Sail Training: A Systematic Review


  • Manu Schijf 8pebbles
  • Pete Allison The Pennsylvania State University
  • Kris Von Wald The Pennsylvania State University



youth development, sail training, experiential learning, adventure, personal and social development


Starting around 2000, research activity about sail training increased such that there is now sufficient research on the subject to constitute a foundation upon which an emerging body of literature can be identified. The literature has the potential to be utilized to influence program design, policy, theory, and practice—a growing area of youth development practice. This systematic review of the current literature on sail training (post-2000) aims to (a) provide a single work for researchers and practitioners to consult for an overview of the current research on sail training; (b) perform a thematic analysis of the current trends for sail training research within the categories of demographic characteristics, research strategies, process, and outcomes; (c) quantify the greater discourse on sail training; and (d) suggest directions in which sail training research can go to build upon the current foundation. The main findings from this systematic review are that a limited set of methods are used in sail training research; participants experience a positive long-term effect in regard to personal and social domains; structured program design can lead to better specified outcomes; and the effects of demographic characteristics such as gender, age, or socioeconomic background remain unexplored. Much of the research is noncumulative and the related theoretical frameworks lack coherence. Subscribe to JOREL

Author Biographies

Manu Schijf, 8pebbles

Manu Schijf is is a business consultant, keen outdoor educator and an Ironman athlete.

Pete Allison, The Pennsylvania State University

Pete Allison is Associate Professor in Values and Experiential Learning at The Pennsylvania State University and The Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic

Kris Von Wald, The Pennsylvania State University

Kris Von Wald is Strategic Operations Director at the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, College of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University. 


*Allison, P., McCulloch, K., McLaughlin, P., Edwards, V., & Tett, L. (2007). The characteristics and value of the sail training experience. Edinburgh, UK: The University of Edinburgh.

Allison, P., Stott, T., Felter, J. & Beames, S. (2011). Overseas youth expeditions. In M. Berry & C. Hodgson (Eds.), Adventure education: An introduction (pp. 187-205). London, UK: Routledge.

*Allison, P., Von Wald, K. (2013). Enough about the outcomes … what about the process: Personal development and experiential learning. Journal of Outdoor Activities, 7, 24-29.

Alreck, P., & Settle, R. (1985). The survey research handbook. Homewood, IL: Irwin.

*Arbour, M. C. (2007). “I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship”: Building resilience and therapeutic community with the tall ship semester for girls (Unpublished master’s thesis). Smith College, Massachusetts, USA.

Bacon, S. (1983). The conscious use of metaphor in outward bound. Denver, Col.: Colorado Outward Bound School.

Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 1–44.

*Berman, N., Finkelstein, J., & Powell, M. (2004). Tall ships and social capital: A study of their interconnections. International Journal of the Humanities, 2, 2537-2545.

Bracken, B. A. (1992). Multidimensional self-concept scale: MSCS. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

*Capurso, M., & Borsci, S. (2013). Effects of a tall ship sail training experience on adolescents’ self-concept. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 15–24.

Cason, D., & Gillis, H. L. (1994). A meta-analysis of outdoor adventure programming with adolescences. Journal of Experiential Education, 17, 40-47.

*Chiu, C. (2012). An exploration of the potential changes to intercultural competence-related awareness and the attitudes of the sail training international trainees during the Tall Ships Race 2012 (Unpublished master’s thesis). The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.

*Cleland, R. (2011). Traveling to transformation: Assessing the impact and key aspects of transformation in an experiential sea-based travel program (Unpublished master’s thesis). McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. L. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Los Angeles, Calif.; London: Sage Publications, 2008.

Corti, L. (1993). Using diaries in social research. Social Research Update, March 1993.

DeLay, R. (1996). Forming knowledge: Constructivist learning and experiential education. Journal of Experiential Education, 19, 76–81.

Falk, I. & Guenther, J. (2006). Generalising from qualitative research: Case studies from VET in contexts. 15th NCVER conference. Mooloolaba, Queensland.

*Finkelstein, J., & Goodwin, S. (2005). Sailing into the future: Final report on ARC linkage research project. Sydney, Australia: University of Sydney.

Gilligan, C., Spencer, R., Weinberg, M. K., & Bertsch, T. (2003). On the listening guide: A voice-centered relational method. In P. M. Camic, J. E. Rhodes, & L. Yardley (Eds.), Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp. 157-172). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Gordon, S., Harvour-Smith, K., Hay, K., & Priest, S. (1996). Case study of “Blue Watch” on STS Leeuwin. The Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 13, 4–8.

Greenaway, R. (1997). Reviewing adventures: Why and how? Sheffield: NAOE, 1997.

*Grinkeviciute, K. (2013). The development of interpersonal trust and team cohesion in a newly formed group of adults during a seven day sail training programme (Unpublished master’s thesis). The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

*Grocott, A. C., & Hunter, J. A. (2009). Increases in global and domain specific self-esteem following a 10 day developmental voyage. Social Psychology of Education, 12, 443–459. doi:10.1007/s11218-008-9088-5

Harlen, W., & Crick, R. D. (2004). Opportunities and challenges of using systematic reviews of research for evidence-based policy in education. Evaluation and Research in Education, 18, 54–71.

Hattie, J., Marsh, H W., Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (1997). Adventure education and Outward Bound: Out-of-class experiences that make a lasting difference. Review of Educational Research, 67, 43-87.

