Biological Fieldwork in Australian Higher Education: Is The Cost Worth The Effort?

Karen Burke Da Silva


Student engagement in fieldwork and other field-based activities are crucial elements of an undergraduate biology degree. Fieldwork and other field-based activities, however, are under threat as funding declines and regulations and approval processes in Australian universities increase. The consequence of this is that in some universities, field work has disappeared from the curriculum. The reasons for the decline in field work include an increasing number of student enrolments and the high cost of running field-based activities. Students are very often attracted to programs because of the fieldwork element. Additionally, student evaluations from units with field work repeatedly report fieldwork and field activities are their favorite components of the course, and moreover, of their undergraduate experience. Re-engaging universities administrators with the value of field work may take some creative thinking. This review reports on the current state of fieldwork and field-based learning activities within tertiary biology education in Australia. It investigates reasons for the decline of fieldwork, provides ways to integrated fieldwork into the curriculum, including assessment, and examines the future role of fieldwork in higher education.

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