There have been several standout, influential primary empirical studies, including:
American Institutes for Research (2005)'s
evaluation of the behavior and learning impacts of week-long residential
outdoor education environmental programs for 255 at-risk sixth graders
from four elementary schools who attended three outdoor education
programs in California.
Philliber Research Associates & American Camp Association (2005)'s 25-page summary report
about a 3-year study (2001-2003) of the developmental
effects in over 80 USA summer camps. The study cost US$800,000, with the bulk of the support from the Lilly
Foundation. The study examined the claims that camps provide positive developmental experiences for young people.
Effects on 10 main outcomes were measured and categorized in terms of personal
identity (e.g., self-esteem and self-confidence), social skills
(including making new friends), leadership skills, physical and thinking
skills (e.g., adventure experiences and environmental appreciation), and
spiritual/value development. Effect sizes of pre-post-followup change reported by campers
and parents were small (~.1), whereas observed changes by
staff were small-moderate (~.3). These findings are
consistent with estimates of camp program effects in previous research
(Hattie, et al, 1997; Marsh, 1999). The report, however, lacks a
critical perspective and does not make comparisons with the broader research
literature on personal and social change in other types of programs, nor
does it offer strategies for improving the effectiveness of camp
programs. The study's instrumentation and psychometrics are
(2000) and Jim Sibthorp's studies of the processes
and outcomes of outdoor education programs.
Mike Gass' study on the long-term effects of university and college
wilderness orientation programs on student development outcomes.
Priest's studies during the 1980's and 1990's which examined the
effects of corporate adventure training on various indicators of team
and corporate performance; Priest's research work also focused on trying
to understand the influence of various facilitation and program design
factors, such as sequencing of activities and style of framing and
debriefing by the instructor.
- Marsh, Richards,
and Barnes (1986a,b) on the short- and long-term effects
of 26-day Outward Bound programs in Australia on multidimensional
self-concepts of young adults - results were positive and lasting.
Conrad and Hedin's (1981) national
study of experiential education programs in the USA using a good design
and including a variety of good measures
Kelly and Baer (1971) on the recidivism of
Outward Bound youth at risk participants
(If a reference you are looking for is not listed below, try this
larger list of
outdoor education research references)
American Institutes for Research. (2005).
Effects of outdoor education programs for children in California. Paolo
Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research.
Conrad, D. & Hedin, D. (1981). National
assessment of experiential education: Summary and implications. Journal
of Experiential Education, Fall, 6-20.
Kelley, F. J. & Baer, D. J. (1971). Physical
challenge as a treatment for delinquency. Crime and Delinquency,
Marsh, H. W., Richards, G. E., & Barnes, J. (1986a).
Multidimensional self-concepts: The effect of participation in an Outward Bound
program. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50,
Marsh, H. W., Richards, G. E., & Barnes, J. (1986b).
Multidimensional self-concepts: A long-term follow-up of the effect of
participation in an Outward Bound program. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 20, 509-528.
Research Associates & American Camp Association (2005).
Directions: Youth development outcomes of the camp experience. Martinsville,
IN: American Camp Association.
Priest, S. (n.d.) Corporate
Adventure Training (CAT) program studies.