Field-Based Learning

Education outside the classroom

What is it?

Why would I use it?

Field-based learning in the Edwards School of Business

The goal of field-based learning is for students to apply practical, research, or workplace skills.  For example, in the natural sciences, students collect soil samples, while in the social sciences students conduct interviews.  

Studies have shown that real-world experiences

  • Enhance students’ motivation (Curtis, 2001).
  • Improve the ability to retain targeted core concepts (Lisowski & Disinger, 1991).
  • Broaden students’ learning experiences and knowledge base (Kozar & Marcketti, 2008). 
  • Learning in the field may focus on skills and/or multiple intelligences that are underrepresented in the classroom (e.g. kinesthetic, visual-spatial, holistic, or naturalistic from

How do I apply it in my teaching?

Field Based Learning in the School of Physical Therapy

Field-based learning differs from instruction that simply occurs in the field in two distinctive ways

  • First, field-based learning is learner-centred, where students make discoveries by engaging in a learning experience.
  • Second, it is inductive, where students employ the logic and reasoning of their discipline. 

Depending on learning outcomes, a field-based experience could also be inquiry or project-based. 

At its core, field-based learning is essentially “learning by doing.” Along with engaging in experiences first-hand, field-based learning should also involve personal reflection.  Gross Davis (1993) cites the work of John Dewey, when she points out that experience itself is not enough:

“Field experiences are most likely to be academically and intellectually valid if they are carefully planned and monitored, structured to serve specific learning goals, and preceded by orientation and preparation.  Students also need ongoing opportunities to reflect actively and critically on what they are learning from the field experience and to assess the results” (p.167). 

Example learning activities could include:

When planning field-based experiences, faculty should also be mindful of any logistical, legal, or ethical implications or university/departmental procedures.

Learn more

Articles and Books

  • Curtis, D. 2001.  Project-based learning: Real-world issues motivate students.  Retrieved April 1, 2013 from Edutopia at
  • Gross Davis, B.  1993.  Fieldwork.  In Tools for teaching (pp.166-174).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Jarvis, C. 2010.  Supporting experiential field-based learning: Interfaces and archives.  Journal for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, 1.  Retrieved April 1, 2013 from
  • Lisowski, M. and Disinger, J.F. 1991.  The effect of field-based instruction on student understandings of ecological concepts.  Journal of Environmental Education, 23(1): 19-23.
  • Lonergan, N. and Andresen, L.W.  1988.  Field-based education: Some theoretical considerations.  Higher Education Research & Development: 7(1): 63-77.
  • Kozar, J.M. and Marcketti, S.B. 2008.  Utilizing field-based instruction as an effective teaching strategy.  College Student Journal, 42(2): 305-311.
  • Nicholson, D.T. 2011.  Embedding research in a field-based module through peer review and assessment for learning.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 35(4): 529-549.


Funding and Support

There are a variety of funding and support options for experiential learning approaches at the University of Saskatchewan.

Experiential Learning Support