Outdoor Education longitudinal study with Oregon State University–Cascades
UWCSEA has been at the forefront of developing age-appropriate outdoor education programmes (school camps and expeditions) for decades. Over this time we have gathered significant evidence through student reflection suggesting these experiences build students’ resilience and self-awareness, as well as helping them to develop collaborative, self-management and critical thinking skills that stay with them for life.
Attempting to understand and answer some of the challenging and complex questions on the impact that our Outdoor Education programme has on the emotional, psychological and overall wellbeing of our students, we partnered with OSU-Cascades in 2013 and launched the study in 2015. Our aim is to gather further insight into what we have observed anecdotally and learned through experience: that outdoor education experiences have a positive, long term impact on students that stays with them and is transformational.
The benefit of a longitudinal study lies in the ability to analyse patterns that emerge over time. It gives us an in-depth perspective on student learning within Outdoor Education. Analysis of initial data collected in the first years of the study has affirmed the role that resilience, commitment to care, and communication play during expeditions. These are all key skills and qualities that we have identified as part of the UWCSEA profile.
In addition to the long view, we also look forward to unpacking the annual research results, because this allows the Outdoor Education Department to understand the effectiveness of the current programme so they can adapt and further develop the programme to guarantee best outcomes for students. For example, in 2018 a night time activity on the Grade 6 Tioman trip was modified because the data showed that it was pushing students further out of their comfort zone than intended. In addition, the decision to redevelop the Grade 8 expedition into "continuous journey” was aided by programme evaluation work done by one of the researchers as a participant observer and informed by student insights.
The research also provides insights into some of the interdependencies between elements of our learning programme. Data collection was due to continue for another two years, and we will make decisions on how to adjust the study to account for the changes in the programme as a result of the COVID pandemic travel restrictions in the coming months.
This study is attempting to answer some difficult and complicated questions on the physiological, emotional and psychological impact of the Outdoor Education experiences on students. We want to know what exactly our students are learning by participating 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 instil what qualities and skills?
Annual cross-sectional analyses offer a glimpse of emerging themes in the data – you can read a selection of these reports below.
All students in Grades 6–11 on both campuses are asked to complete the research survey twice anonymously—once before and once after the grade-level expedition. Students participate on a voluntary basis, answering questions about life experiences and self-perceptions in and out of school. 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 and facilitates the consolidation of their learning.
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 wellbeing of participants.
We use the feedback and insight provided by the research summary to adapt and develop the programme to further enhance the student experience in the short term. In the long term, we will be guided by the evidence collected as we refine our Outdoor Education Programme to ensure it continues to contribute to the development in students of the skills and qualities outlined in the UWCSEA profile.
Initial interim findings indicate that the study is gathering important evidence and over the previous four years, we have seen some trends in terms of changes in attitudes, skills and qualities that can be traced back to the students’ outdoor education experience. This confirms what we know anecdotally and through long experience: that outdoor education experiences have a positive, long term impact on students that stays with them and is transformational.
Read more about the study, interim findings and our Outdoor Education programme here:
Inspiration from the outside
Emerging patterns in students’ personal growth experiences on outdoor expeditions.
Journey as destination: Evaluating the UWCSEA Outdoor Education programme
This longitudinal study will evaluate the effectiveness of the UWCSEA Outdoor Education programme in developing skills and qualities in students over time.
Flourishing People-in-Place: Understanding the impact of Outdoor Education at UWCSEA
OSU research study at UWCSEA in Singapore hopes to understand the impact of outdoor education on developing skills and qualities to help students thrive.
Understanding Foundation Skills in Outdoor Education: Paving the pathway to learning
Outdoor Education at UWCSEA builds practical expedition skills so as to equip students with qualities and skills essential for health and flourishing.
The study is being conducted by Oregon State University–Cascades (OSU) researchers who are experts in their fields of experiential education and social psychology.