How teachers’ beliefs about field trips affect their practices

By Heather King - July 2014


Karnezou, M., Avgitidou, S., & Kariotoglou, P. (2013). Links between teachers’ beliefs and their practices in a science and technology museum visit. International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, 3(3), 246–266. doi:10.1080/21548455.2013.773467

This study examined the ways in which teachers’ beliefs influence their practice when taking students to visit a science and technology museum. The researchers interviewed 14 primary and secondary school teachers before and after their museum visit; the visit itself was also observed. The findings indicate a clear relationship between teachers’ beliefs about the value of informal, museum-based learning and their goals, roles, and actions before, during and after the visit.

This Greek study builds on an established body of work examining school visits to informal science education settings (Anderson, Kisiel, & Storksdieck, 2006; DeWitt & Storksdieck, 2008). The authors acknowledge prior findings about motivations for visits, including both cognitive goals and affective or social goals, and about factors that affect the success of visits, such as the extent of work done before and after the visit and the degree of learner autonomy.

This study, however, sought to understand the relationship between teacher beliefs and teacher practice. Such work, the researchers argue, “can help us to proceed to a more realistic understanding of the complex practice a teacher is expected to deploy within informal education” (p. 250).

Theoretical Basis

Teachers’ decisions are based on their beliefs about the aims of education, the nature of learning, the roles of teachers and students, and the nature of knowledge (Pajares, 1992).

Such beliefs appear to be context-oriented. They thus may change when the learning venue changes. In addition, teachers’ images of themselves as educators also change with context (Peretz, Mendelson, & Kron, 2003). Teachers may see themselves as non-experts in a new environment, such as a museum, and thus refrain from taking active roles as educators.

Research Design

The researchers used five potential axes or dimensions of a teacher’s agenda for a museum visit to structure the pre- and post-visit questionnaires. These axes were adapted from two prior studies (Joyce, Weil, & Showers, 1992; Tobin, Tippins, & Gallard, 1994). The five axes are:

Observations of the visits were used to verify teacher claims in the post-visit interviews. The analysis involved comparing and coding teacher responses. The researchers classified teachers into two groups based on their behaviour in relation to three themes:

  1. Beliefs about the value of informal education Ten of the 14 teachers considered the affective aspect of the visit to be most important. These teachers were primarily concerned about student behaviour. In contrast, four of the teachers described both cognitive and affective goals. These teachers linked the visit to their classroom lessons and expected students to be cognitively engaged.
  2. Beliefs about how to support learning in an informal setting The first group of ten teachers believed that learning would be facilitated simply by the presence of exhibits and by the museum guide, who would transmit knowledge. The second group of teachers described the importance of teacher mediation.
  3. Beliefs about the importance of familiarity with the venue The first group, who focused on student behaviour, knew little about the museum. The second group believed in the importance of familiarity with a learning venue and were therefore well informed about the museum. They actively participated during the visit and facilitated pupils’ understanding of and interaction with the exhibits.

Implications for Practice

These findings highlight the relationship between teacher beliefs and practice. The resources a museum provides to support school visits may not be exploited if the teacher does not recognize the cognitive value of the trip. The authors of this paper conclude that teachers need more pre- and in-service training to support their understanding of the opportunities available in informal learning environments. Informal science institutions might also offer teachers guidance about how to make the most of a museum visit. These actions may help teachers to clarify their learning goals and make better use of museum resources so that learners have meaningful out-of-classroom experiences.


Anderson, D., Kisiel J., & Storksdieck, M. (2006). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on field trip. Curator, 49(3), 365–386.

DeWitt, J., & Storksdieck, M. (2008). A short review of school field trips: Key findings from the past and implications for the future. Visitor Studies, 11(2),181 –197.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Showers, B. (1992). Models of teaching (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Pajares, M.F. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307–332.

Peretz, M.B., Mendelson, N., & Kron, F.W. (2003) How teachers in different educational contexts view their roles. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 277–290.

Tobin, K., Tippins, J. D., & Gallard, J. A. (1994). Research on instructional strategies for teaching science. In D. L. Gabel (Ed.), Handbook of research on science teaching and learning (pp. 45–93).