The Illusion of Competence: Increasing Self-Efficacy in Outdoor Leaders


  • Scott A. Schumann The University of Utah
  • Jim Sibthorp The University of Utah
  • Douglas Hacker The University of Utah


outdoor leadership training, self-efficacy, competence, metacognition


The development of self-efficacy from participation in adventure education is consistently viewed as a positive and desirable outcome. However, outdoor leadership training is a context in which self-efficacy enhancement should be approached with caution. Recent research outside the field of outdoor leadership and adventure education has called into question the assumption of a consistently positive relationship between increased selfefficacy and subsequent behavior. Self-efficacy beliefs can be overinflated and result in inappropriate selection of behaviors, acceptance of risk, and decreased performance. This has particular relevance for outdoor leaders because of the dire consequences associated in outdoor settings. Several conditions in outdoor leadership training may contribute to inflated or inaccurate self-efficacy beliefs. These include the overprovision of success, isolated lessons of instruction, and inadequately processed experiences. Solutions to the conditions which create outdoor leaders' illusions of competence include providing a balance of opportunity for failure and success, combining skills in lessons to accurately represent future contexts of application, and the adaptation of metacognitive monitoring interventions to improve students' interpretations of experience and competence.




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