The Developmental Value of Independent Student Expeditions in Outdoor Adventure Education for Emerging Adult-Aged Participants


  • Mike Riley Prescott College
  • Jim Sibthorp University of Utah
  • Shannon Rochelle National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)



Outdoor Adventure Education, Independent Student Expeditions, Autonomy, Outdoor Education Pedagogy, Youth Development



 Research has articulated the benefits of autonomy in outdoor programming (e.g., Chang, 2017), and the independent student expedition (ISE) is one type of autonomous experience that has received attention across the literature. Research suggests that ISEs have the potential to foster personal growth and promote group development (e.g., Daniel et al., 2014). However, the majority of research conducted on these experiences focuses on the outcomes of participation, and much of it has been conducted with adolescents under 18 years of age. As such, less is known about the developmental affordances ISEs offer emerging adults. The purpose of this study is to re-examine unaccompanied ISE experiences utilized during outdoor adventure education programming to identify the meaningful learning occurring during this course component for emerging adult-aged participants and investigate the pedagogical mechanisms present during ISE that foster growth and development for these individuals and help them realize important developmental milestones.


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