Outdoor Education R&E Center

Research Guide

Outdoor Education in Schools

James Neill
Last updated:
26 Oct 2006


Outdoor education became a notable part of schooling ever since schools began to locate themselves primarily within walls and underneath rooves.  Organised school trips into the outdoors became more common as industrialisation took hold.  Organised school trips and camping for school students emerged in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia.  The development of outdoor education was supported by, and contributed to related developments in progressive and experiential education and humanistic psychology.

Today, many millions of dollars are spent taking tens of thousands students around the world into their surrounding outdoor environment, away from the walls, rooves of the classrooms.  There are a wide variety of styles and methodologies undertaken, including environmental education (e.g., school greening projects), extended stay residential programs, journey-style expedition programs, and challenge-based programs, such as using ropes courses.

The body of research literature about the use of outdoor education with school students has been gradually developing, particular since the 1960's.


This list of references focuses on theory and research into the application of outdoor education with school students, including studies of psychological, cognitive, and academic processes and outcomes.


Acuff, D. S. (1976). The effect of an outdoor education experience on the general and intercultural anxiety of anglo and black sixth graders. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California, CA.

Bailey, P. (c2005). [The effect of Duke of Edinburgh Award programs on the life effectiveness of participants].  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia.

Becker, L. M. (1977). The effect of the resident outdoor experience on attitudinal change toward environmental issues. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Northern Colorado, CO.

Cason, D., & Gillis, H. L. (1994).  A meta-analysis of outdoor adventure programming with adolescents. Journal of Experiential Education, 17, 40-47.

Clark, S. J. (2003). A school away from school: Residential schooling for Year 9 students and observations about teaching in general. Unpublished master's of education thesis, Sydney University, Sydney, Australia.

Conrad, D., & Hedin, D. (1981) National assessment of experiential education: Summary and implications. Journal of Experiential Education, 4(2), 6-20.

Cooper, G. (2004). How school groups benefit from outdoor experiences. Horizons, 25(Spring), 10-18.

Cope, A. J. (2006). The effects of an outdoor education program upon the self concept of year nine students. Unpublished Masters thesis. Monash University, Australia.

Craigie, S. (1996). The effect of an Outward Bound experience on the self-concept of year nine and ten boys. Unpublished honours thesis, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Crompton, J. L., & Sellar, C. (1981). Do outdoor experiences contribute to positive development in the affective domain? Journal of Environmental Education, 12(4), 21-29.

Davidson, L. (2001). Qualitative research and making meaning from adventure: A case study of boys experiences of outdoor education at school.  Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1(2), 11-21.

Dean, K. (1990). Personal and social development of young people through residential outdoor education: A case study. Unpublished Masters thesis, University of Liverpool, UK.

Dickinson, R. D. (1979). A study to determine self-concept change through a program of wilderness skill development. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina, NC.

Doherty, C. (2003). The effects of a public school system's one day adventure experience. Unpublished 4th year teacher education project, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

Dyson, B. P. (1996). Two physical education teachers' experience of Project Adventure. Journal of Experiential Education, 19(2), 90-97.

Dyson, B. & O'Sullivan, M. (1998). Innovation in two alternative elementary school programs: Why it works. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 69(3), 242-253.

Eagle, H., Gordon, J., & Lewis, L. (c.1999) The effects of a public school system's one day adventure experience. *.

Elledge, G. E. (1973). East High School Senior Seminar 1973 evaluation. Denver, CO: Denver Public Schools.

Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (c.2000). Evidence of success: What the research shows.

Falk, J., & Balling, J. (1980). The school field trip: Where you go makes the difference. Science and Children, 17(6), *.

Falk, J., & Balling, J. (1982). The field trip milieu: Learning and behaviour as a function of contextual events. Journal of Educational Research, 76(1), *.

Fallis, J. (1991). Moving beyond apathy to environmental action. Journal of Experiential Education, 14(1), 27-30.

Fersch, M., & Smith, M. (1972). Project Adventure - Year I, final quantitative evaluation for 1971-72. Hamilton, MA: Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School.

