[2] Designing the field courses of the future: interdisciplinary fieldwork and peer-led learning in the Indian Himalayas


Designing the field courses of the future: interdisciplinary fieldwork and peer-led learning in the Indian Himalayas


Osian Elias, Laura Roberts, Nicholas Felstead

College of Science


This workshop will present findings on a pedagogic research project on an interdisciplinary field course to the Indian Himalayas and offer participants an opportunity to brainstorm future opportunities for developing interdisciplinary field courses. International field courses are an increasingly important element of higher education courses (see Boyle et al., 2007; Glass, 2015; Hall et al., 2017) and there is increasing recognition of field courses as a means of promoting deep learning (Dummer et al., 2008) and of students’ expectations in relation to international fieldwork (McMorran, 2015).

Our pedagogic research builds on this literature and highlights how the Indian Himalayas field course breaks down subject-specific barriers, widens perspectives and utilises peer-led learning – and the positive effect this has on student employability. This research also demonstrates the importance of field courses of this nature as an important marketing and recruitment tool. The data for this pedagogic research project was collected through detailed qualitative surveys with 27 students who have attended the field course.

The Indian Himalayas (Sikkim) field course is a 16-day international field course that is jointly run by the Biosciences and Geography departments at Swansea University. Twenty, third-year, students are selected to attend the 20 credit module annually, with 5 students from each of the 4 disciplines of human geography, physical geography, biology and zoology. The students work in interdisciplinary teams, with one student from each discipline, with each group studying one of five themes: hydroelectric power, natural hazards, urbanisation, agriculture and ecotourism. The Indian Himalayas provides an ideal location for this field course, with the challenges faced by a rapidly developing economy coming face to face with the environmental restraints found in a biodiversity hotspot in the Himalayas.

The workshop will offer participants an opportunity to learn more about the field course and the findings of the pedagogic research project on the field course. This will form the basis for exploring the possibility of developing new interdisciplinary field courses that replicate elements of the Indian Himalayas field course. This will take the form of brainstorming and speed-dating various disciplines, location and themes and will allow a discussion of the potential assessment design and relevant pedagogic principles.

Session Outline

Key Messages

Understanding of the design of an interdisciplinary field course; appreciation of how to facilitate interdisciplinary learning in a field course and more generally; chance to brainstorm and discuss potential interdisciplinary field courses and explore replicability of key elements of the field course to the Indian Himalayas.

Key Words

Fieldcourse, interdisciplinary, employability

STAFF USE ONLY : Laptop, projector, access to powerpoint, room with tables for group work

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