Go to Town: A ‘U-Pass Field Trip’ & PhotoVoice Assignment to Enhance Student Learning in an Introductory Urban Geography Course

Eugene, Christina, and Andy (from left)

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Eugene McCann, Department of Geography

Project team: Andy Longhurst and Cristina Temenos, research assistants

Timeframe: September 2013 to May 2014

Funding: $10,000

Final report: View Eugene McCann's final project report (PDF)

From the final report: "The written assignments revealed that most students had engaged in the project wholeheartedly and that they had thought carefully about the relationships between the conceptual material about urban processes that was delivered in lectures and their experiences of the sites along the field trip.  Subsequent evaluation of the field trip – by online questionnaire and focus group-style discussions conducted by the graduate research assistants in tutorials – suggested that most students appreciated the field trip and felt that it improved their knowledge, both of the region and of the material being presented in lectures and the textbook.  On the other hand, the focus groups revealed some frustrations (the number of stops on the field trip) and a particular ‘coping strategy’ (given the requirements of the written assignment, it was possible for students to only visit some of the sites on the field trip, not all of them).  This indicates both students’ ingenuity and also the fact that the field trip may need to be scaled down in length in the future while also being more carefully structured to allow students to get as much from it as possible." Read more >>

Course addressed: GEOG 261 – Introduction to Urban Geography

Description: A great irony of introductory Urban Geography education at SFU, an urban university, has been the lack of a field-based experiential learning in GEOG 261.  This course introduces key concepts and approaches in contemporary urban geography and is a pathway into a number of upper-level urban courses.  The course focuses on how a specifically spatial perspective contributes to our understanding of cities and urban life by introducing students to urban social, economic, political, and environmental geographies. The city is right outside the door, yet scheduling constraints in a large course make it difficult to use the city as a site of experiential learning. 

The solution is relatively obvious: self-directed field trips and field-based projects.  However these solutions present challenges in curricular planning and implementation that must be overcome if the trips are to have pedagogical merit.  The teaching and learning grant will support the revamping of GEOG 261 to bring an experiential learning component to the course by developing and piloting a U-Pass Field Trip and PhotoVoice assignment..

Questions addressed:

  • What are the benefits, models, and pitfalls of field-based, self-directed experiential learning in the Social Sciences?
  • How can experiential learning be integrated into the teaching and student project elements of a 200-level urban geography course?
  • How might field experience be facilitated, enhanced, and focused through the use of visual and web-based technologies (e.g PhotoVoice)?
  • What techniques can be used to evaluate the success of experiential learning in the course?

Knowledge sharing: Colleagues will be invited to review course materials, students projects, and a written summary of the project.  The PI will also be available to consult with anyone who would like to develop similar projects.