Psychological Aspects of OE

Outdoor Education & Self Constructs
(self-esteem, self-confidence, self-efficacy & self-concept)

James Neill
Last updated:
16 Oct 2005

Outdoor Education & Self Constructs

Enhancing self-constructs is currently a common goal of outdoor education programs (Ewert, 1989; Royce, 1987).  Previously (1940's-1970's), development of values, character, attitude, motivation, and delinquent behavior were the most popular aims.

A useful classification of objectives associated with outdoor education in the affective domain, in relation to self, was developed by Royce (1987):

'Finding Out' about Self Evaluation of Self Development of Self
Self Awareness Self Confidence Self Development
Self Discovery Self Assurance Personal Development
Self Knowledge Self Esteem Character Training
Self Confrontation Self Respect Character Building
  Self Worth Character Development
    Self Realisation
    Self Actualization
    Self Discipline
    Self Help
    Self Expression

The most commonly measured constructs in outdoor education are 'Evaluation of Self' constructs, particularly self-esteem and self-concept.  Interestingly, research has found that outdoor education programs with a clear focus on personal development have, on average, small to moderate positive impacts on self-constructs, whereas programs without a self-development philosophy tend to have negligible impacts (Hattie, et al, 1997; Marsh, P. E., 1999).

The most extensive studies and reviews of research literature on the effects of outdoor education on self-constructs have been by Ewert (1982a, 1982b, 1989, 1990, 1991), Hattie, et al, (1997), Marsh, Richards and Barnes (1986a, 1986b), and Marsh, P. E., (1999)

Related Links


Ewert, A. (1982a).  A study of the effects of participation of an Outward Bound short course upon the reported self-concepts of selected participants [Abstract].  Dissertation Abstracts International, 43(09), p. 3111.

Ewert, A. (1982b). Outdoor adventure and self-concept: A research analysis. Unpublished manuscript, University of Oregon, OR.

Ewert, A. (1989). Outdoor adventure pursuits: Foundations, models, and theories. Columbus, OH: Publishing Horizons.

Ewert, A. (1990). Revisiting the concept of self-esteem through outdoor experiential activities. Journal of Experiential Education, 13(2).

Ewert, A. (1991). Revisiting the self-concept: A new twist on an old subject. Journal of Experiential Education, 14(1).

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.

Marsh, H. W., Richards, G. E., & Barnes, J. (1986a). Multidimensional self-concepts: The effect of participation in an Outward Bound program. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 195-204.

Marsh, H. W., Richards, G. E., & Barnes, J. (1986b). Multidimensional self-concepts: A long-term follow-up of the effect of participation in an Outward Bound program. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 509-528.

Marsh, P. E. (1999). What Does Camp Do for Kids? A Meta-Analysis of the Influence of Organized Camping Experience on the Self Constructs of Youth. Unpublished Master of Science Thesis, Department of Recreation and Park Administration, Indiana University, IN.

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

Royce, D. (1987). Adventure experience and affective learning: Where are we going? Journal of Adventure Education, 4, 12-14.