Forty Years On: Just How Life Changing are School Expeditions?


  • Peter Allison Pennsylvania State University
  • Tim Stott Liverpool John Moores University
  • Clive Palmer University of Central Lancashire, UK
  • Maria-Jose Ramirez Pennsylvania State University



expeditions, educational value, personal and social development, long-term impact


Research in outdoor education and more specifically on wilderness expeditions has almost exclusively focused on short-term benefits (<5yrs) despite their findings suggesting these are “life-changing” experiences. This study examined long-term outcomes (40 years later) of three (month-long) adventurous school expeditions to mainland Europe, by staff and pupils from a high school (11- to 16-year-olds) in Scotland in the 1970s. The investigation was initiated by a call for life stories from 45 participants, followed by 10 interviews at a school reunion. The interviews revealed a transference of learning qualities attributed to the expedition, indicating a long-term impact on participants’ personal and/or professional lives, with individuals still drawing upon their expedition experiences some 40 years later. Significant themes emerging were planning and preparation, confidence, and feelings of gratefulness, which led to participants wanting to undertake service that contributes back into society for young peoples’ benefit. This study adds to the knowledge of long-range educational outcomes from school expeditions.

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Author Biography

Clive Palmer, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Clive Palmer is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport and Wellbeing at the University of Central Lancashire. An experienced teacher and researcher he was awarded his PhD on Aesthetic Evaluation in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics from Liverpool John Moores University in 2003. He has since written widely in socio-cultural areas of sport crossing philosophy, education and qualitative research. He is a strong advocate of research informed teaching and actively promotes opportunities to showcase student writing which communicates experiences and discoveries through the study of sport. Clive is Editor of The Sporting Image Series (2009 to date) and also the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies (2007 to date). His academic interests include gymnastics, ethnography, aesthetics and the philosophy of sport, physical education, sport’s pedagogy and outdoor education. Clive was appointed at UCLAN in 2008 to lead on a new UKCC Level 4 Masters degree in Elite Sport Coaching. Since then he has been Programme Leader on the BA Sports Studies and BA Coaching degrees. Alongside teaching in Sport and The Outdoors he has been instrumental in UG and PG degree programme design. He is also the School Research Coordinator and Research Degree Tutor for PG students - Supervising MAs, MPhil-PhDs and conducting Examinations.


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