Fornader, G. (1973). Report on Mitchell Senior Seminar. Unpublished Masters  thesis, University of Colorado, CO.

Fraillon, J. (2005). A review of the outdoor and adventure education research Literature as it relates to the Somers School Camp.  Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Garst, B., Scheider, I., & Baker, D. (2001). Outdoor adventure program participation impacts on adolescent self-perception. Journal of Experiential Education, 24(1), 41-49.

Goodman, C. (1995). Outdoor education and psychological resilience in adolescence. Unpublished graduate diploma thesis, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Gouvernet, P. J. (1988). Motivation and self-regulation. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Gray, T. L., & Patterson, J. W. (1995, November). Differential gender outcomes for adolescent participants following an extended sojourn to the Australian bush. Paper presented to the 23rd Annual International Association for Experiential Education Conference, Lake Geneva, WI.

Gray, T. L., & Patterson, J. W., & Linke, R. D. (1993). A progress report on the impact of extended stay outdoor education programs - The ‘Glengarry’ Experience. Proceedings of the 3rd Annual NSW Outdoor Education Conference, Illaroo by the Shoalhaven, NSW, Australia (pp. 57-63).

Gray, T. L., & Perusco, D. (1993). Footprints in the sand: The value of outdoor education in the school curriculum. The ACHPER National Journal, Autumn, 17-20.

Harris, I. (1999). Outdoor education in secondary schools: What future? Horizons, *(4), 5-8.

Hartnung, J. V. (1973). An evaluation of an experimental stress-challenge environmental challenge course. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Southern Illinois University, IL.

Hastie, P. A. (1992). Secondary school students’ enjoyment of outdoor adventure experiences. Journal of Experiential Education, 15(1), 43-47.

Hattie, J., 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.

Hayllar, B. (1990). Residential outdoor education. In McRae, K. (Ed.) (1990). Outdoor and environmental education: Diverse purposes and practices (pp. 125-144). Melbourne: Macmillan.

Hazelworth, M. S., & Wilson, B. E. (1990). The effects of an outdoor adventure camp experience on self-concept. Journal of Environmental Education, 21(4), 33-37.

Hess, R. (1975). An analysis of Project Apollo, an environmental education stress-challenge program for Upward Bound students. Unpublished master's thesis, Southern Illinois University, IL.

Heyliger, J. (2002). The effects of experiential education on the academic achievement of middle and high school students.  Unpublished article, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.

Ho, S. (2003). The effects of three-day adventure-based camping programmes on the perceptions of primary five Singaporean pupils' life effectiveness. Unpublished master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Hoeksma, H. (1964). An experiment dealing with the effects of outdoor education on the achievement of 6th graders in arithmetic. Unpublished masters' thesis, University of Northern Illinois, USA.

Hogan, R. (2002).  Might outdoor education help develop intelligence? Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 6(2), *.

Hooper, W. (1984). Outdoor education in the secondary school. Proceedings of the 4th National Outdoor Education Conference, May, 1984, 31-35.

Humberstone, B. (1987). Organisational factors, teachers approach and pupil commitment in outdoor activities: A case study of schooling and gender in outdoor education. PhD, University of Southampton.

Huxley, W. V. (1995). Gender differences in the provision of outdoor education: Experiences of Sydney’s elite private schools. Unpublished master’s thesis, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Jones, C. (1978). An evaluation of the effects of an Outward Bound type of program upon the self-concepts and academic achievement of high school students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston University School of Education. Dissertation Abstracts International, 39, 2887a-2888a.

Keighley, P. (1985a). Using residential and outdoor education as a medium for experiential learning in the TVEI and CPVE initiatives. Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 2(March/April), 16-19.

Keighley, P. (1985b). Using the potential of outdoor education as a vehicle for integrated learning. Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 2(March/April), 26-30.

Kesselheim, A. D. (1978). Outward Bound adaptive programs for independent schools. Greenwich, CT: Outward Bound USA.

Kiewa, J. (1992). Abseiling is not a panacea. Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 9(4), 13-15.

Knapp, C. (1992). Thinking in outdoor inquiry. ERIC Digest ED348198.

