The Rock Garden: a preliminary assessment of how campus-based field skills training impacts student confidence in real-world fieldwork

Wong Hearing, Thomas W.; Dewaele, Stijn; Albers, Stijn; De Weirdt, Julie; De Batist, Marc

The Rock Garden is a new on-campus field skills training resource at Ghent University that was developed to increase the accessibility of geological field skills training and to provide students with more opportunities for such training. Developing specific field skills is integral to geoscience education and is typically concentrated into whole-day or longer field courses. These field courses have exceptional educational value, as they draw together multiple strands of classroom theory and practical laboratory learning. However, field courses are expensive and time-intensive to run, and they can present physical, financial, and cultural barriers to accessing geoscience education. Moreover, the relative infrequency of field courses over a degree programme means that key skills go unused for long intervals and that students can lose confidence in their application of these skills. To tackle the inaccessibility of field skills training, made more pronounced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we built the Rock Garden: an artificial geological mapping training area that emulates a real-world mapping exercise in Belgium. We have integrated the Rock Garden into our geological mapping training courses and have used it to partially mitigate the disadvantages related to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Using the Rock Garden as a refresher exercise before a real-world geological mapping exercise increased students' confidence in their field skills, and students whose education was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic produced work of a similar quality to students from pre-pandemic cohorts. Developing a campus-based resource makes field training locally accessible, giving students more opportunities to practise their field skills and, consequently, more confidence in their abilities.

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Wong Hearing, Thomas W. / Dewaele, Stijn / Albers, Stijn / et al: The Rock Garden: a preliminary assessment of how campus-based field skills training impacts student confidence in real-world fieldwork. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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