What is a field school? Why review it?

A field school is a short-term academic program (usually in the summer time) that teaches students practical skills related to their field of interest.

So why review it?

As a new primatologist I was informed that the best way for me to enter into the next phase of academia was to attend a field school. Here I would learn practical methods in the field and practice creating and conducting a research project. Here I also learned that I could “hack it”, meaning I could handle “life in the field”. This experience prepared me for future work in the field and introduced me to the life of international fieldwork – I had barely traveled outside of my own state at this point in my life.

Field schools aren’t cheap but they’re necessary. When you choose a college, as part of your decision process, you have a certain set of expectations for the educational merit, professionalism, credibility, and overall value of the education that you expect the school to meet. So why shouldn’t that same approach be applied to field schools?

Also, if field schools are aware that they are being reviewed for this criteria, then they will be held to those standards. My intention here is not to harm already struggling field schools/sites (as they can be very expensive to operate), but to help ensure that the educational and professional aspects of the experience maintain a high quality. Let’s not forget about accountability. Field schools should also be held accountable for the safety, operational maintenance, educational merit, professionalism, and exposure of new students to the field.

So please take the time to fill out a review. You are only adding to the breadth of accountability that has now become part of the open dialogue that many academic institutions have begun.

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