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Research in Outdoor Education

Abstract

One of the key issues in the field of adventure education is determining the lasting value of adventure experiences after a program ends and participants return to life at home (e.g., McAvoy, Holman, Goldenberg, Klenowsky, 2006; Wolfe & Samdahl, 2005). While anecdotal reports regarding life-changing and transformative experiences through adventure program participation are common, very few studies have examined the impacts of adventure education programs months or years . after completion. One of the main challenges of documenting and studying learning transfer in adventure education, is that most of the transfer content and contexts would be termed "far transfer," which means that the content (what is transferred) and context (when and where the context is learned) of acquisition are distal from the content and context of application ( cf. Barnett & Ceci, 2002).

Much of the research on transfer in outdoor education has examined the retention of targeted program outcomes after· program completion. For example, Hammitt, Freimund, Watson, Brod, and Monz (1995) examined responsible environmental behavior after program participation, and Paxton and McAvoy (2000) looked at self-efficacy development and retention six months post­-program. Few studies have examined impacts years after program completion, and those that did examine this topic commonly used interviews with small samples. One such study examined the impact of a 35-day wilderness expedition three years post-course and reported that, while some lessons from the program did not apply easily, others did, including self-awareness, respect for different others, and ability to make changes and confront challenges (Miller, 2001). In another small sample study, Gass, Garvey, and Sugarman (2003) found that wilderness orientation participants attributed outcomes of challenging previous assumptions, stronger peer relationships, and general long-term positive impacts to program participation 17 year later. Therefore, the general aim of this manuscript is to examine the potential impacts of participation in an adventure education program years after program completion through a multi-method approach and adding a quantitative approach to the typical type of inquiry of learning transfer in adventure education.

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