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Research Findings about Outdoor Adventure Training for Corporate & Management Development

By May 23, 2010No Comments

Research Findings about Outdoor Adventure Training for Corporate & Management Development


Annotated list of studies


Annotated list of studies

This is an annotated list of research studies about corporate adventure training which are available on the web.  Feel free to suggest other studies.

  • The earliest available review of the effectiveness of outdoor managerial programs is by Chris Roland (1985).

  • During the 1990’s, Simon Priest conducted a series of studies testing different aspects of corporate adventure programs.  Much of Priest’s research measured outcomes using the Team Development Index.  Importantly, most studies involved a manipulation of program design variables, such as sequencing or facilitation technique.  Priest’s Corporate Adventure Training programs were mostly initiative and ropes challenge course based.

  • Two naturalistic doctoral theses from Lancaster University, England, have emphasized the powerful nature of outdoor management development experiences (Greenaway, 1995) and that participants’ experiences are characterized more by emotion than cognition (Donnison, 2000).  Both theses provide valuable overviews of the literature and qualitative insight into the phenomenon associated with actual programs in the UK.

  • In 1997, Hattie, Marsh, Neill and Richards published a large meta-analysis of the effects of adventure education and Outward Bound programs.  Six studies of the effects of management programs were included, one from the USA, and five from Outward Bound Australia (go to OBA research page).  Overall, 50 short-term effects were examine (i.e., approximately 8 effects were included from each study), and 32 long-term effects.  The main outcomes were those measured by the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire.  The short-term effect was a small to moderate positive effect size of .32, with an additional small group with an effect size of .08 during the follow-up period.  This suggests that these programs were moderately effective in their impacts on a broad range of personal and social development indicators.  These programs were mostly expedition-based, Outward Bound style.

  • A masters thesis from the University of New Hampshire, USA, has examined the bottom-line effectiveness of an experiential adventure program conducted through the Browne Center (Litterini, 2001).  There is very little other research on the question of bottom-line impact.  In fact, there is ethical debate (Hunt, 1990 – read an example ethical dilemma) about whether outdoor education should even have such goals without examining broader social and political issues.

  • Bill Krouwel (2003) wrote an article recently, reflecting on on the purposes and changes over time in the methods and styles of outdoor management development programs. (UK-oriented).

  • A good proportion of ropes challenge course research studies have been conducted on programs with corporate clients. (USA-oriented)

  • A few outdoor education programs and companies have produced reports about program effectiveness of their management programs (e.g., see the Outward Bound Australia Research Bibliography). (Australia/OB-oriented)

  • Also go to: Outdoor Training Books & Reviews and Outdoor Management Development Research Bibliography by Roger Greenaway.


Donnison, P. (2000).  Images of Outdoor Management Development: A synthesis of the literature and participants’ experiences on outdoor courses.  Unpublished doctoral thesis, Lancaster University, England.

Greenaway, R. (1995).  Powerful learning experiences in management learning and development. Unpublished doctoral thesis, Lancaster University, England.

Hattie, J. A., 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, 43-87.

Krouwel, B. (2003). From Lewin to lawnmower racing…Reflections on the current state of outdoor management developmentThe Institute of Training & Occupational Learning Journal.

Litterini, V. S. (2001).  An examination of perceived supervisory change to production rate, product rejection rate, and delivery efficiency. Unpublished Masters thesis, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.  AbstractFull thesis (.4mb)

Miner, T. (2002). Research and adventure-based training and development bibliography (1992-2002).  Outward Bound International Conference, Singapore.

Priest, S. (n.d.) Corporate Adventure Training (CAT) program studies. eXperientia.

Roland, C. (1985). Outdoor managerial training programs: Do they work?  The Bradford Papers Online

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