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Confronting Barriers to inclusion - Opening the gate to accessible fieldwork

  • Does the emphasis on fieldwork in geoscience education discourage the participation of people with disabilities?
  • How can we design and deliver fieldwork that is inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities?
  • How can we ensure that geoscience education and professions attract and develop the talents of people with diverse abilities?

Field experience is critical to the professional practice of geoscience, and developing field skills is a key aim of geoscience education at both school and university level. All learners, regardless of their stage of education, should see geoscience as an accessible academic subject which offers viable career opportunities. For learners with disabilities, however, the physical and psychological challenges presented by fieldwork, coupled with the rigorous schedule of fieldwork characteristic of most undergraduate programmes, can deter talented individuals from engaging with geoscience beyond compulsory education.

This one-day event organised by the Geological Society, the Higher Education Network and University Geosciences UK explored the issues involved in making fieldwork accessible to learners with a diverse range of abilities through a combination of invited speakers, panel and small group discussion. We had participation from geoscience educators at school, FE and HE level, industry professionals, and organisations involved in the provision of fieldwork in both formal and informal capacities.

Speakers & Schedule

9:30 - 10:00 - Registration & Coffee

10:00 - 10:20 - Welcome and introduction

Edmund Nickless - Geological Society of London Executive Secretary

10:20 - 11:00 - KEYNOTE: Rigour does not promote retention: Challenging traditional models of field-based instruction in the geosciences

Christopher Atchison - University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity

11:00 - 11:30 - Science without barriers: The challenges of universal design for learning

Miguel Gomez-Heras - Instituto de Geociencias (CSIC, UCM) and Ciencia sin Barreras (Science Without Barriers)

11:30 - 12:00 - COFFEE

12:00 - 12:30 - The challenges faced in taking school students with disabilities on fieldtrips (and some suggestions to overcoming these challenges)

Angela Bentley - Earth Science Teachers’ Association and Aquinas College

12:30 - 13:00 - Accessible fieldwork in higher education: challenges and opportunities (it can be done!)

Alison Stokes & Mark Anderson - Plymouth University / Geol Soc Higher Education Network / University Geoscience UK (formerly CHUGD)

13:00 - 14:00 - LUNCH

14:00 - 14:30 - Teaching field skills in a virtual world 

Jacqueline Houghton - University of Leeds

14:30 - 15:00 - Planning for Accessibility: Fieldwork in Continuing Professional Development

Gary Nichols & Wayne Gladwin - Nautilus Ltd

15:00 - 15:30 - COFFEE

15:30 - 16:30 - Small group discussions

16:30 - 17:00 - Panel discussion and plenary



  • £20.00. Registration covers costs of refreshments including lunch and a networking wine reception.

Further Information

Event Details

Date: 26 June 2015

Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, London



Alison Stokes
Plymouth University

Donna Fitzgerald
The Geological Society
Burlington House
Piccadilly, London
United Kingdom

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