Taking Off the Backpacks: The Transference of Outdoor Experiential Education to the Classroom


  • Cheryl Mason Bolick University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jocelyn Glazier University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Christoph Stutts Meredith College




experiential education, outdoor education, teacher education, professional development, community building, Outward Bound


Schools of education continue to struggle with how to best meet the needs of practicing teachers enrolled in graduate teacher education programs. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education designed a graduate teacher education program with an embedded outdoor education residency component to disrupt practicing teachers’ concepts of teaching with the intent of impacting their professional practice. This qualitative study reports the results of a multi-year investigation into the transference of the learning that occurs in the outdoor experiential education residency into teachers’ classroom communities. The experiential opportunities were designed to embolden the teachers to rethink community and to reinvent their teaching practice. The findings inform our understanding of the transference of outdoor experiential education as teachers took off their backpacks and returned to the K-12 classroom. Particularly evident in the data were the ways teachers’ own engagement in authentic community as part of the residency model influenced their efforts to create the same opportunities for their K-12 students and for themselves in their school communities. Our findings reveal images of possibility while also noting obstacles to transference.

Author Biographies

Cheryl Mason Bolick, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Associate Professor

School of Education

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jocelyn Glazier, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Associate Professor

School of Education

Christoph Stutts, Meredith College

Assistant Professor

Department of Education



Association for Experiential Education (AEE).(2013). Retrieved from: http://www.aee.org/what-is-ee

Authors (2018). Title omitted for blind review process.

Bacon, S. (1983). The conscious use of metaphor in Outward Bound. Denver, CO: Colorado Outward Bound School.

Barton, K.C., & Levstik, L.S. (2004). Teaching history for the common good. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Bastian, K.C., Fortner, C.K., Chapman, A., Fleener, M.J., McIntyre, E., & Patriarca, L.A. (2016). Data sharing to drive the improvement of teacher preparation programs. Teachers College Record, 118(12), 1-29.

Bell, C.A., Horn, B.R., & Roxas, K.C. (2007). We know it’s service, but what are they learning? Preservice teachers understandings of diversity. Equity and Excellence in Education, 40(2), 123-133.

Billig, S. H., Root, S., & Jesse, D. (2005). The relationship between quality indicators of service-learning and student outcomes: Testing the professional wisdom. In S. Root, J. Callahan, & S. H. Billig (Eds.), Advances in service-learning research: Vol. 5. Improving service-learning practice: Research on models that enhance impacts (pp. 97–115). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.

Blazar, D. & Kraft, M. (2019). Balancing rigor, replication, and relevance A case for multiple-cohort, longitudinal experiments. AERA Open, 5(3), 1-18.

Bobilya, A. J., Kalisch, K., Daniel, B, Coulson, E.R. (2015). An investigation of participants’ intended and actual transfer of learning following an Outward Bound wilderness experience. Journal of Experiential Education,7(2), 93 – 111.

Boyd, D.J., Grossman, P.L., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2009). Teacher preparation and student achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31(4), 416-440.

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). Explaining the short careers of high-achieving teachers in schools with low-performing students. The American Economic Review, 95(2), 166–171.

Bruner, J.S. (1960). The process of education. Cambride, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bryk, A.S., Sebring, P.B., Allensworth, E., Luppescu, S., & Easton, J.Q. (2010). Organizing school or improvement. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Burke, L.A. & Hutchins, H.M. (2007). Training transfer: An integrative literature review. Human Resource Development Review, (6),3, 263-296.

Castro, A.J. (2010). Themes in the research on preservice teachers’ views of cultural diversity: Implications for researching millennial preservice teachers. Educational Researcher, 39(3), 198-210.

Coburn, C.E. (2011). Collective sensemaking about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational evaluation and policy analysis, 23(2), 145-170.

Coburn, C.E. & Penuel, W.R. (2016). Research practice-partnerships in education: Outcomes, dynamics, and open questions. Educational Researcher, 45(1), 48-54.

Cochran-Smith, M., Maria-Villegas, A., Abrams, L., Chavez-Moreno, L., Mills, T., & Stern, R. (2015). Framing teacher preparation research: An overview of the field, part 1. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(1), 7-20.

Conrad D., & Hedin D. (1995). National assessment of experiential education: Summary and implications. In R. J. Kraft &. J. Kielsmeier (Eds.), Experiential learning in schools and higher education. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.

Cohen, D.K., & Mehta, J.D. (2017). Why reform sometimes succeeds: Understanding the conditions that produce reforms that last. American Educational Research Journal, 54(4), 644-690.

Daniel, S.M. (2016). Grappling with culturally responsive pedagogy: A study of elementary-level teacher candidates’ learning across practicum and diversity coursework experiences. Urban Review: Issues and Ideas in Public Education, 48(4), 579-600.

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R.C., & Johnson, C.M. (2009). Teacher preparation and teacher learning. In G. Sykes, B. Schneider & D. Plank, eds., Handbook of Education Policy Research. New York: Routledge.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York, NY: Collier Books.

