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IOL Field Studies PPG

IOL Field Studies PPG Home Page

About the Field Studies Professional Practice Group


The Field Studies Professional Practice Group is made up of members who are engaged in, or have an interest in delivering study led programmes in Field Studies or Environmental Education. Many members are based at residential centres, but we also have members who organise day visits either at private venues or work in partnership with other organisations. Both Fieldwork and Environmental Education are long established ‘branches’ of outdoor learning and members have a wealth of experience to share.

Aims; Our main aims are to be the specialist voice of Field Studies and Environmental Education; to ensure this voice is not lost. To share good practice among organisations and practitioners and aid the personal/ professional development of all those working in Field Studies and Environmental Education. To promote Field Studies and Environmental Education both regionally and nationally, using all the contacts and resources at our disposal.

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Field Studies PPG Committee

Chair - Tom Davis - Email Tom

Secretary - Vacancy

Treasurer - Vacancy

Committee: - Ashley Butterfield, Dawn Thomas, Matt Smith, Tom Humphreys, Tom Davis




The IOL Field Studies Professional Practice Group is committed to shaping and developing good practice in field studies, fieldwork and environmental education with organisations, teachers, leaders and instructors.



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Attend an IOL Field Studies Professional Practice Group event and benefit from the experience, passion and collective wisdom of professionals in the field.




Get in touch with the committee to get answers to your question, no matter if it is big or small.


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IOL Field Studies and Environmental Education PPG Gathering
/ Categories: IOL Field Studies

IOL Field Studies and Environmental Education PPG Gathering

A summary of our event at PGL Osmington on 20th January.

This is intended as a summary of discussions and key points, and quick links to useful resources or contacts, primarily aimed at members who were unable to attend and the wider IOL community.

We enjoyed glorious weather for our memborable day at Osmington.


· 18 members booked onto the event, or which 13 arrived on the day

· 5 (additional) individuals attended as Workshop Leaders and/or Committee members

Programme: 1. Session 1 – The Carbon Cycle, led by Tom Humphreys

Tom delivered an example session he has delivered at Skern Lodge with A-Level students. Starting in the classroom, Tom discussed the Carbon Cycle in overview and the key concepts, such as carbon storage, sequestration and carbon sinks. There was then a general discussion about how to link this topic to climate change and wider aspects of human geography, through comparison. Splitting the delegates into small groups, Tom explained how to estimate (through calculation) the amount of carbon held in a living tree, without the need to incinerate it! There was further discussion about how to adapt the session for primary groups. Please get in touch with Tom if you have questions about this topic.

2. Session 2 – Exam Board and curriculum changes, led by Matt Smith

Matt introduced and described his Centre, Leeson house, and then outlined the work done by him and his colleagues to react to the major changes to exam board syllabi and curriculums in 2016. He also described the affect that it has had on the overall booking pattern at Leeson House and how the different groups of bookings have changed.

There was then a discussion where other providers were able to share their own contrasting, or similar experiences. If anyone would like more information, please contact Matt directly.

3. Site Tour (and space for continuing discussions)

The Tour of PGL Osmington Bay was led by Jonathan Neale, Study Course Chief Instructor, who manages the department that delivers Field Studies, Environmental Education and English Language Courses at the site.

LUNCH including networking time.

4. AGM/Discussion on the Work of the PPG This was chaired by Tom Davis and began with an introductory chat to define the current status of the PPG, clarify benefits of being a member, and alert delegates to the current challenges faced by the PPG. A number of topics were then discussed.

a. Future of conferencing and events

We all agree that conferencing is a fantastic CPD and networking opportunity, however previous attempts to coordinate and deliver events have been met with challenges. We identified some barriers that prohibit events from running successfully:

· Appropriate venue availability

· Convenient date

· Securing reliable workshop providers

Delegates were encouraged to assess their own potential to host events, particularly members who work at a residential centre or similar venue with lecturing facilities and overnight accommodation. It was mentioned that hosting PPG events could be a lucrative booking at quiet times of year for certain providers, and that the committee should seek to address the Southern bias of hosting.

Delegates agreed that January appears to be the best time of year for an event similar to the Osmington Bay gathering to occur, due to a relatively quiet work schedule but also as a way to kickstart the year with some energised industry discussion.

Some strategies going forward could be to utilise existing IOL regional and national events to ‘piggy back’ onto, and deliver fieldwork workshops at non-fieldwork events. Some of the benefits include the fact that the event has already been organised and attracts plentiful delegates.

It was agreed that the majority of the PPG membership is currently not sufficiently motivated, aware, or supported enough to deliver workshops or activities on behalf of the PPG at events. Solutions include the PPG paying for expenses, such as travel and attendance fees, providing a list of potential workshop ideas, or a databank of session resources that could be delivered by anyone who is willing, and improving the clarity by which the PPG asks its members to contribute e.g targeted messages plainly asking for workshop providers.

A discussion into Webinars revealed that that the group is willing to use the medium to support the outcomes usually delivered solely by conferencing e.g skill swap, industry updates, etc. The committee agreed to explore the provision of webinars in 2020.

b. Use of social media

It was mentioned that Group Spaces is limited in its ability to sufficiently engage with the membership and deliver necessary outcomes e.g sharing updates, asking for help. This is due in part because not all members have reliable or immediate access to Group Spaces (organisational membership vs individual access).

We explored the use of social media as a mechanism to share updates and publicise events, and agreed that the PPG potentially underutilises the full benefits of social media. Popular platforms across the membership include Facebook (IOL 11.5k folllowers), LinkedIn (IOL 4.1k followers), Twtter (IOL 9.5k followers) , and Instagram, so please do take a look.

