The Impact of Outward Bound Challenge Courses on Disadvantaged Youth Sponsored by Colonial Foundation


James T. Neill

Outward Bound Australia, 2001


The purpose of this report is to provide an independent evaluation of the impact of Outward Bound Australia (OBA) programs on young adults whose participation was sponsored by the Colonial Foundation.   The participants were 16 socially and financially disadvantaged young Australians. 

Three sources of evidence were analysed in order to determine the impact of the Outward Bound programs on the disadvantaged participants:
(i) Instructors' written reports;
(ii) Participants' ratings of program quality;
(iii) Changes in participantsí perceptions of their personal effectiveness.

Firstly, instructors' end-of-program written reports showed that the participants were highly enthusiastic about the learning opportunities provided by Outward Bound, although many had to overcome significant social and personal challenges during the course.  Secondly, the end-of-course-experience questionnaire [1]  indicated a very high level of satisfaction with the Outward Bound experience.  Thirdly, participantsí perceptions of their personal effectiveness [2] exhibited a large, statistically significant, boost in all areas.  A question remains about the long-term impacts of these Outward Bound programs for disadvantaged students and future evaluation studies should consider this question.

An important point to note is that the careful screening process for the selection of recipients of the scholarship appears to have been crucial to the success of this project. In conclusion, the scholarship investment in these 16 disadvantaged young people appears to have been wisely spent. 

[1] Participant Evaluation of Instructor and Program Quality (PEIPQ) (Richards & Neill, 1994)
[2] Life Effectiveness Questionnaire (Neill, Marsh, Richards, 1997)

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