Koepke, S. M. (1973). The effects of Outward Bound participation on anxiety and self-concept. Boulder, CO: Colorado Outward Bound School.

Kraft,  R. & Kielsmeier, J. (Eds.) (1986). Experiential education and the schools (2nd ed.).  Association for Experiential Education: Boulder, CO. [3rd edition is called Experiential Learning in Schools & Higher Education]

Lambert, M. J., Seggar, J. R., Staley, J. S., Spencer, B., & Nelson, D. (1978). Reported self-concept and self-actualizing value changes as a function of academic classes with wilderness experience. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 46, 1035-44.

Lee, R. & Schroder, H. (1969). Effects of Outward Bound training on urban youth. Journal of Special Education, 3(2), *.

Lovett, R. A. (1971). Outward Bound: A means of implementing guidance objectives. University of Toledo, *.

Mackay, B. J. (1981). The evaluation of outcomes of resident outdoor education. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Canterbury, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Marsh, H. W. & Richards, G. E. (1988). The Outward Bound Bridging Course for low achieving high school males: Effect on academic achievement and multidimensional self-concepts. Australian Journal of Psychology, 40, 281-298.

McDonald, T. (1997). Outward Bound and adolescence: Self-esteem and sex role characteristics. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Canberra, ACT, Australia.

McIntyre, N. (1987). Self-concept change as a result of an extended outdoor education residential experience. Proceedings of the Fifth National Outdoor Education Conference, 11-15 January, Woodman Point, Perth, WA, Australia (pp. 84-89).

McKenna, P. D. (1995). The effect of reflective journals on the self-concept of participants in an outdoor education program. Unpublished master’s thesis, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Mckenzie, A. A., & White, R. (1982). Field work in geography and long-term memory structures. American Education Research Journal, 99, *.

McRae, K. (1989). Towards an evaluation of a high school outdoor education program: An interim report. Conference proceedings 6th National Outdoor Education Conference, Narrabeen, NSW, Australia (pp. 110-119).

McRae, K. (1990a). Development, implementation and evaluation of a secondary school outdoor education programme: A case study.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Macquarie University, Melbourne, Australia.

Mitchell, S. (1992). A foot in the door: Outdoor and adventure activities in the PE National Curriculum. Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 9(3), 19-21.

Moses, D., & Peterson, D. Academic achievement helps program. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1970. (Mimeographed).

Naches, A. M., & Roberts, J. A. (1967). An evaluation of several effects of the Title III ESEA “Dare to Care” Program. Denver, CO: Adams County School District 14.

Neill, J. T. (1994). The effect of Outward Bound high school programs on adolescents' self-concept, mental health, and coping strategies. Unpublished honours thesis, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Neill, J. T. (1997b). Outdoor education in the schools: What can it achieve? In Catalysts for Change: 10th National Outdoor Education Conference Proceedings Jan 20-24 (pp. 193-201). Collaroy Beach, Sydney, Australia: The Outdoor Professionals.

Neill, J. T. (2001). Adolescent development and outdoor education in schools. Unpublished article.

Neill, J. T., & Heubeck, J. T. (1995a). Abseil anxiety and confidence: A pilot study. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 1(2), 28-30.

Neill, J. T., & Heubeck, B. (1995b). Insights into adolescents' mental health during Outward Bound programs. In Proceedings of the 9th National Outdoor Education Conference, Jan 15-20, Gold Coast, Australia.

Neill, J. T., & Heubeck, B. (1997). Adolescent coping styles and outdoor education: Searching for the mechanisms of change. In Proceedings: First International Adventure Therapy Conference: Exploring the Boundaries, 1-5 July, Perth, Western Australia (pp. 227-243).  Camping and Outdoor Education Association of Western Australia.

Nichols, D. R. (1990). Enhancing learning in the outdoors. ACT ACHPER, 16, 11-12.

Nold, J. (1973). Outward Bound approaches to alternative schooling. Boulder, CO: Colorado Outward Bound School.

Nowicki, S., & Barnes, J. (1973). Effects of a structured camp experience on locus of control and achievement. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 122, 247-252.

Nussbaumer, I. R. (1989). Physical self-concept and outdoor education. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia.

