Education About Asia: Online Archives

Pointers, Practicalities, and Pitfalls of Directing a Field Course in Asia

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As novices in directing a field course, we felt that our trip, while immensely successful and enjoyable, yielded a number of lessons to be shared with others.

It is difficult to imagine a teaching challenge more daunting and yet more rewarding than directing an international field course. Picture adding to the standard demands and pleasures of teaching the tasks of guide, accountant, publicist, recruiter, travel agent, menu planner, goodwill ambassador, medical advisor, and, for some of us, translator. Given the mix of mostly single men and women who share close quarters, one also becomes a chaperone. One even needs the capabilities of emergency preparedness. Nonetheless, directing an international field course is among the most satisfying of teaching experiences.

The field course that we co-directed (we are also married) consisted of seventeen days in China, with the bulk our activities based out of Shanghai and Beijing. The course, “Field Studies in China,” was offered as a ‘400 level’ course open to both undergraduates (thirteen) and graduate students (one). Coming from a Geography–Earth Science Department and with our research background in planning and urban studies, we decided to focus primarily on urbanization, development, and planning. However, given the setting and diversity of students, the field study became an area studies course as well!

As novices in directing a field course, we felt that our trip, while immensely successful and enjoyable, yielded a number of lessons to be shared with others. Our “top twelve” are provided with comments. Checklists of what to pack, what shoes to bring, etc., are helpful and plentiful. The items below are more strategic in nature and speak to the overall design of a course. Some were implemented and some were learned, sometimes the hard way!

USEFUL RESOURCES

Some of these sources are helpful with the minutiae of planning a field course abroad, and others are of value for issues larger in scope.

Emanoil, P. “Study Abroad Expands Cultural Views, Life Skills, and Academic Experience.” Human Ecology Forum. Summer (1999), 11–14.

Festervand, Troy A. and Kenneth A. Tillery. “Short-term Study Abroad Expands Cultural View, Life Skills, and Academic Experience.” Journal of Education for Business. November/December 2001, 106-111.

International Study and Travel. University of Washington at Tacoma. Unpublished handbook, 2001. Accessed January 12, 2006 at http://www.tacoma.washington.edu/ travel/resources/.

Moore, Ann M. The Insider’s Guide to Study Abroad. Peterson’s/Thomson Learning, 2000.

Peterson’s/Thomson Learning. Summer Study Abroad, 2002.

Stanitski, Diane and Kurtis Fuellhart. “Tools for Developing Short-Term Study Abroad Classes for Geography Studies.” Journal of Geography. 102(5) 2003: 202–215.

Wallace, J. and S. Chan. “ACT-TIONS: A Model for Student Safety and Instructional Responsibility in Study Abroad.” Perspectives. 3(4) 1999, 123–127.

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