Novelty space

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Novelty space is a pedagogical term used to refer to the new dimensions experienced by students, in particular when engaging in experiential learning activities. The reduction of novelty space has been found to be an important factor in reducing negative outcomes of experiential learning and improving cognitive learning scores.

Here is an annotated bibliography of some major research in novelty space, with a slight bias towards science field trips.

Annotated Bibliography of recent publications on field trips and the reduction of novelty space

Dr. Suzie Lavallee February 2012

Atchison and Feig 2011. Theoretical perspectives on constructing experience through alternative field-based learning environments for students with mobility impairments. The Geological Society of America Special Paper # 474. Permalink.svg Permalink

  • The use of pre-trip and alternative field trip activities to reduce novelty space has forged new ground in providing students with disabilities an alternative to participating in the field. This paper reviews benefits of experiential learning and how to ensure learning objectives for the field trip are met with alternative activities. This has some direct application to the reduction of novelty space through well-designed pre-trip activities.

Boyle et al. 2007 Fieldwork is good: the student perception and the affective domain. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 31: 299 – 317. Ubc-elink.png

  • Although not specifically dealing with reduction of novelty space, this study of the British schooling system use of field trips demonstrates the need for novelty space and suggested that novelty space decreases with experience.

Cotton and Cotton 2009. Field biology experiences of undergraduate students: the impact of novelty space. Journal of Biological Education 43: 169 – 174. Ubc-elink.png

  • In this study, researchers explored the effectiveness of pre-course preparation in the form of multimedia on the diminishment of novelty space for British students embarking on a field course in South Africa.
  • Dimensions of novelty space are defined (geographical, cognitive, psychological and social) and alternative actions for reduction of novelty space are discussed.

Earle and Thomas 2011. Experiences of taking students on business trips: with recommendations for organising successful business trips. University of Hertfordshire Business School Working Paper. Permalink.svg Permalink

  • Business education frequently uses field trips to provide experiential learning to students. This paper examines some of the components of pre-trip preparation and planning that instructors should consider. Also included in the appendix is a sample questionnaire provided to the hosting organization.

Elkins and Elkins 2007. Teaching geology in the field: Significant geoscience concept gains in entirely field-based introductory geology courses. Journal of Geoscience Education 55: 126 – 132. Ubc-elink.png

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  • Comparison of student performance in a multi-trip course demonstrated that pre-trip reduction in novelty space had a big impact on student ability to learn.
  • Adding to Orion and Hofstein’s components of novelty space, the authors added social novelty, but don’t define or discuss it in this paper.

Kisiel 2006. An examination of fieldtrip strategies and their implementation within a natural history museum. Science Education 90: 434. Ubc-elink.png

  • From the teacher’s perspectives, what strategies are used to reduce novelty space and how well do they work? This study examines the teacher perspective more closely.

McMorrow 2005. Using a web-based resource to prepare students for fieldwork: Evaluating the Dark Peak virtual tour. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 29: 223 – 240. Ubc-elink.png

  • Prior to leading a one-day field trip, students were required to complete an online set of exercises that mirrored their planned activities in the field. This paper looks at the process of developing the materials and incorporation of feedback into the model for pre-trip activities.

Nairn 2005. The problems of utilizing ‘direct experience’ in geography education. Journal of Geography in Higher Education. 29: 293 – 309. Ubc-elink.png

  • Although a bit disheartening to those proponents of experiential learning, this study served as a good example of where there may be some failings. Subsequent studies such as Cotton and Cotton 2009 suggest that novelty space reduction exercises may have been helpful in changing the negative outcomes reported in this study.

Orion and Hofstein 1994. Factors that influence learning during a scientific field trip in a natural environment. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 31: 1097 – 1119. Permalink.svg Permalink

  • This original paper identified three parts to novelty space: cognitive, psychological and geographic. The study was conducted on grade-school students participating in a geology field trip and found that learning performance was significantly higher for students when novelty space reduction activities were completed.

Reiger 2010. Effective lesson planning: Field trips in the science curriculum. Master of Natural Sciences thesis, Louisiana State University. Permalink.svg Permalink

  • The work in this thesis looks at the pre and during trip activities of middle-school science students, linking activities to learning outcomes for the trip.


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