable impacts on our society and education system recently due to a range of factors. Looking ahead as our Higher Education system continues to adapt;
• What can fieldwork experiences contribute towards the education of our undergraduates?
• How can we maximise the benefits provided by this teaching and learning approach?
• What is the optimal way to deliver the best fieldwork experience for all students?

Who would we like to participate in the study?
We would like to gather the thoughts of two key groups:

  • Current undergraduates – via an online survey
  • HE practitioners – via conversations at the EFL Showcase in Sept 2021

Students – how can you be involved?
Students – to take part you can answer a short online survey that should take around 10 minutes to complete. There are several questions that ask about how you value fieldwork in your degree course and the form in which you would like it to be delivered. There are also questions that ask about skills development, funding and the sustainability of fieldtrips.

Student Survey Link

Prize draw
Students – To thank you for completing the survey, there is a chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher. Please provide your email address if you are interested in taking part in the draw. One name will be selected at random from the list of completed surveys on the 29th October 2021. The winner will be contacted by email shortly after this date. If there is no response to our email within two weeks, there will be a re-draw and a new winner announced.

Further information for student survey participants

Further information for HE practitioners (at the EFL Showcase)

2020 Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase reflections


Reflections on the 2020 Enhancing Fieldwork Learning showcase from postgraduate researcher Janine Maddison (University of Newcastle, @janine_maddison). 

With Covid-19, conferences have had to adapt in 2020. The 10thEnhancing Fieldwork Showcase provided stimulating talks, interactive workshops, fieldwork and opportunities for networking. In fact, the only thing missing from a face to face conference was the pastries and fancy lunch.

Despite 2020 seeing providers and institutions hurriedly creating alternatives to their scheduled face to face fieldwork events, the response from the teaching community has been amazing, with many learning new skills, delivering in different ways and using technology to tackle some of the pedagogic challenges that fieldwork poses. The showcase provided a much-needed opportunity to break out of our individual silos, share successes and discuss challenges.

This was my first Enhancing Fieldwork Showcase, and it was scheduled perfectly, I have recently left my job at the Field Studies Council…

View original post 548 more words

Setting up a successful fieldcourse

Today we ran a workshop at the BES Annual Meeting on ‘Setting up a successful fieldcourse’. The slides are available here:

The idea was to facilitate peer-to-peer sharing of tips on how to set up a fieldcourse for those new to teaching. We were very lucky as roughly half the audience were experienced field educators who willingly shared their experience with those who were new to teaching. Working in small groups we considered top tips for pre-fieldwork, during fieldwork and post-fieldwork activities.

We have updated the slides with the suggestions from today (see above)  and the presentation concludes with lists of resources for both staff and students.

Many thanks to all who contributed to the discussions during the workshop and through conversations on Twitter. Happy Christmas!DuoayanW4AEHFiG.jpg large




Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase 2018

The 8th Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase was held at the University of Leeds and was hosted by Julie Peacock and Karen Bacon in the School of Geography on the 3/4th September 2018.

The event was sponsored by the Education, Training and Careers Committee of the BES, Water@Leeds and ESRI UK.
The 2018 Showcase event included a series of short presentations, field demonstrations of innovative field teaching, practical demonstrations of landscape visualisations, a horizon scanning exercise and (for the first time!) a live link-up to the field with Trevor Collins on the Access Anglesey Field Trip.
The full programme is shown below and all talks are available on SlideShare. Reflections and photos from the participants on Twitter #efls18.

Decisions, decisions … the importance of choice and ownership and in fieldwork based learning (Graham Scott, University of Hull) Graham Scott gave a fantastic Keynote presentation to start the event which reflected on staff and student perspectives during fieldwork to find ways to increase student engagement, satisfaction and learning. Asking students what they want to learn can help to engage them in their learning on fieldwork while reflecting on drivers for lower motivation and developing a sense of autonomy can help to build confidence.

Invasive species, biosecurity and open learning (Alison Dunn, University of Leeds). Alison Dunn talked about the threat of alien invasive species and how to avoid inadvertently spreading these through fieldwork activities. To raise awareness of these issues, an online course is available (here) that provides fieldworkers with training on biosecurity and how to stop the spread.

Looking for the wood in the trees; a distance learning first fieldwork experience for environmental scientists (Marcus P. S. Badger and Julia Cooke, The Open University). Both online simulations and fieldwork in a student’s local area are two approaches used to embed fieldwork for first year distance learners.

Making ecological fieldwork accessible for the deaf (Dr Joanna Bagniewska, University of Reading). Making ecological fieldwork accessible for deaf students, throws up interesting challenges, opportunities, & rewards, not least in terms of thinking about what you were teaching & how.

