The Transfer of Expedition Behavior Skills from the National Outdoor Leadership School to Life Post-Course


  • Nate Furman Green Mountain College
  • Jim Sibthorp University of Utah


Empirical research in adventure education programs has determined that students may receive a number of potential benefits from participating in adventure programming, from an increase in self-efficacy to enhanced leadership ability to improved physical fitness (Hattie, Marsh, Neill, and Richards, 1997). Further, skills learned in adventure programs are thought to transfer to life post-course (Gass, 1999; Sibthorp, 2003), but significantly fewer studies have examined the transfer of such outcomes. This study sought to explore the transfer of expedition behavior skills learned during a 14-day adventure course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Expedition behavior (EB) is a term coined by Paul Petzoldt and used in many adventure education programs. Petzoldt, the founder of NOLS, explains “Good expedition behavior is an awareness of the relationships…which exist in the out-of-doors plus the motivation and character to be as concerned for others as one is for oneself†(Petzoldt, 1984, p. 168). For this study, EB is described as a behavior that is performed for the primary benefit of another person during a wilderness expedition. In addition, expedition behavior may be related to the psychosocial construct of prosocial behavior (e.g., Carlo & Randall, 2002). Commonly, expedition behaviors are described as a component of leadership, an essential component of working as a team, or as a means to encourage positive group dynamics (Gookin, 2006). NOLS courses feature six learning outcomes: leadership, outdoor skills, judgment and decision-making, communication, environmental awareness, and expedition-behavior. Prior research at NOLS has examined these six learning outcomes (Sibthorp, Paisley, & Gookin, 2007), specific outcomes such as self-efficacy (Propst & Koesler, 1997), transfer of environmental ethics (Hammitt et al., 1996), how student outcomes are learned (Paisley, Furman, Sibthorp & Gookin, 2008), and other outcomes of adventureexperiences.