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Recent evidence about long-term changes in outdoor education

James Neill
Last updated:
30 Jul 2004

Recent evidence about long-term changes in outdoor education

The empirical findings for long-term changes in outdoor education were found in the Hattie et al (1997) meta-analysis to be surprisingly positive because an ongoing positive effect size of .17 was reported.  However, a limitation in interpreting this statistic is that the short-term effect size for the corresponding and relatively small sample with long-term results was not reported, thus it is not known what short-term effect preceded the long-term additional .17 effect.  Nevertheless, this finding indicated that for the existing outcome data, studies which reported followup results generally found ongoing positive effects of outdoor education programs; impressive. 

The followup results for over 600 participants in Outward Bound Australia programs showed that for about half of the measured scales, positive gains were maintained, whilst for other four scales there were small and moderate losses (Neill, in preparation). These results suggested that participants did not report ongoing positive change following the OB programs, but rather retention of gains or some loss of gains, although for all outcomes participants reported higher long-term results than pre-course or first day of program results.

Finally, Gass, Garvey and Sugarman (2003) have recently reported on qualitative interviews of participants 20 years after completing a freshman wilderness orientation program, and the evidence suggests that the experience remained a life-long significant experience for the participants.


Gass, M., Garvey, D., & Sugarman, D. (2003).The long-term effects of a first-year wilderness orientation program. Journal of Experiential Education, 26(1), 34-40.

Hattie, J. A., Marsh, H. W., Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (1997). Adventure education and Outward Bound: Out-of-class experiences that make a lasting difference. Review of Educational Research, 67, 43-87.

Neill, J. T. (in preparation).  Enhancing personal effectiveness: The impacts of outdoor education programs.  Doctoral dissertation, Department of Education, University of Western Sydney.