Widening access to fieldwork for large numbers of students with interactive live casts (Julia Cooke, Kadmiel Maseyk, Phil Wheeler, Trevor Collins, Sarah Davis, The Open University)

Overcoming plant blindness (Kearti Mondair, Julie Peacock and Karen Bacon, University of Leeds)

StoryMaps (Derek France, University of Chester). Using Story Maps to document sampling locations & details, allowed transparency, multi-media records, new skill development, interesting and dynamic reports and was really enjoyed by students.

Practical Session:

  • Living Lab
  • Urban Ecology Trail
  • Structure from Motion

(run by Thom Cooper, Julie Peacock and Karen Bacon, University of Leeds)

Live link to up the Access Anglesey Geological Field Trip (Trevor Collins, The Open University,  Jacqueline Houghton, Dan Morgan, Ben Craven & Clare Gordon, The University of Leeds, Alison Stokes, University of Plymouth,  Chris Atchison, University of Cincinnati). In a live link from Anglesey, Trevor demonstrated how students with a range of abilities can participate in fieldwork through teaching design and assistive technology.

ESRI: Collector App (Addy Pope, ESRI UK). There are powerful online tools for collecting and working with spatial data including Survey123 and ArcGIS online.

Practitioners’ views on ‘Bring Your Own Device’ to support fieldwork learning (Alice Mauchline, Katherine Clark & Julian Park, University of Reading, Katharine Welsh & Derek France, University of Chester and Brian Whalley, University of Sheffield)

Latest gadget update – mobile technologies for field learning (Brian Whalley , University of Sheffield)

Latest fieldwork guidelines (Karen Devine, British Ecological Society)

Using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for undergraduate ecology fieldwork: student perceptions of their uses and potential (Magda Charalambous and Jason Hodgson, Imperial College London). Using UAV’s in undergrad field teaching has much potential but is not easy because of issues of contrast, scale & student skill, plus hard to test in advance for remote sites. A valuable tool for vulnerable ecosystems & minimise damage though.

Using “pocket-size” 3D printed models and larger, projection augmented relief models (PARM) to support fieldwork investigation of flood risk in Keswick (David Morgan, Field Studies Council and Dr Gary Priestnall, University of Nottingham)

Using digital technology to increase inclusivity in the field (Lesley Batty and Joe Berry, University of Birmingham)

The use of a 3D Virtual Field Guide model generated by an unmanned aerial vehicle for geoscience fieldwork education (Anthony Cliffe, Liverpool John Moores University). Using a drone & Agisoft Tony created a 3D virtual model of a fieldsite for students to view pre-fieldtrip. Annotations (pictures, video, data) added value.

Horizon Scanning: Future technologies for fieldwork and reflections since 2012 (Katharine Welsh, University of Chester)

The next Showcase will be held at the University of Reading in September 2019 – so please keep an eye on the website or follow us @fieldwork_ntf on Twitter for further details.



Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Impact Study and Future Technologies Survey

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning


The Enhancing Fieldwork Learning team need your help! We would be very grateful if you could spend a few minutes filling out our short (7 questions) survey.   Link to survey:

The survey covers:
i. Impact – We are conducting an impact study across the sector to identify if/how EFL activities, talks, resources and events have influenced practice and                 student learning.

ii Future EFL activities –  We are also interested to better understand the needs of the fieldwork community and would therefore be grateful if you could share       with us any technologies you are interested in exploring for fieldwork and how EFL could support you in the future.

Sign up for our Fieldwork JISCmail & GDPR consent

*UPDATE* General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming in on 25th May states that by law you must give us your consent to contact you electronically.

As we have spent a lot of time and hard work building up our fantastic fieldwork practitioners network over the last 8 years, we would be sorry to lose contact with you. As such, we would like your consent to add your details (name and e-mail address) to our new Enhancing Fieldwork Learning JISCmail.

When you subscribe to JiscMail your name and email address will be used for the purpose of sending and receiving email messages from JiscMail lists. You should understand that these details could be retrieved by any member of the same list and that this information plus any messages you post to JiscMail may be found in the public domain depending on the configuration of the list​”

The full JISCmail privacy policy can be viewed here​. ​

If you would like us to stay in contact, we would be very grateful if you could take a moment to give your consent via this 2-question survey to update your preferences.

EFL Showcase 2017


The 7th Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase was held at Chester University on the 8/9th September 2017. The event included a series of short presentations along with several field demonstrations of innovative field teaching approaches using mobile technologies. The Showcase was supported by the British Ecological Society’s Education, Training and Careers Committee and ESRI UK.

