Essences of Outward Bound: A research perspective


James T. Neill

Paper presented to the 1st Outward Bound Australia Staff Conference, 19-21 August, 1998, Canberra, Australia>


I've had a passion for pursuing the question of how Outward Bound works ever since my memorable experience of a 26-day Outward Bound Standard Course in 1988. Since then I've been an Outward Bound instructor, visited overseas Outward Bound schools, completed a psychology degree, worked as a Research Coordinator and have nearly completed my doctoral thesis on Outward Bound. It seems to me that we need to talk about essences of Outward Bound rather than the essence - and that these essences lie in the experiences of participants. Insights from research investigations can offer valuable insights about what is really happening for participants. If Outward Bound genuinely seeks to fulfill its mission of contributing significantly to human development then it needs to actively utilise such insights. In addition, I suggest that the most interesting developments in human change are not likely to come from within the outdoor education field in the near future. Instead, I suggest that Outward Bound should align itself more strongly with other community efforts at human development (such as in universities, social work, psychology, group therapies, and so on).

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