Instructor Influences on Student Learning at NOLS


  • Scott A. Schumann University of Utah
  • Karen Paisley University of Utah
  • Jim Sibthorp University of Utah
  • John Gookin National Outdoor Leadership School


National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), adventure-based education, behaviors, traits, student learning


Historically, adventure-based research and models have inadequatelydescribed the role of the instructor in the process of student learningof transferable outcomes. The purpose of this case study was to investigatethe influence of instructors from the National Outdoor LeadershipSchool (NOLS) on learning transferable outcomes from participationin adventure education. Qualitative data indicated studentsperceive instructors to influence learning through two major categories(a) instructor traits and (b) instructor behaviors. Data analysisyielded 11 subthemes describing the influence of the instructor. Salientinstructor traits included being patient, knowledgeable, empathetic,inspiring, and fun/entertaining. Influential instructor behaviorsincluded role modeling, providing feedback, providing formal curriculum,creating a supportive learning environment, managing risk,direct instruction/coaching, and using a “pet†quote or phrase. Variablesidentified in the present study are compared to existing modelsof student learning in adventure education. Implications and considerationsfor instructor practice, hiring practices, and staff developmentare discussed.



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