When field trips sow seeds of research

Field-based education is an integral part of learning at Ambedkar University Delhi.— Photos: Special Arrangement

Field-based education is an integral part of learning at Ambedkar University Delhi.— Photos: Special Arrangement  

Away from the hubbub of the classroom, when she was trekking in the hinterland of Rajasthan to study the governance of common resources and the MGNREGA, little did Eesha Kunduri realise that she was actually sowing the seeds for her future research.

It was with rather a mixture of excitement and anxiety that Eesha prepared for her first trip as part of field-based education in her M.A. in Development Studies at Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD). Many trips would follow where she would apply the lessons learnt from books on to the ground.

“Field work is both a rewarding and challenging experience. But, my initial anxiety was offset after I started learning about coordination, team work, and most importantly, trust in colleagues,” said Eesha, a student of 2011-13 batch.

When she went on a month-long tour to the Ludhiana Industrial Area as part of a survey team, she fine-tuned her skills.

“Here, my field partner and I paid close attention to improvising the work by reviewing at the end of each day how we fared on the field and where we lacked,” she said.

Interestingly, she explored this study in her master’s dissertation. She even went on to present a paper on ‘Understanding patterns of industrial employment and labour market organisation in Ludhiana’ at the annual conference of the British Association for South Asian Studies at University of Leeds (U.K.) in April 2013.

Field-based education is an integral part of learning at AUD with every student undertaking a number of trips during the course. However, the duration of the trip and the number of students in each group varies. The choice of location is a task shared between students and faculty members.

“It’s the field exposure during the master’s course, which gave me clarity and a hold on the methods of both ecological and social research. This exposure also helped understand what I enjoy doing,” said Rashmi Singh, a Ph.D scholar at the School of Human Ecology.

Soon after her master’s, she designed a project on understanding human-elephant relations as an independent project analyst for an elephant conflict mitigation project of the Nature Conservation Foundation.

“The findings of this research were presented at the Student Conference on Conservation Science at Peking University, Beijing, China, in 2014. The paper was also accepted for presentation at the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology, Montpellier, France in 2015,” she said.

With each trip come difficulties, which test a student’s patience, while the outcome is equally rewarding with discoveries and lessons.

Shaina Sehgal, another Ph.D scholar at the School of Human Ecology, said, “The field trips excited me to try on field-based internships versus subjects involving secondary research.”

Students of M.Phil in development practice have a bigger share in the field-based benefits.

During the two-year programme, they spend one year in the village in immersion working with a community. “The Centre for Development Practice takes transformation in rural communities as its area of research and also its area of work/intervention,” said Anup Dhar, associate professor, School of Human Studies.

Taste of data collection

During the visit to rural Madhya Pradesh, we were based at a local NGO in Agra. Each one of us undertook independent study in nearby villages. We were roughly a group of seven or eight; each was assigned to study a particular household. We studied coping and risk mitigation strategies of households under the dry land agriculture. We met a couple of times at the local NGO for group meetings. The trip taught me modes of data collection apart from interviews, as I spent time with the women on the field; chatted up with them during tea; helped them out in the kitchen; and talked to the male members in the courtyard. — Eesha Kunduri

On structured interviews

The first field trip of my batch near Kuno wildlife sanctuary in 2011 was interesting. We used to get up at 4 a.m. and be out in the field by 4.30 a.m. to learn bird sampling techniques. With only tea and biscuits we would cover a distance of 5-7 km. By 9 a.m. our field assistant would arrive on his bicycle carrying breakfast. After breakfast, fieldwork would resume with techniques in vegetation sampling. By afternoon, we would return to our base camp for lunch. Later, we would use structured interviews and openended discussions with local communities to understand their lives. The experiences would be discussed in the evening with our faculty members. — Rashmi Singh

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 8:31:33 PM |

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