Reductions in the fieldwork component of many environmental curricula mean that graduates have less practical experience. This paper attempts to compensate by developing a short, intensive, highly structured field exercise that aims to connect classroom theory to field realities in the context of the management of reclaimed coal-land. A self-paced field trail guides learners, first to examine land degradation processes in detail and then to tackle larger sustainability issues. The problems that learners encounter include difficulties in understanding the mind-sets of either landscape designers or land users and of comprehending landscape process dynamics. Nevertheless, learners value the first hand experience, the realisation that real-world answers are not always simple, that prior learning is essential to effective field interpretation, that teamwork is a problem-solving tool and that these skills require 'practice'. Learners who score well in fieldwork also scored well in class quizzes, spoken presentations, essays, other field projects and formal examinations.
Keywords: land reclamation, sustainable development, sustainability education, ESD, problem-based learning, PBL, surface coal mining, training, environmental managers, Wales, UK, United Kingdom, environmental management trainees