Nye, R. Jr. (1976). The influence of an Outward Bound program on the self-concept of the participants. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Temple University, *.

Owen, J., Fletcher, C., & Richards, K. (2001). Firm foundations? Evaluation a school-based experiential personal development course. Horizons, 16(Winter). 27-31.

Parle, M. D. (1986a). The role of self-efficacy in Outward Bound: An investigation of a high school course. Unpublished honours thesis, University of New England, NSW, Australia.

Parle, M. D. (1986b). A study on the role of self-efficacy in an Outward Bound School Course: A summary. Outward Bound Australia: Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Payne, J., Drummond, A.W., Lungh, *. (1970). Changes in the self concepts of school learners who participated in an Arctic expedition. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 40, 211-216.

Payne, S. (1993). What difference do we make? Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 10(2), 19-22.

Pryor, A. (1997). Attitude change through outdoor education experience. Unpublished honours thesis, School of Arts and Education, LaTrobe University, Victoria, Australia.

Purdie, N., Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (2002). Australian identity and the effects of an outdoor education programAustralian Journal of Psychology, 54(1), 32-39.

Richards, G. E., & Richards, M. J. F. (1981). Outward Bound Bridging Course 1981: An investigation and evaluation of an Outward Bound remedial programme (unlocking achievement ability through experiential education). Sydney, NSW, Australia: Australian Outward Bound Foundation.

Royce, D. (1987). Why outdoors? Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 4(4), 24-29.

Quay, J., Dickinson, S., & Nettleton, B. (2000). Students caring for each other: Community building focusing on the student-student relationship. Paper presented to Community Building in a Global Context Conference, September 9-12, Hobart, Australia.

Ratcliff, S. (1972). An evaluation of the experiential learning program at East High School, Denver. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado.

Richards, M. (1966). Two exploratory studies of Denver West High School students at Colorado Outward Bound School. Boulder, CO: Colorado Outward Bound School.

Richards, G. E., Neill, J. T., Clifford, R. L., Papworth, B. A., & Seddon, B. (1998).  Outcomes and processes in outdoor education: A research review of the educational outcomes and operations of the Bogong Outdoor Education Centre.  Canberra, Australia: National Outdoor Education & Leadership Services.

Richards, G. E., & Richards, M. F. (1981). Outward Bound Bridging Course 1981. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Outward Bound Australia.

Rickinson, M., Dillon, J., Teamey, K., Morris, M., Choi M. Y., Sanders, D., & Benefield, P. (2004, March). A review of research on outdoor learning.  National Foundation for Educational Research and King's College London: UK.

Robinson, R. (1988). Howtown Outdoor Education Centre: An evaluation. Open University dissertation: *.

Savoy, G. (1972). Voyageurs '72: An adventure program for eighth grade pupils, an independent study. U.S. Educational Resources Information Center, ERIC document ED 085 150.

Schraer, H. (1954). Survival education: A survey of trends in survival education in certain public schools and teacher training institutions and a detailed study of the elements of survival education found in the programs of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. Doctoral dissertation, Cornell University, Dissertation Abstracts International, 14, 1966a-1967a.

Schroeder, H., & Lee, R. (1967). Effects of Outward Bound training on urban youth. Princeton University, *.

Schulze, J. R. (1970). Evaluation of the effects of Outward Bound training on Dartmouth College students and New Hampshire Secondary School students. MA: University of Massachusetts.

Schulze, J. R. (1971). An analysis of the impact of Outward Bound on twelve high schools. Greenwich, CT: Outward Bound USA.

Simpson, R. P. (1983). Wilderness experience: How can we assess its value? Report to the Third National Conference in Outdoor Education, Maroon, Queensland, Australia.

Sellard, D. (1970). Churchill Challenge. A report written on a special Outward Bound Course conducted by Northwest Outward Bound School for Churchill High School, Eugene, Oregon, May 1970. *

Skehill, C. M. (2001). Resilience, coping with an extended stay outdoor education program, and adolescent mental health. Unpublished Honours thesis, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia. Abstract [.pdf]  Full thesis [.pdf]

Smith, M. A. W. (1971). An investigation of an Outward Bound experience on selected personality factors and behaviours in high school juniors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon, OR.

