Research Project 

Since 2013 Outward Bound Australia in conjunction with the University of Canberra have been measuring our social impact in a variety of ways. The research from this study will be released in due course. 

Please contact us HERE or call 1800 267 999 for more information on this project. 


Below are various international studies from several Outward Bound schools and trust’s around the world. We have also included outdoor education research articles, as well as relevant documents from selected philanthropic organisations. 


The theory underpinning Outward Bound’s social impact

Life’s challenges test young people’s resilience. Outward Bound Australia seeks to empower them with the skills and techniques to effectively face whatever challenges life may throw at them.

Formal education does not always effectively equip young people with the holistic skills they need to succeed in life; including resilience, understanding craftsmanship’s value, contributing positively to their community, developing compassion, seeking and sharing knowledge, as well as practicing leadership.

Outward Bound Australia’s programs challenge young people of all backgrounds to do things they wouldn’t normally do, in an environment they’re not familiar with, working with others to achieve certain goals. Being immersed in this kind of environment is inevitably challenging. When participants meet this challenge, they gain a sense of achievement and deepen their understanding of themselves and what they are capable of.

Our experiential model, developed during the Second World War to empower young soldiers and help develop leadership and teamwork, frequently leads to an increase in self-esteem, goal-setting and resilience.

Young people who participate in an Outward Bound Australia program discover, develop, and achieve their potential sooner, which benefits their whole community.  

 “More young people experience a holistic education that helps them to realise their potential at a critical developmental phase in their lives building a positive society as well-rounded, resilient, responsible and adaptable, passionate and compassionate people.”


Measuring outputs – Life Effectiveness Questionnaire

All Outward Bound Australia participants complete a 16 item self-report evaluation of their “Personal Life Effectiveness” to compare where they were at in the beginning and the end of the Outward Bound program.

This questionnaire measures the effectiveness of the program by comparing average questionnaire data between the start and end of the program. It has been widely used in academic research to measure the effectiveness of outdoor education programs (Neill, Marsh, Richards, 2003).

The LEQ measures changes in the following 8 domains:

  • Time Management:  Effective use of time
  • Social Competence:  Confidence and ability in social interactions
  • Achievement Motivation: Motivated to achieve excellence and put the required effort into action to attain it
  • Intellectual Flexibility: Adapts thinking and accommodates new information from changing conditions and different perspectives
  • Task Leadership:  Leads other people effectively when a task needs to be done and productivity is the primary requirement
  • Emotional Control:  Maintains emotional control when faced with potentially stressful situations
  • Active Initiative:  Likes to initiate action in new situations
  • Self Confidence:  Confidence in abilities and the success of actions

To support this data and add more dimensions to the change in participants’ behaviours and attitudes, Outward Bound also gathers feedback from accompanying adults, teachers and testimonials from participants themselves.

Measuring Long Term Outcomes

There is evidence that indicates the changes experienced on an Outward Bound Australia program are profound and transformative over the longer term.

To understand these longer term outcomes that an Outward Bound Australia program can have on a young person’s life trajectory, Outward Bound Australia is working with the consulting firm Social Ventures Australia.

With the help of Social Ventures Australia, Outward Bound hopes to:

  • Work with Dr. James Neil to implement a new measurement and evaluation Framework. This framework design was developed with academic rigour to ensure that the content is relevant to current thinking in outdoor education and broader research in the field.
  • Develop long-term alumni surveys linked to the LEQ to help evidence all medium – long term outcomes for all participants.
  • Obtain and analyse data collected by community partners who have long term access to participants.  



Benefits of Outdoor Education

Thurber, C., et al. (2007). Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience: Evidence for Multidimensional Growth. North Carolina: Springer Science

  • 3395 families had an “[increase in] Positive Identity, Social Skills, Physical & Thinking Skills, and Positive Values & Spirituality.”

Wilson, S. J., et al. (2007). Wilderness challenge programs for delinquent youth: a meta-analysis of outcome evaluations. Nashville: Vanderbilt

  • Overall reduction in delinquency outcomes – equivalent 8% reduction in recidivism

Garst, B. and Bruce, F. (2003). Identifying 4-H Camping Outcomes Using a Standardized Evaluation Process Across Multiple 4-H Educational Centers. Blacksburg: Journal of Extension

  • “identified multiple life skill benefits as a result of 4-H camp participation.”

Russell, K. (2001). Assessment of Treatment Outcomes in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare. Idaho: University of Idaho

  • “ [outdoor] programs led to a statistically significant reduction in the severity of behavioural and emotional symptoms.”

Neill, J. (2008). Meta-Analytic Research on the Outcomes of Outdoor Education. New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire

  • “small-moderate impact for typically measured outcomes such as self-esteem, behaviour problems, and teamwork.”

Hattie, J., et al. (1997). Adventure Education and Outward Bound: Out-of-Class Experiences That Make a Lasting Difference. Washington: American Educational Research Journal

  • 65% of participants were better off for having participated in outdoor education programs.

Gass, M. A., et al. (2003). The Long-Term Effects of a First-Year Student Wilderness Orientation Program. Boulder: Association for Experiential Education

  • “Participants felt the use of challenging activities in an outdoor environment combined with the use of reflection activities to assist participants when internalizing [sic] the impact of these experiences was critical to their growth”