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Abstract

This study deals with the educational effectiveness of field trips. The main purpose was to obtain insight concerning factors that might influence the ability of students to learn during a scientific field trip in a natural environment. The research was conducted in the context of a 1-day geologic field trip by 296 students in Grades 9 through 11 in high schools in Israel. The study combined qualitative and quantitative research methods. Data were collected from three different sources (student, teacher, and outside observer) in three stages (before, after, and during the field trip). Using observations and questionnaires we investigated: a) the nature of student learning during the field trip, b) student attitudes toward the field trip, and c) changes in student knowledge and attitudes after the field trip. Our findings suggest that the educational effectiveness of a field trip is controlled by two major factors: the field trip quality and the “Novelty space” (or Familiarity Index). The educational quality of a field trip is determined by its structure, learning materials, and teaching method, and the ability to direct learning to a concrete interaction with the environment. The novelty space consists of three prefield variables: cognitive, psychological, and geographic. The learning performance of students whose “Novelty Space” was reduced before the field trip was significantly higher than that of students whose “Novelty Space” had not been so reduced. Thus, the former group gained significantly higher achievement and attitude levels. It is suggested that a field trip should occur early in the concrete part of the curriculum, and should be preceded by a relatively short preparatory unit that focuses on increasing familiarity with the learning setting of the field trip, thereby limiting the “Novelty Space” factors.