Freedom to learn: A study of the experiences of secondary school teachers and students in a geography field trip

Kwok Chan LAI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)


This study is a qualitative case study of a geography field trip of Secondary Four (Year 10) students in a Hong Kong school. It conceives fieldwork as an experiential activity in which an understanding of the experiences of teachers and students in their contexts is important. The results revealed that the students’ intent before the trip and their learning experiences after the trip were much richer than their teachers had intended. Despite some students’ negative experiences of previous field trips, there was a universally strong desire to escape from their perceived boredom and constraints of the classroom. Field trips were cherished for their rarity and freedom, and the field sites were sought for their novelty. The study has revealed the relative freedom of the field as a learning environment in which the students were more proactive and teacher-stu-dent rapport improved. Besides deepening their understanding of what they had previously learned in class, some students were able to see things in new perspective. For many of them, there was a desire to be free from the presence of the teachers and to have greater control over their learning. The findings also indicated that upon return to school, there was a quick return to the status quo. The inspiration which resulted from freedom of learning from the field trip was often not transferred to the classroom setting. Copyright © 1999 K. C. Lai.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-255
JournalInternational Research in Geographical and Environmental Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


secondary school teacher
Hong Kong
learning environment


Lai, K. C. (1999). Freedom to learn: A study of the experiences of secondary school teachers and students in a geography field trip. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 8(3), 239-255.