Dover, A.G., Henning, G., & Agarwal-Ragnath, R. (2016). Reclaiming agency: Justice-oriented social studies teachers respond to changing curricular standards. Teaching and Teacher Education, 59, 457-467.

Farrell, C.C., Harrison, C. & Coburn, C.E. (2019). “What the hell is this and who the hell are you?”: Role and identity negotiation in research-practice partnerships. AERA Open, 5(2), 1-13.

Gass, M.A. (1985). Programming the transfer of learning in adventure education. Journal of Experiential Education, 8(3), 18-24.

Girvan, C., Conneely, C., & Tangney, B. (2016). Extending experiential learning in teacher professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education (58), 129-139

Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Glazer, J. (2018). Learning from those who no longer teach: Viewing teacher attrition through a resistance lens. Teaching and Teacher Education, 74, 62-71.

Glazerman, S., Isenberg, E., Dolfin, S., Bleeker, M., Johnson, A., Grider, M., & Jacobus, M.

(2010. Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction: Final Results from a Randomized

Controlled Study. (NCEE 2010-4027).

Glazier, J., & Bean, M. (2019). The promise of experiential education in teacher education:

Transforming teacher beliefs and practices. Teaching Education, 30, 261-277.

Goldhaber, D., Liddle, S., Theobald, R. (2013). The gateway to the profession: Assessing teacher preparation programs based on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 34, 29-44.

Hardre, P., Ling, C., Shehab, R., Nanny, M., Refai, H., Nollert, M., Ramseyer, C.,Wollega, E., Huang, S., Herron, J. (2018). Teachers learning to prepare future engineers: A systemic analysis through five components of development and transfer. Teacher Education Quarterly,45 (2) , 61-88.

Hill, H. C., Beisiegel, M., & Jacob, R. (2013). Professional development research: Consensus, crossroads, and challenges. Educational Researcher, 42(9), 476–487.

Holmes, J.J., Jabbar, H., Germain, E., & Dinning, J. (2018). Rethinking teacher turnover: Longitudinal measures of instability in schools. Educational Researcher, 47(1), 62-75.

Itin, C. (1999). Reasserting the philosophy of experiential education as a vehicle for change in the 21st century. Journal of Experiential Education, 22(2), 91-98.

Ives, B., & Obenchain, K. (2006). Classroom and academic outcomes: For those who want it all. Journal of Experiential Education, 29(1), 61-77.

Jones, N.D., Bettini, E., & Brownell, M. (2019). Competing strands of educational reform policy: Can collaborative school reform and teacher evaluation reform be reconciled? The Elementary School Journal, 119(3), 468-486.

Kane, T.J., Rockoff, J.E., & Staiger, D.O. (2008). What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Evidence from New York City. Economics of Education Review, 27(6), 615-631.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NY: Prentice Hall.

Labaree, D. (2006). The trouble with ed schools. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Lortie, D.C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

McDiarmid, G.W. & Caprino, K. (2017). Lessons from the Teachers for a New Era project: Evidence and accountability in education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Meyer, J.W., Rowan, B., & Meyer, M.W. (1978). The structure of educational organizations. Schools and society: A sociological approach to education, 217-225.

Milner, H.R. (2015). Scripted and narrow curriculum reform in urban schools. Urban Education, 48(2), 163-170.

Peck, C.A. & McDonald, M.A. (2014). What is a culture of evidence? How do you get one? And…should you want one? Teachers College Record, 116(3), 1-27.

Pollack, T.M. (2012). The miseducation of a beginning teacher: One educator’s critical reflections on the functions and power of deficit narratives. Multicultural Perspectives, 14(2), 93-98.

Raffan, J. (1995). Experiential education and teacher education. Journal of Experiential Education, 18(3), 117-119.

Roberts, J.W. (2012). Beyond learning by doing: Theoretical currents in experiential education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Scales, P.C., Roehlkepartain, E.C., Neal, M., Kielsmeir, J.C., & Benson, P.L. (2006). Reducing academic achievement gaps: The role of community service and service learning. Journal of Experiential Education, 29(1), 38-60.

Sibthorp, J., Furman, N., Paisley, K. Gookin, J., Schumann, S. (2011). Mechanisms of learning transfer in adventure education: Qualitative results from the NOLS transfer in adventure education: Qualitative results from the NOLS transfer survey. Journal of Experiential Education, 34 (2), 109-126.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory, procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Thibodeuax, A.K., Labat, M.B., Lee, D.E., & Labat, C.A. (2015). The effects of leadership and high-stakes testing on teacher retention. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 19(1), 227-249.

Thompson, J., Richards, J., Shim, S., Lohwasser, K., Von Esch, K., Chew, C., Sjoberg, B., Morris, A. (2019). Launching networked PLCs: Footholds into creating and improving knowledge of ambitious and equitable teaching practices in an RPP. AERA Open, 5(3), 1-22.

Wener, A., and T. Campbell. 2017. “The Theoretical and Empirical Basis of Teacher Leadership: A Review of the Literature.” Review of Educational Research 87 (1): 134–171.