Smith, M. L. (1976). Final report: Experimental study of the effects of Outward Bound. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado.

Spacht, R. J. (1980). The relationship between environmental concern and participation in a selected high adventure program. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Indiana University.

Spinaze, M. (1986). Changing self-concepts: Outward Bound school programme impact. Unpublished graduate diploma thesis, Brisbane College of Advanced Education, Queensland, Australia.

Starnes, T., Barnes, J., & Letson, J. (1968). Evaluation of "Operation Upstream, Summer 1968". Research and Development Report, 2(7), *.

Stenger, T. (2001). Sequence of adventure-based resident outdoor education programs and middle school students’ perceptions of Life Effectiveness. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Oklahoma University, OK.

Stimpson, D., & Petersen, D. (1970). Effects of a survival training experience upon evaluation of self and other for underachieving high school students. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 31.

Stevens, P. W. & Richards, A. (1992). Changing schools through experiential education.  ERIC Digest ED345929.

Thomas, S. E. (1985). The effect of course length on self-concept changes in participants of the Minnesota Outward Bound School Junior Program. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY.

Thomson, A. C. (1990). Outdoor education at Belper School: The philosophy and aims behind a programme which runs across the curriculum. Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 7(3), 33-37.

Ulichny, P. (2000). Academic achievement in two expeditionary learning/Outward Bound demonstration schools. Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound.

Ulrey, G. L. (1974). Effects of an outdoor educational experience on children's locus of control and performance on physical tasks. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston College.

Van Welzenis, I. (1994). City Bound: The big city as learning environment for societal-vulnerable adolescents. Journal of Experiential Education, 17(3), *.

Vlamis, E. & Neill, J. T., (2002). Using challenge courses to develop students' multiple intelligences. Unpublished manuscript.

Wetmore, R. C. (1972). The influence of Outward Bound School experience on the self-concept of adolescent boys. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston University, MA.

Whitehead, I. (1992). Building character out of doors. Reprinted from The Age, Tuesday, February 18. Victorian Outdoor Education Association Journal, June, 24-25.

Wikipedia (2006). Outdoor education Retrieved May 9, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outdoor_education

Zink, R. (2003). Abseiling at 5, rafting at 10, what do we do with them when they are 151? Why pursuits might seem like an obvious choice for outdoor education?. *


Barrett, J., & Greenaway, R. (1995). Why adventure? The role and value of outdoor adventure in young people’s personal and social development. Coventry: Foundation for Outdoor Adventure.

Hedin, D., & Conrad, D. (1986). Johnny says he is learning...through experience. In R. Kraft, & J. Kielsmeier (Eds.) (1986). Experiential education and the schools (pp. *). Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education.

Kraft, R., & Kielsmeier, J. (Eds.) (1986). Experiential education and the schools. Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education.

McRae, K. (1990b). Introduction to the purposes and practices of outdoor education. In McRae, K. (Ed.) (1990). Outdoor and environmental education: Diverse purposes and practices. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Macmillan, pp. 1-27.

McRae, K. (Ed.) (1990c). Outdoor and environmental education: Diverse purposes and practices. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Macmillan.

Phillips, E. (1992). Outdoor education at Timbertop. Timbertop Conference, Victoria, Australia, April.

Richards, G. E. (1977). Some educational implications and contributions of Outward Bound. Sydney, Australia: Australian Outward Bound Foundation.

What's new?

  • MPs urge a £30m boost for outdoor school trips in England
    (BBC News, 10 February, 2005, UK)

    A UK education committee is calling for a "champion" to promote outdoor activities and has asked a teachers' union to revoke its advice to not run trips because of fear of litigation if a child is injured.  "We have to get away from the culture of fear that has grown around school trips and introduce some element of common sense". The committee praised efforts in some other countries to provide outdoor learning.  For example, in Denmark, schools based in forests "used the natural environment to stimulate pupils" and "experience a carefully monitored element of risk".
    Also see: Teachers stand firm on school trip guidance