*Hayhurst, J., Hunter, J. A., Kafka, S., & Boyes, M. (2015). Enhancing resilience in youth through a 10-day developmental voyage. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 15, 40. doi:10.1080/14729679.2013.843143

*Henstock, M. (2012). The effects of sail training on engagement with learning and education (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Western Sydney, Australia.

*Henstock, M., Barker, K., & Knijnik, J. (2013). 2, 6, heave! Sail training’s influence on the development of self-concept and social networks and their impact on engagement with learning and education. A pilot. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 32–46.

Higgins, S., Hall, E., McCaughey, C., Wall, K & Woolner, P. (2005). The impacts of school environments: A literature review. London: Design Council.

*Hindle, J. (2014). Survey into the effectiveness of R. Tucker Thompson sail training programs. (Unpublished manuscript). Opua, Bay of Island, New Zealand: R. Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust

Hopkins, D., & Putnam, R. (1993). Personal growth through adventure. London: D. Fulton, 1993.

*Hunter, J. a., Hayhurst, J., Kafka, S., Boyes, M., Ruffman, T., O’Brien, K., & Stringer, M. (2013). Elevated self-esteem 12 months following a 10-day developmental voyage. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, 1956–1961.

*Kafka, S., Hunter, J., Hayhurst, J., Boyes, M., Thomson, R. L., Clarke, H., Grocott, A. M., Stinger, M., & O’Brien, K. S. (2012). A 10-day developmental voyage: converging evidence from three studies showing that self-esteem may be elevated and maintained without negative outcomes. Social Psychology of Education, 15, 571–601.

Kalisch, K. (1979). Role of the instructor in the Outward Bound educational process. Kearney, NE: Morris.

Karatzias, A., Power, K. G., & Swanson, V. (2001). Predicting use and maintenance of use of substances in Scottish adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30, 465–484. Retrieved from

Lambird, K. H., & Mann, T. (2006). When do ego threats lead to self-regulation failure? Negative consequences of defensive high self-esteem. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 1177–87. doi:10.1177/0146167206289408

*Liu, Y. (2012). The impact of sail training on trainees’ self-efficacy, outcome expectations, personal goals and thoughts relating to future career choices and development (Unpublished master’s thesis). The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

Marsh, H. W., & O’Neill, R. (1984). Self Description Questionnaire III: The construct validity of multi-dimensional self-concept ratings by late adolescents. Journal of Educational Measurement, 21, 153–174. doi:10.1111/j.1745--3984.1984.tb00227.x.

*McCarthy, L., & Kotzee, B. (2010). Comparing sail training and land-based youth development activities: A pilot study (Unpublished pilot study). Retrieved from Accessed on on 13 June, 2014, from

*McCulloch, K. H. (2002). Four days before the mast: A study of sail training in the UK (Doctoral thesis, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK).

*McCulloch, K. H. (2004). Ideologies of adventure: Authority and decision making in sail training. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 4, 185–197. doi:10.1080/14729670485200531

*McCulloch, K. H. (2007). Living at sea: Learning from communal life aboard sail training vessels. Ethnography and Education, 2, 289–303. doi:10.1080/17457820701547286

*McCulloch, K., McLaughlin, P., Allison, P., Edwards, V., & Tett, L. (2010). Sail training as education: More than mere adventure. Oxford Review of Education, 36, 661–676. doi:10.1080/03054985.2010.495466

Merk, R. (2006). Klassenzimmer unter Segeln. Hamburg: Czwalina Verlag.

Pawson, R., Greenhalgh, T., Harvey, G., & Walshe, K. (2005). Realist review: A new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions. Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 10, 21–34.

Podsakoff, P. M., Organ, D. W. (1986). Self-reports in organizational research: Problems and prospects. Journal of Management, 12, 531-544.

Priest, S., & Gass, M. A. (2005). Effective leadership in adventure programming. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, 2005.

*Prijoan Vives, M. (2013). A fantastic world: Sail training as a transforming experience for young people from different countries (Unpublished master’s thesis). Retrieved from Accessed on 12/06/2014

Qiao, C., & McNaught, H. (2007). Evaluation of Project K. Wellingon, New Zealand: Ministry of Social Development.

Robson, C. (2011). Real world research: A resource for users of social research methods in applied settings. Chichester: Wiley.

Rogekberg, S., Luong, A., Sederburg, M. & Cristol, D. (2000). Employee attitude surveys: Examining the attitudes of non compliant employees. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 284-293.

Rowe, N., Dadswell, R., Mudie, C.,& Rauworth, M. (2014). Tall ships today: Their remarkable story. London, UK: Adlard Coles Nautical, Bloomsbury.

Sail Training International (2010). What is sail training? Retrieved from Accessed on 4/09/14.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2012). Research methods for business students. Harlow: Pearson.

Schofield, J. W. (1993). Increasing the generalisability of qualitative research. In M. Hammersley (Ed.), Educational research: Current issues (pp. 91–113). London, UK: Open University Press.

Suri, H., & Clarke, D. (2009). Advancements in research synthesis methods: From a methodologically inclusive perspective. Review of Educational Research, 79, 395–430. doi:10.3102/0034654308326349

Veevers, N., & Allison, P. (2011) Kurt Hahn: Inspirational, visionary, outdoor and experiential educator. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.

Watt, J. H. & van den Berg, S. A. (1995). Research methods for communication science. Portland, OR: Book News, Inc.

*Wojcikiewicz, S., & Mural, Z. B. (2010). A Deweyian framework for youth development in experiential education: Perspectives from sail training and sailing instruction. Journal of Experiential Education, 33, 105–119.

* Articles used as part of research data.





Regular Papers