Cranbrook Study Proves Outward Bound Tops The Class in Student Development

Cranbrook partners with Outward Bound Australia for the delivery of its outdoor experiential learningprograms. The school sends students from Year 7 to 10 on an Outward Bound course every year. More than 500 boys participate starting at a relatively young age in Year 7 and continuing through courses that increase in challenge and seriousness to Year 10.

The study – the first to follow outcomes over a four year period – shows the boys develop slowly in Year 7, then gather speed through Year 8 and 9 before emerging with life skills that are literally off the scale of academic measurement at the conclusion of their Year 10 course. Cranbrook’s Year 10 students notched scores well above those anticipated by the scale of measurement, achieving results in the 150% range for improvements in most life skill areas.


Cranbrook Group

Click here to read the full report

In 2008, Outward Bound Australia launched a new Research and Evaluation project that sought to measure the impact of Outward Bound programs on the communities represented by our participants. The National Aspiring Leaders Summit was selected as the program through which to develop new evaluation tools and trial the methodology. This program and associated research is funded by the Westpac Foundation. The evaluation trials will be conducted over three years from 2008 to 2010.

Evaluation of long-term program impacts

Outward Bound engaged heavily in research throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Work conducted by James Neill and Garry Richards, especially the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire, has become one of the leading evaluation tools for the outdoor industry both in Australia and throughout the world. This tool has been effective in measuring the impact of a program on student self-perception from the beginning to the end of the program.

Outward Bound Australia has more recently turned its attention to understanding the long-term impact of the Outward Bound experience on individuals and communities over time. We began with a literature review exploring elements of citizen engagement in community. We became interested in five dimensions that we believed our programs could have an impact: human capital, self-efficacy, motivation, community participation, and community support.

  • Human Capital - Cognitive skills, knowledge, training and other personal skills and resources of people in the community.
  • Self-efficacy - Individual’s belief that they can succeed at something they want to do.
  • Motivation - Incentive for taking action.
  • Perceived level of support - Individual’s perceptions of the level of support provided by the community for projects.
  • Community Participation - Citizen involvement in the community.

The National Aspiring Leaders Summit

Outward Bound began to deliver its Aspiring Leaders program in 2002 with positive responses from the communities we engaged with. In 2007, we scaled this program to a national level bringing twenty-eight young Australians from around the country to our National Centre in Tharwa, ACT. Over the past two years we have implemented this program design with positive feedback from our participants. We piloted this new evaluation methodology for the first time in 2008. The evaluation included both surveys allowing us to draw quantitative data, and phone interviews to gather feedback from the participants and their supporters.

The results of the pilot recommended a variety of things for us to consider including how we can improve the program, the evaluation methodology and the kinds of supports that we can provide the young people on their return to their community. The evaluation process will be run again throughout 2009 and 2010.

Click here to read more about the program and find out about some of the young people's projects . 

How we are impacting the community

At this stage of the pilot, it is difficult to draw any strong quantitative conclusions about the impact of the program on participant communities. The Community Action Projects varied in scale and came under one of four main banners:

  • Environmental and conservation projects
  • Health and well-being project
  • Youth empowerment and community participation projects
  • Global or cultural projects

The most popular area was creating projects associated with mental health. Some were conducted individually, while other participants formed teams to conduct larger projects. Some were very local (i.e. school or church-based) while others were more global in their outlook. Interviews were conducted with 23 of the 28 participants, six-months into their project completion. At this time, 19 (82%) were still working on their original projects. Three participants had identified alternative projects to work on when they returned home. Five had identified a second project that they were working on in addition to their original project.

One of the most remarkable aspects is how the participants have maintained their motivation and commitment to their project, despite not having regular ongoing contact with their fellow participants. I recently received a call from one participant who one-year on is still working on his project – to organise a concert raising awareness of violence against young people in his community. Tim is now 18 years old and lives in a regional city which is over 1000 kilometers away from his nearest peer. Tim has so far managed to gain the support of his City Council, a local youth organisation, a local funder and a major Australian band. When I asked when he expected to complete the overall project, he quoted April 2010, two years beyond the completion of the Summit. Tim has also gone onto study Social Work, which he was inspired to do through participating in the Summit.

Cranbrook Report

Future research and evaluation on Community Impact

Outward Bound Australia will conduct this same evaluation over three years between 2008 and 2010. In early 2011 we plan to examine the results of this evaluation

Evaluation Tools

Click here to download the Planning and Evaluation Tools that we used.

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