Challenges to Field-Based Outdoor Research: Pitfalls and Possibilities


  • M. Deborah Bialeschki American Camp Association
  • Karla A. Henderson North Carolina State University
  • Benjamin D. Hickerson Pennsylvania State University
  • Laurie Brown University of Utah


theory, ethics, staff training, data collection


Research and evaluation in field-based outdoor settings are often needed to assess program outcomes and ascertain ways to improve programs as well as add to a broader body of knowledge. Although outdoor programs foster an array of important outcomes, research in these settings presents challenges. The purpose of this conceptual paper is to explore the pitfalls and possibilities of field-based outdoor research. Examples of some of the issues encountered in field-based outdoor research include: theory-testing in an applied setting, research that spans multiple sites, garnering support from program staff, Institutional Review Board approval and other ethics issues, designing effective staff training, the appropriateness of instruments in field-data collection, uncontrollable events on site, and the role of parents in longitudinal studies. In each of these areas an explanation of the possibilities and problems are articulated related to these issues.



Regular Papers