Developing teaching practice


From a tradition of fieldwork-based teaching in geography, we consider the intersections of fieldwork sites and their social and spatial relationships for implications for non-placement work integrated learning (NPWIL). As the skills agenda gathers pace in universities it is critical to understand forms of NPWIL and their development. As a form of NPWIL in geography and related disciplines, fieldwork generates a range of personal, professional and academic skills for students. Through a case study of site-based fieldwork for cultural heritage teaching, we examine how such teaching can expand our understanding of this form of NPWIL. In contrast to ideas of university work including WIL as characterized and bounded by temporal linearity, we argue for seeing WIL in terms of non-linear temporality and slow “innovation flow”. We link this analysis of WIL with understandings of cultural heritage and heritage sites as also non-linear and emergent in both time and space. We reflect on a detailed case study of heritage management teaching that draws on fieldtrip and a long-term relationship with a heritage site that is an historic coal mine. Over time the evolution of the field trip shows that the site itself is a key agent in this form of NPWIL. The site embodies and generates a range of changing social and spatial relationships with community, heritage managers, and other sites linked to the mine and its history. This networked perspective on fieldwork sites illustrates how supporting “slow innovation” in fieldwork based NPWIL can facilitate beneficial teaching and other outcomes.

Practitioner Notes

  • Teaching through fieldwork and community engagement generates synergies in beneficial outcomes for students, partners, academics, and universities.
  • Fieldwork in geography and related disciplines is a key teaching tool and a means of teaching academic, professional, and personal skills and attributes.
  • Fieldwork-based teaching is a form of non-placement work integrated learning which requires practical and pedagogical support to fully realise its contribution to the skills agenda.
  • The sites at which fieldwork-based teaching are not passive recipients of teaching activities but are agents of change, setbacks, opportunities, and innovation for teaching.
  • This agency is realised through the social and spatial networks of which sites are part. Begin able to discern and access these networks embodies a form of “slow innovation” that takes time and reflective engagement.

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