Fostering Self-Directed Learning in College Age Students through Wilderness Semesters


  • Jim Sibthorp The University of Utah
  • Rachel Collins The University of Utah
  • John Gookin National Outdoor Leadership School
  • Mandy Pohja National Outdoor Leadership School


“Learning can be valuable.†“Learning can be fun.†For most people, these two statements are easily accepted. And combing these two descriptors, “Learning can be both valuable and fun,†is not controversial. Yet, it is also apparent that learning is not always both valuable and fun. We have all willed ourselves to study, memorize, and apply educational content that might charitably be considered irrelevant. We have also learned skills and content that have little to no practical value, yet were fun and interesting to discover. Fortunately, in the best situations, we experience learning that is both valuable or relevant and fun or enjoyable. This combinatory learning experience affords a number of benefits and learning in this state can be energized and sustained by either willpower or intrinsic interest. That is, the energy that is necessary for learning can be fueled by willful effort, by intrinsic interest, or by both simultaneously.