Early challenges involve who is responsible for ensuring that the PPG’s presence on social media is maintained (i.e who tweets the tweets?), how the PPG’s social media presence will be delivered alongside the wider IOL updates, and the suitability of running a Closed or Open community page (i.e what benefits are members paying for if the group is open to non-paying members?). No clear solutions were reached, but the committee agreed to continue exploring the topic.

c. Horizons Magazine

Several members of the PPG have contributed to Horizons over the years, but many have not. It was mentioned that articles for Horizons will always be written by the minority of the membership (i.e practitioners with time, confidence, and content), but alternative contributions were explored including event reports (e.g GA?) and collaborative publications (e.g short assessment of 2016 A Level Geography reforms).

General ending theme of “everyone can do more, and the benefits of doing more are obvious”. Efforts of 2020 should be exploring ways to support the membership to achieve and deliver whatever contributions they can make, with particular focus on hosting events, running workshops, and maintaining a vibrant and connected base of practitioners.

5. Session 3 - GIS and IT in Field Studies, led by Lloyd Robinson (Allnat Centres)

Lloyd described the Applications and Websites that he and his colleagues at Allnatt Centres use on a regular basis with students. He demonstrated some of the functionality that was possible and work that can be achieved. Other delegates shared their own favoured apps and websites and there was a general discussion about their use and effectiveness. It was generally agreed that we should not lose sight of the underlying objective; for students to understand/develop their understanding, and that all GIS is a tool for achieving that objective and not an end in itself. There were many contributions and suggestions from delegates, and the following list (some Apps, some websites) was collated:

· Google Earth and Google Maps (inc GE graphs)

· CDRC (website)


· Skitch/Sketch (name dependant on operating system)

· Seek

· Plant Net

· British Trees (app)

· GeogIT

· EPI Collect S

· Survey123

· Datashine

· Magic Maps



· Flood



· UK Local Area

· What Three Words (app)

· OS Locate

· Digimaps for schools

· Dorset Explorer

· Padlet

· Geology of Britain Viewer (igeology)

· UKSO (My Soil App)

· Sound Meter

· My Elevation

6. Session 4 - Rockpooling/Marine Zonation (PGL), led by Jonathon Neale

Jon delivered an example primary (KS2) classroom ‘intro’ to Rockpooling. This involved some audience participation and he was not short of volunteers to act as marine organisms! This covered

zonation of the rocky shore, stressors and adaptations. Jon then led the group down to Osmington beach and described how a typical Rockpooling session is delivered at PGL. As the beach is also a location for geology; he described a primary Geology, Rocks and Fossils session also.

After a few pictures (see small gallery wit this report) and some general appreciation of the view, including a stunning sunset, we completed a ‘two-minutes litter pick’ and headed back to the Centre.

“Thank you to everyone who played a role in organising or delivering this event, both from the PPG Committee, individual members and PGL Osmington Bay; it was very successful and worked smoothly. Thanks also to those members who attended and brought their passion and enthusiasm with them! Hope to see you next time…!”

Tom Davis, Chair – IOL Field Studies and Environmental Education Professional Practice Group

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Field Studies? Does ‘Fieldwork’ mean something different to ‘Field Studies’ is there a difference between the definitions?

Different people tend to use different words and may mean different things, but the terms ‘Fieldwork’ and ‘Field Studies’ are often used in the same way; usually to mean the academic or practical study of the natural world and the interaction between people and the natural world, most commonly within the subjects of Geography, Geology, Biology and Environmental Science. Most of these subjects require ‘field work’ (by which the exam board or curriculum usually means a practical investigation) as part of the criteria for completing the course.

What about Environmental Education? Is that different?

Again; some people might describe their work as Environmental Education rather than Field Studies or Fieldwork, but they are likely to be doing much the same thing, or at least talking about similar topics in their practise. Most of the variation between FS PPG members is in the setting or style in which they work with groups, but most are delivering courses about the environment, landscape, natural world or human relationships with those things.

Didn’t you used to be called NAFSO? What happened there?

Yes; an organisation called NAFSO – the National Association of Field Study Officers existed for many years as an independent membership organisation, promoting the work of centres and providers in this sector of outdoor learning. It was decided in 2015, to join the Institute of Outdoor Learning and become a Professional Practise Group, to increase access and awareness of the work of the group and to work more closely with others in outdoor learning. It’s going very well so far..!

What does a typical Field Studies session look like?

There are quite a range of possibilities! One classic example might be a river investigation. Students visit various points along a river and collect data about the river, including width and depth, but also looking at the surrounding environment, the landscape, and the human activity in the area. Depending on their age and academic level they might focus on particular areas, or practise measuring techniques, or just be aiming to learn some geography in a fun way..! This might take a large part of the day and involve walking or travelling by minibus or coach to different parts of the river.

What qualifications do you need to tutor/teach/deliver/be a practitioner of Field Studies?

There isn’t a fixed, universal definition of what qualifications are required, but many centres will use a ‘relevant degree’ as a minimum pre-requisite. This is because schools will often expect centre staff to have a degree, especially if they are facilitating sessions and courses to A-level standard. Some centres recruit staff with teaching qualifications also. It does depend what level of course or session the centre is running though – some providers may be running simple guided walks and just require bags of enthusiasm! Just like in the adventure activities world, it really depends what is being delivered.

How can I bring Environmental Education or Field Studies into my adventure sessions?

That’s probably too big a question to answer here, but it’s exactly the sort of issue our members will be really happy to help you with. Just get in touch with us, or perhaps you could consider joining the group and meeting lots more members who can help you?



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