Resilience & outdoor education: Overview of theory, research and
(James Neill, 2004, Keynote presentation to the 1st Singapore Outdoor
Developing psychological resilience is one of the
most relevant applications of outdoor education in the
increasingly sedentary 21st century Western societies. This presentation explores
theory, research and practice about the promising extent
to which outdoor education can boost resilience.
Resilience & outdoor education
Building psychological resilience is an underlying intention of
"development-by-stress" or "stress inoculation" training philosophies, such as
as in outdoor
education programs. Kurt Hahn referred to the difficult, challenging
nature of Outward Bound courses, for example, as a double-edged sword that
cut and healed the participant even stronger. Think about it – how often do
you see in photos of indigenous tribespeople, that they have scars or
tattoos from initiation rituals. To become resilience, we need to engage in experiences which cut us mentally and
physically, but experiences which leave us stronger for the experience.
Research on resilience & outdoor education
Many of the self-related constructs that appear to be enhanced through
outdoor education are generally thought to closely related to
including hardiness, self-confidence, and self-efficacy (Hattie,
Marsh, Neill, & Richards, 1997).
In addition, studies by
Neill and Dias (2001) and
Skehill (2001) have investigated and found
mixed results about the effects of outdoor education programs on psychological resilience.
Neill and Dias found substantial enhancements of psychological resilience
through three week Outward Bound Australia programs for young adults.
On the other hand,
Skehill found no impacts of an extended stay outdoor education program for
high school students in Australia.
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,
Neill, J. T. (2003).
Resilience and outdoor education. Keynote presentation to the 1st
Singapore Outdoor Education Conference, Dairy Fair Adventure Centre,
Singapore, November 5-6.
Neill, J. T., & Dias, K. L. (2001).
Adventure education and resilience: The double-edged sword. Journal
of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1(2), 35-42.
Skehill, C. M. (2001). Resilience, coping with
an extended stay outdoor education program, and adolescent mental health.
Unpublished Honours thesis, University of Canberra, Australia.