A case study-based essay: Teaching outside the classroom: the contributions and challenges of Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) teaching on fieldtrips

Sarah Kunz, Frances Brill




Fieldtrips are an essential, and much loved, part of many university courses. For Geographers in particular, they form a core part of the curriculum. This paper focuses on the GTA experience of fieldtrips, synthesizing the benefits for students, faculty, and GTAs, whilst also highlighting some of the challenges involved. We argue that, on the one hand, fieldtrips are sites where GTAs can learn how to teach, develop as researchers and can be leveraged as opportunities to get to know more senior members of staff and receive mentoring. Further, GTAs also have valuable and unique contributions to make to fieldtrips, such as acting as a ‘middle person’ breaking down the student-teacher boundary and enhancing teaching by drawing on their own relatively recent experience of being taught as well as their current status as active researchers-in-training. Throughout, we reflect on how GTAs’ involvement in fieldtrips extends their ambiguous position within the academy (Muzaka, 2009), which might require some additional boundary-defining work on fieldtrips to use this potential without giving in to its pitfalls. For the potential benefits of GTA teaching on fieldtrips to be best realised, we end the article with a number of concrete suggestions for academic departments, staff leading fieldtrips and GTAs themselves on how to prepare and implement fieldtrips so as to make the most out of GTAs working on fieldtrips.

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