Friday, October 4, 2013

The Value of the Field Trip

Finally got around to reading Jay Greene's study on the value of the museum field trip after we took our own trip to the Perot Museum and saw the incredible number of school buses there. I will admit to being a little out of touch on the issue but reading the following on why teachers take kids on field trips really made me think -

"This shift from “enrichment” to “reward” field trips is reflected in a generational change among teachers about the purposes of these outings. In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.”"

You can see this first hand around Dallas as students take field trips to the Cowboys stadium with little or no educational value at all.

Turns out there is not much data on museums and student performance so Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida and Daniel H. Bowen conducted one in Arkansas. The City Bridges Museum of Art had just opened in Arkansas and had way more students who wanted to attend then they could fit. So Jay and his team quickly figured out that they could randomly assign the treatment (going to the museum) to different classes and measure results. The study is covered in Education Next article - "The Educational Value of Field Trips"

Very cool results on data gathered three weeks after the visit to the museum - 
  • High content retention - between 70-88% recall of some of the key facts of paintings seen on the trip
  • Critical thinking measured by comparing essays of students who went to the museum and those who didn't  - "we find that students assigned by lottery to a tour of the museum improve their ability to think critically about art by 9 percent of a standard deviation relative to the control group. The benefit for disadvantaged groups is considerably larger (see Figure 1). Rural students, who live in towns with fewer than 10,000 people, experience an increase in critical-thinking skills of nearly one-third of a standard deviation. Students from high-poverty schools (those where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches) experience an 18 percent effect-size improvement in critical thinking about art, as do minority students. Students who went on a tour became more observant, noticing and describing more details in an image."
  • Interest in Museums- "Interest in visiting art museums among students who toured the museum is 8 percent of a standard deviation higher than that in the randomized control group. Among rural students, the increase is much larger: 22 percent of a standard deviation. Students at high-poverty schools score 11 percent of a standard deviation higher on the cultural consumer scale if they were randomly assigned to tour the museum. And minority students gain 10 percent of a standard deviation in their desire to be art consumers."
  • Disadvantaged Students - "Students from rural areas and high-poverty schools, as well as minority students, typically show gains that are two to three times larger than those of the total sample. Disadvantaged students assigned by lottery to receive a school tour of an art museum make exceptionally large gains in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and becoming art consumers."
Love the study and love the conclusion. it goes back to their first statement that the field trip must be an enrichment exercise and not just a reward. With strong content and an organized plan, teachers can use the trip as a to ensure deeper knowledge in their students of content and skills they need to succeed. 

Museums rock!