Field trips to science centers : teachers’ perspectives, roles and reflections

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Approval Date: 2014

Thesis Language: English

Student: Eray Şentürk



The purpose of this study was to examine (1) teachers’ perspectives on field trips to informal learning environments, (2) teacher roles during a field trip to the Middle East Technical University’s Science Center (METU SC), and (3) teacher reflections on the field trip to the METU SC. Two different research designs, survey (N= 153) and case study (N=74), were used in two different stages. In stage one, teacher perspectives on field trips to informal learning environments were examined by using a survey design. In stage two, case study design was conducted to investigate teacher roles during a field trip to the METU SC and their reflections on the field trip. Participants were selected from the METU SC’s reservation list conveniently for survey research design and purposefully for case study research design. Data were collected through survey, observations, and semi-structured interviews. The results of the survey revealed that a great majority of teachers consider field trip visitations as highly valuable educational experiences for their students. Most of them conducted field trips to informal learning environments (ILEs) twice a year or more, and they mainly conducted field trips to science centers. When planning a field trip to ILE, almost everything was arranged by them, and surprisingly they did not complain about this situation. “To what extent an informal learning environment will provide benefits for students” was considered as the top priority issue of teachers when planning a field trip to ILEs. Majority of the teachers also thought that students should be informed before the visit about the field trip setting, the field trip program, and the purpose of the visit. Even though most of the teachers claimed that they should supervise and facilitate the learning experiences of their students during an actual field trip, the most repetitive suggestion was getting an explainer for their students. In a similar manner, for teachers, getting feedbacks from students about the visit was more important than providing curriculum connection or making students share their experiences. The key emergent issues that currently prevent teachers from conducting more field trips to the METU SC were reported as time constraints, transportation, and science center’s busy schedule. The results of the case study revealed that teachers adopted a variety of roles during an actual field trip to the METU SC, namely Superintendent, Information Provider, Information Seeker, Facilitator, Recorder, Participator, and Indifferent. Some of these roles had also sub-roles (e.g., technical directions giver, attention stimulator, controller, requester, technical assistant, and motivator were emerged as sub-roles of the major superintendent role). In terms of the parts of the visit, the most repetitive teacher role at the welcoming and accommodation part of the visit was superintendent. While teachers mostly adopted participator role during explainer demonstration part of the visit, recorder role was mostly adopted by teachers during free exploration part of the visit. Teachers also reflected their views on gains from science center, infrastructure of science center, explainer demonstrations and personalities of explainers, exhibits, and free exploration. The results of the study revealed that teacher perspectives on field trips need to be given special attention since their perspectives are of the important factors affecting the success of a field trip. In addition, even though teachers adopted many roles during a field trip to the METU SC, their roles generally remained passive. This must be paid attention by the educators of science centers and teacher educators. Both pre-service and in-service teachers need to be trained to be aware of the importance of their roles in informal learning environments in terms of facilitating students’ learning experiences. For that purpose, educators are required to develop specific programs where teachers are able to learn unique pedagogical strategies to be used in ILEs. Besides, ILEs like the METU SC should find a way to establish a collaboration with teachers when planning field trips. Educators and explainers of science centers should know what teachers expect from them. Teachers should also know what science centers expect from them.