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Outdoor Education longitudinal study with Oregon State University - Cascades

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Outdoor Education is a key element of the UWC South East Asia (UWCSEA) learning programme. The College has been at the forefront of developing age-appropriate outdoor education programmes (school camps and expeditions) for decades. Over the years, we have gathered a significant amount of evidence through student reflection that suggests these experiences build students’ resilience and self-awareness, as well as helping to develop collaborative, self-management and critical thinking skills.

These are all key skills and qualities that the College has identified as part of the UWCSEA Learner Profile.

In order to evaluate and better understand the impact of the outdoor education programme on our students’ overall learning and development while at the College, in September 2013, we accepted an invitation to participate in a seven-year longitudinal study.  The study is being conducted by Oregon State University - Cascades (OSU) researchers Dr Michael Gassner and Dr Christopher Wolsko, who are experts in their fields of experiential education and social psychology.

The goal of this comprehensive, research-based evaluation is to understand the effectiveness of the current programme so that we can adapt and develop the programme to guarantee best outcomes for students.


This project is attempting to answer some difficult and complicated questions on the physiological, emotional and psychological impact of the outdoor education experiences offered by UWCSEA on our students. We want to know what exactly the students are learning on these expeditions:

  • Does outdoor education make a difference in their academic and personal lives?

  • What do students perceive outdoor education contributes to the their overall learning?

  • What are the specific knowledge, skills, and qualities that graduates of UWCSEA leave with that may be attributed to the Outdoor Education programme?

  • Which expeditions instill what qualities and skills?

Annual cross-sectional analyses are expected to offer a glimpse of emerging themes in the data and will be published when available.

Data collection

All students in Grades 6-11 are asked to complete the survey twice - once before and once after an upcoming outdoor expedition.

The survey asks about life experiences and self-perceptions in and out of school. The study involves students on both campuses, who participate anonymously on voluntary basis. The process of completing the survey is similar to ways in which UWCSEA already asks students to reflect on their learning in other areas of curriculum learning and will facilitate the consolidation of learning.

While participants remain anonymous over time we expect to see some trends in terms of changes in attitudes, skills or qualities that can be traced back to the students’ outdoor education experience.

As the study asks students to reflect on their own feelings and ideas about themselves, the study has also been before the Institutional Review Board of OSU and undergone internal review at UWCSEA to ensure the well-being of participants.


We will use the feedback and insight provided by the research summary to adapt and develop the programme to further enhance the student experience and to ensure the programme continues to contribute to the development in students of the skills and qualities outlined in the UWCSEA Learner Profile.

We hope that this longitudinal study will confirm what we know anecdotally and through experience: that outdoor education experiences have a positive, long term impact on students that stays with them and is transformational.

More detail can be found here.