Learning from and with each other: Outdoor leaders' views on personal growth and well-being through expeditions with at-risk populations

Jule Hildmann (Lead Author), Seamus Hoyne, Simon White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This empirical study is part of the international research and knowledge exchange project 'From Outdoors To Labour Market' (FOLM), using 5- to 8-day wilderness expeditions to promote personal skills for employability in young adults. 25 FOLM outdoor leaders in Scotland/UK, Ireland, Spain, and Poland were interviewed on a range of topics. The data presented in this article addresses their views on what (a) the participants, and (b) they themselves gain from these expeditions. The responses on how participants profit from the courses, and what factors were crucial to their growth are in line with existing research. In addition, the relevance of a socio-emotional 'safe space' for learning is evident in the data.
Comparing the effect of the outdoor courses on participants versus leaders, findings suggest that both groups glean positive effects for their well-being through having a sense of purpose and of being valued. However, there is a distinct difference in the time frame: Participants seem to gain a positive sense of self (worth) and agency from micro-interactions with the leaders and fellow participants, while these can be strenuous on the leaders. Leaders in turn draw a sense of worth and job satisfaction from the longer-term perspective of contributing to someone's life and growth progress.
The findings can be used to inform program design of outdoor courses, and in the training of outdoor leaders. Future research into safe space and the dialogic nurturing of well-being is suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-212
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2020
EventAORE - AEE Conference 2019: Learning Exhibition - A prescription for better health and wellness - Spokane, WA, Spokane, United States
Duration: 13 Nov 201915 Nov 2019


  • expedition
  • wilderness journey
  • personal and social growth
  • outdoor leadership
  • self-concept
  • agency
  • safe space


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