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Affective learning outcomes in the field: A review of the 2021 Undergraduate Field Experiences Research Network Meeting

Ecology and geoscience professionals alike have stressed the value of undergraduate field experiences, ranging from short outdoor laboratories, residential courses at field stations and marine laboratories or geology camps, traveling courses, or week- to month-long research experiences, in the training for future careers in these disciplines. Advocates for field experiences highlight their importance in providing students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a novel, outdoor setting and to practice skills that are needed by professionals in these fields (American Geosciences Institute 2001, Dillon et al. 2006, Easton and Gilburn 2012, Petcovic et al. 2014, Durrant and Hartman 2015, Hix 2015). Though field experiences are seen as important, they can be expensive and logistically complex, and for years field programs have faced challenges related to funding reductions at institutions of higher education (Moore 2001, Smith 2004, Cotton 2009, Fleischner et al. 2017). The global pandemic has made this past year especially difficult for field programs in that many had to rapidly adapt to create virtual field experience equivalents (Barton 2020, Burmeister 2020, Gerhart et al. 2021, Race et al. 2021), drastically reduce the number of students they serve, or cancel their offerings altogether (Swing et al. 2021). Though field programs have adapted this past year, many are eager to return to in-person field experiences once we begin to reach the other side of the pandemic. When they do, how can they retain design elements of virtual field experiences that help make in-person experiences more inclusive (Stokes et al. 2019)? How can they leverage the findings on the importance of nature on well-being and public health (Hartig et al. 2010, Bratman et al. 2015), brought to light by the global pandemic (Ugolini et al. 2020, Filgueira et al. 2021)? How can field experiences be designed to promote positive affective student learning outcomes (how students think and feel about their experience in the field) in order to create an inclusive learning environment? Of the body of research on the effects of field experiences on student learning, relatively few studies focus on the effects of field experiences on learning outcomes related to the affective domain (van der Hoeven Kraft et al. 2011, Jolley et al. 2018). To further understand the impacts of field experiences on students' affective development, the Undergraduate Field Experiences Research Network (UFERN) (https://ufern.net/) brought together researchers and practitioners from a variety of disciplines (primarily from ecology, the geosciences) at the March 2021 Virtual Network Meeting to envision the future of undergraduate field education. UFERN hosted lightning research talks in an effort to promote interdisciplinary conversations about research in affective learning outcomes in UFEs. The research talks and group discussions that followed highlighted a variety of areas of emerging research and identified relevant themes related to the importance of affect in field learning that are summarized below.
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Ward, E. G., O’Connell, K. B., Race, A., Alwin, A., Alwin, A., Cortijo‐Robles, K., … Sea, W. (2021). Affective learning outcomes in the field: A review of the 2021 Undergraduate Field Experiences Research Network Meeting. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. https://doi.org/10.1002/bes2.1920
© 2021 The Authors. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Ecological Society of America. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.