Mark Langan and Phil Wheater gave a thought-provoking plenary reflecting on over 40 years of residential field courses. They commented on the changes in delivery style of fieldwork that have taken place over this time period including; the need to allow students the chance to ‘learn to fail’ and the increase in research-based learning. They also provided an interesting concept of the ‘educational bubble’ – the idea that students can immerse themselves more deeply in their learning while away on fieldwork.

Addy Pope from ESRI UK gave an update on their not-for-profit work that provides free access to ArcGIS Online for all UK schools. As GIS is now embedded in the national curriculum, Addy described how Esri UK and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) are working together to develop a UK network of GeoMentors to support the use of ArcGIS Online in the classroom and encouraged interested colleagues to get involved.

The full programme is shown below and all talks are available on SlideShare. Reflections and photos from the participants on Twitter during and after the event are collated on Storify:

  • Plenary: It’s a big field out there! Reflections on over 40 years of residential field courses – Mark Langan and Phil Wheater – Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Teaching 3D model generation using Structure from Motion surveying in the field – C Scott Watson, Julie Peacock – University of Leeds
  • Vacation scholarships in conservation research – Richard Bevan – Newcastle University
  • Application of multiple technologies to marine biology fieldwork teaching – Penny Neyland, Ed Pope, Richard Unsworth, Ian Horsfall, Nicole Esteban – Swansea University
  • Enhancing marine science learning using local web technologies – Amy Collard – Dale Fort Field Centre, FSC Pembrokeshire
  • Field demo: Technological interventions make fieldwork more efficient, accurate & collaborative – Rachel Stubbington – Nottingham Trent University
  • Field demo: Revisiting Open data kit for field teaching – Phil Wheeler – The Open University
  • The pedagogical use of unmanned aerial vehicles in geoscience fieldwork education – Anthony Cliffe – Liverpool John Moores University
  • Field demo: Using the ArcGIS Online Platform – Daniel Farnes – Juniper Hall Field Centre, FSC London Region
  • The Virtual Realty Classroom – Inspiring the next generation of ecologists – Arron Watson – University of Reading
  • Mapping diversity in Pembrokeshire- A biological fieldwork application of ArcGIS for Post-16 education – Elizabeth Weston – Orielton Field Centre, FSC Pembrokeshire
  • Education in the green space: developing confidence in fieldwork practice – Judith Lock and Jake Snaddon – University of Southampton
  • Citizen science and participatory research methods in fieldwork teaching – Alice Mauchline – University of Reading

The group also discussed ideas for ‘making time for innovation in Teaching and Learning’. Here are their Top Tips:

  • Talk to the students – ask which apps they use
  • Delegate!
  • Use ‘Pocket’ to collect ideas
  • Follow innovators on Twitter & read the Apple Educators feed
  • Don’t open emails in the morning – only read them in the pm!
  • Have half an hour of ‘fun time’ at start of the day to innovate
  • Start an internal blog to share ideas with colleagues
  • Encourage new members of staff to attend T&L training courses
  • Consider using ‘Slack’ or ‘Trello’ for project management
  • Set up a multidisciplinary ‘Geek coffee morning’ to share ideas
  • Set up ‘speed dating’ to match novices with people who’ve tried embedding technology into their teaching
  • Arrange departmental talks/updates from T&L experts/innovators
  • Set students a challenge to find new ideas
  • Try stuff out…

The next Showcase will be held at the University of Leeds in September 2018 – so please keep an eye on the website or follow EFL on Twitter @fieldwork_ntf for further details.

The event concluded with a field trip to the historic Flintt Coastline of the Dee Estuary.






The Enhancing Fieldwork Learning team have been researching and sharing innovative ways to enhance fieldwork teaching and learning through the use of mobile technologies. The arrival of more powerful and affordable smartphones and tablets has meant that most students starting in Higher Education now have access to mobile technologies which could be used to enhance their learning experience.

Ultimately, the EFL project has been promoting the integration of active learning into fieldwork and the technology simply supports educators and students to create novel educational activities. One such opportunity is the collection and sharing of georeferenced data in the field and many mobile apps are now available to support this approach. This leads to the concept of ‘citizen science’ where students are able to engage with others to crowdsource/share their data to build a larger dataset thereby opening up many research and knowledge generation possibilities.


There are three main motivations for integrating Citizen Science into Higher Education curricula; to provide skills training, to integrate active learning approaches and to increase students’ engagement with their learning:

  • Skills training –enhancing graduate employability
    • Scientific skills: e.g. Sampling strategy & techniques, digital mapping, ID, project design, data management, research skills
    • ‘Soft skills’: e.g. digital literacies, global citizenship, team working, professional online behaviour, (social) media skills, creativity
  • Active Learning
    • For large class sizes
    • For MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
    • Enquiry-based learning
    • Research-led teaching
  • Students’ engagement in their learning (fun!)

