Outdoor Education Research Guide
Outdoor Education R&E Center
Research Methods

Types and Methods of Outdoor Education Research & Evaluation

James Neill
Last updated:
30 May 2013

Types of Outdoor Education Research

Research studies in outdoor education generally use one of three main methods:

  • quantitative (involving statistics)
  • qualitative (involving analysis of interviews, diaries, etc.)
  • mixed (including both qualitative and quantitative methods)

Outdoor education researchers have sought to understand:

  • the psychological, educational, and therapeutic effects of outdoor education programs on participants
  • the effects of outdoor education programs on classrooms, schools, and communities
  • the possible role of various causal factors (such as the facilitation methods used by an instructor) in influencing participants' outcomes
  • the role of the natural environment in outdoor education experiences
  • the role of particular activities or processes in influencing people's outdoor education experiences


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Chenery, M. F., & Hammerman, W. (1985). Current practice in the evaluation of resident outdoor education programmes: Report of a national survey. Journal of Environmental Education, 16(12), 35-42.

Ewert, A. (1987). Research in experiential education: An overview.  Journal of Experiential Education, 10(2), 17-21.

Heimlich, J. E. (2007). Research trends in the United States: EE to ESD. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 1, 219-227.

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 Unpublished master's thesis, University of Canterbury, Canterbury, New Zealand.

McIntyre, N. (1990). Programme evaluation in outdoor education. In K. McRae, (Ed.) Outdoor and environmental education: Diverse purposes and practices (pp. 125-144). Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Macmillan.

Richards, G. E. (1997b). Outdoor education: How do we assess its value? In. Catalysts for Change: 10th National Outdoor Education Conference Proceedings Jan 20-24, pp. 243-254. Collaroy Beach, Sydney, Australia: The Outdoor Professionals.

Sakofs, M. (1991). An introduction to research for experiential educators. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 8(1), 24-25.

Simpson, R. P. (1983). Wilderness experience: How can we assess its value? Paper presented to the 3rd National Conference in Outdoor Education, Maroon, Queensland, Australia.