Personal development through expeditions: Interim report

Peter Allison, R. Martindale, T. Stott, S. Gray, N. MacArthur, J. Wang

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


A key aim of many expeditions is to facilitate personal development, however, while there is much anecdotal evidence that this is the case, there is less empirical work that explores the exact nature of such benefits. As such, this exploratory study examined three summer BES expeditions (Norway, Namibia & Amazon) on 122 young people (aged between 16 and 22) using mixed methods methodology. Open ended and likert scale survey questions (on line) and interviews were used alongside the measurement of four psychological attributes associated with effective character development and motivation – mental toughness, coping skills, GRIT and leadership skills. Surveys were filled out at 3 stages; 1) pre expedition, 2) immediately post expedition and 3) three months post expedition, with interviews completed post final survey. Results indicated that the expeditions impacted positively on the psychological attributes of young people, with lasting effects. Specifically, the quantitative analysis revealed a significant difference and large effect size for increased ‘use of coping strategies’ (P< 0.05; ηp2 .29) and large effects were also found for improved leadership (ηp2 .23), GRIT (ηp2 .17) and mental toughness (ηp2 .16). Furthermore, data suggested there might be a differential impact of 5-week over 3-week expeditions. However, due to the exploratory nature of this work and the small numbers involved in analysis, interpretation needs to be taken with caution and further work is advised.
Qualitative data indicated that young people experienced enriching expeditions and were positive about the science, adventure and social elements of the expeditions in particular.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh
Commissioning bodyThe University of Edinburgh
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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