Date of Award

Spring 6-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Amira Proweller, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James Duignan, M.F.A

Third Advisor

Therese Quinn, Ph.D.


Evidence is mounting that field trips are vanishing from school life, as districts across the nation report reductions and eliminations of these outings because of funding concerns. The matter is of special importance in urban areas, where a wealth of museums are situated nearby neighborhoods in which poor and minority children live and attend school. These children are absent from the museum, less likely to visit with family because of the powerful exclusionary effect that educational attainment and income level have on museum socialization, making school the place where a connection to the museum is formed. However, opportunities for learning in museums are diminished in multiple ways for urban students, who receive less arts and humanities instruction and more instruction emphasizing basic literacies intended to improve achievement on high-stakes standardized tests. Further, the social, emotional, and educational value of field trips are underappreciated by the formal education community because of epistemological differences in what constitutes learning, which tend to emphasize cognitive gains that are common to the school environment, while ignoring the motivating and satisfying aspects of learning in out-of-school settings. The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry is to explore what meaning or significance urban students derive from their field trip experiences in the context of educational opportunities provided at school. Using a critical lens, this study problematizes field trips as a curriculum issue to shed light on what is lost to students as learners when these experiences are not offered by school. The participants in this study are nine middle-school students and two teachers from two schools located in a large Midwestern city. Through qualitative procedures of interviews and observations, three key findings emerged that describe students' field trip experiences: 1) students gain appreciation and empathy from their field trip experiences; 2) students desire more autonomy in their learning experiences and perceive learning as defined by classroom routines, and 3) students value learning as a social activity, in which interaction with peers is paramount to their experience of learning. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the meaning and significance of field trip experiences to students.

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