There are many ways in which a citizen science approach can be used to support active learning in Higher Education and the EFL team are currently researching the benefits of this approach and we are looking for case study examples. We will report on our findings here soon. Please see this slideshare presentation for further details.

We would love to hear from you if you are currently involved in a citizen science project and wish to engage with HE or if you are a fieldwork leader and you are considering integrating citizen science into your teaching. Also, please get in touch (by email to if you are already doing this as we would love to learn from your experiences.

Active learning = Any instructional method that engages students in the learning process – doing meaningful learning activities & thinking/questioning what they are doing

Citizen Science = the involvement of volunteers (i.e. people who are not involved as part of their employment) in science (Pocock et al., 2014)

Pocock, M.J.O., Chapman, D.S., Sheppard, L.J. & Roy, H.E. (2014). Choosing and Using Citizen Science: a guide to when and how to use citizen science to monitor biodiversity and the environment. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

EFL Showcase 2016

The 6th Annual Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase took place at the University of Reading on the 12-13th September 2016. It was attended by 29 academics, students and learning technologists and, building on the previous Showcases, the event aimed to share ideas and practice with regards to innovative field and laboratory Teaching and Learning, with a particular emphasis on the use of technology in the field. The programme consisted of a mixture of plenary talks, short research talks, interactive field demonstrations, workshops and open discussion sessions. The overall theme was Imagery in the Field and delegates offered talks of relevance to this theme.

Images from the Showcase taken using microscopes attached to iPads in the field are here:

Follow the interactions on Twitter using the hashtag #imageEFL16

The programme is shown below  – slideshare presentations to be uploaded shortly.

  • Plenary – Practitioners’ perspectives of Bring Your Own Device for Fieldwork Derek France University of Chester
  • Google Expeditions to complement to fieldwork. Steve Tilling and Shailey Minocha. Field Studies Council
  • Using an urban campus to teach ecology Julie Peacock and Karen Bacon. University of Leeds
  • Exploring 360 degree videos to support field courses Trevor Collins and Paul Hogan. The Open University
  • Enhancing Fieldwork Learning using an eBook Judith Lock and Charlie Cosstick: University of Southampton
  • Farm visits; Increase active participation and engagement Yiorgos Gadanakis: University of Reading
  • Digital technology, geomorphology and urban geography Iain Cross & James Beardsmore: St Mary’s University
  • Imagery in the Field – practical field demonstrations on the Whiteknights Campus
    • Camera trapping – Becky Thomas: Royal Holloway, Tara Pirie: University of Reading and Pen-Yuang Hsing Durham University
    • iPad microscopes – Alice Mauchline, University of Reading
    • Go-Pro – underwater cameras and student engagement – Lesley Batty: University of Birmingham
    • Hand held cameras – Brian Whalley: University of Sheffield
  • Drones and visual imagery in research at Sonning Donal O’Sullivan: University of Reading
  • A discussion of the use of drones in teaching Derek France: University of Chester and Brian Whalley: University of Sheffield
  • Free time with equipment: A chance for participants to test equipment and start to think about its relevance to their teaching
  • What happened last night? Participatory activity to extract images from the camera traps. Alice Mauchline: University of Reading
  • Crowdsourced camera trapping for ecology and citizen science Pen-Yuan Hsing. University of Durham
  • Science communication skills in fieldwork Joanna Bagniewska: University of Reading
  • Participatory approaches, images and field botany skills Alastair Culham and Jonathan Mitchley: University of Reading
  • Widening access to fieldwork with interactive livecasts Julia Cooke, Philip Wheeler, Kadmiel Maseyk, Trevor Collins: Open University
  • Clipper: A virtual clipping tool for audio and video resources Trevor Collins, John Casey and Will Gregory: Open University
  • Report on 2015 EFL Twitter Scavenge activities in Hyde Park: Karen Devine: British Ecological Society
  • Designing Imagery based teaching activities: A practical workshop. Using experience gained from the Showcase talks and demonstrations, this workshop session allows delegates the opportunity to develop their own innovative pedagogic ideas
  • Testing teaching activities from the mornings workshop
  • Reflections Julian Park: University of Reading

Who are we?

The Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project team includes specialists from across the biological, geographical and geological disciplines.

PrintOriginally funded by the Higher Education Academy, the project is now maintained by the British Ecological Society and seeks to bring anyone interested in fieldwork together to share best practice in field teaching and research.

Anyone can get involved in the project, annual showcase events provide opportunities for individuals to come together, discuss and develop field teaching skills.

While the project retains it’s original focus on the use of digital technologies in field teaching, significant work is undertaken to support anyone developing their skills at any level of field teaching and research.