Neill 2008 Enhancing life effectiveness: The impacts of outdoor education programs

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  1. James Neill's educational psychology doctoral thesis on the life effectiveness outcomes of outdoor education programs is freely downloadable.


Two literature review chapters provide:

  1. A critical review of the theory and research on outdoor education programs pertaining to the mechanisms and effects of OE programs on personal development.
  2. A description of the theoretical notion of "life effectiveness" as a set of generic, learnable life skills.

Two research studies are then presented:

  1. Testing and further development of the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire as a practical tool for measuring the effects of personal development intervention programs and recommends an 8-factor, 24-item instrument (LEQ-H) on the basis of a series of exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses.
  2. A large, longitudinal, empirical study of the effects of outdoor education programs (mostly Outward Bound) on ~ 3,000 participants self-reported life effectiveness (the largest outdoor education study of its kind). The main results were that:
    1. Outdoor education programs were found to have moderately positive effects on five of the measured life effectiveness skills and small-moderate positive effects on the other three measured skills.
    2. There was some dissipation of the positive effects in the longer-term (~ 3 to 12 months later).
    3. 'Longer, more intense programs (approx. 3 to 4 weeks) with young adults were the most impactful (compared to shorter (approx. 6 to 10 day) programs for school students, families, corporate, and special (e.g., disability) programs). Variables such as participant's gender, age, group gender, and group size did not predict variance in the outcomes.
    4. Recommendations included:
      1. Further development of the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire
      2. To study more closely possible psychological process and mechanisms which may better predict personal and social development through outdoor education.


To access this doctoral dissertation:

  1. doc (full copy; 9.4 MB)
  2. pdf (full copy; 6.3 MB)

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia



Neill, J. T. (2008). Enhancing life effectiveness: The impacts of outdoor education programs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Faculty of Education, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia. Retrieved from Retrieved from

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