Career-focused field trips as experienced by at-risk rural students : a case study.
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Hutson, Tommye L.
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A lack of recent research focused on field trips as pedagogy in K-12 settings established the foundation for this work. The research design followed multiple-case case study model. The participants were four male students from a small rural high school in central Texas. Each participant, previously labeled as academically "at-risk", had identified an inability to describe connections between academic science content as presented in their common classes and future jobs, vocational training, and/or careers requiring higher education. Because the participants had no directed field excursions addressing this desirable knowledge and/or skill, a career-focused field trip was designed to address the self-identified deficit reported by the participants. The specific research questions were: 1. How does the ability to describe connections between academic science content (biology, chemistry, and physics) and future careers change as rural students experience a purposeful excursion to a post-secondary facility providing vocational training? 2. When do the connection(s) between content and future careers become evident to students? 3. What effect or impact do newly discovered connections have on rural students' aspirations with regard to future career or higher education options? Data were gathered using existing school records, an initial survey, one-to-one interviews conducted before and after the field trip, focus groups conducted before and after the field trip, and observations during the field trip. Data analysis revealed that all participants were able to describe various connections between academic content and careers after the field trip, as well as identify a specific incident that initially established those connections. In addition, all of the participants reported discovering options for careers during the field trip not previously realized or considered. Each participant indicated that they found field trips to be effective. As a result of their singular experience, they collectively voiced a belief that career-focused field trips should be included in all required science classes starting in late middle school and continuing through at least the 10th grade.