Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Outdoor education and achievement motivation

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Outdoor education and achievement motivation:
What is the effect of outdoor education on achievement motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

The great outdoors has long been said that is refocusses the mind and cleanses the soul, restarting the body for the coming stresses of life.

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Description of outdoor education[edit | edit source]

Outdoor education has many different meanings, however generally it’s the teaching of a new skill in an outdoor environment[factual?]. Outdoor education can also be understood as the "use of adventure, risk and challenge to enhance participant learning and skill acquisition" (Parkin & Blades, 1998). This could be in relation to hiking a certain distance, completing a scavenger hunt activity utilising a variety of skills or simply trying a new activity that was considered daunting before, like horse riding (Becker et al., 2017). The main aim of these education sessions is to push perceived limits of a person and open them up to new possibilities. A descriptive definition was coined by Hayashi and Ewert (2006), stating outdoor education as "an area within experiential education that involves purposefully taking individuals/groups into the outdoors for: recreation or education; teaching skills; problem solving; ensuring group/individual safety; judgement making; and facilitating the philosophical, ethical, and aesthetic growth of participants.".

Figure 1. Example of individuals hiking a certain distance outdoors, an outdoor educational experience.

An article by Becker and colleagues (2017) created this concept for positive outdoor education experiences. They explain that everyone operates within a psychological construct called the “green zone”, this zone is the ideal area in which to push people in their limits. If you push someone outside of this green zone then the likeliness of the session becoming counterproductive is increased, similarly if you do not push someone hard enough[missing something?]. The area within the Green Zone is the ideal setting in which people can challenge themselves in a manner in which they fell tested and yet comfortable with their new limits. This leads onto a different concept[vague]. Outdoor education looks to put someone out of the comfort zone in order to surpass their previously constructed limits, and breakdown fears of untried or daunting tasks. An article by Mutz and Müller (2016) provided a definition for Outdoor Education, this being that it must be set in an unfamiliar outdoor environment, must take part in small social groups that consist of experienced skilled instructors, and must consist of challenging activities. other sources have different variations of this definition, stating social group size does not always need to be small and the environment does not need to be in an unfamiliar location. This article does not address the intensity of the environmental stressor, but the common theme revolves around the need to be in an unfamiliar environment that disturbs the participant’s calm state of self.

Description of achievement motivation[edit | edit source]

An apt definition of achievement motivation was coined by Nicholls (1984). Nicholls described achievement motivation as: "Achievement behaviour is defined as behaviour directed at developing or demonstrating high rather than low ability. It is shown that ability can be conceived in two ways. First, ability can be judged high or low with reference to the individual's own past performance or knowledge. Second, ability can be judged as capacity relative to that of others."

The basic concept of Achievement Motivation is the perceived ability to achieve completion of a task (Weiner, 1985), whether that be a basic need like satiating hunger, or a more complex reason like taking part in a challenging activity in order to feel a deeper sense of fulfilment and accomplishment (Harackiewicz et al., 1997). It is one of our most basic drives to achieve something positive in life, it’s the base feeling of us challenging societal norms, or challenging the sciences (Elliot & McGregor, 1999). There are multiple factors that influence our perception to complete a task. Influences like task difficulty, perceived ability, confidence, willingness to complete the task and the perceived return upon completing the task all contribute to our motivation to complete a task. The two major components of achievement motivation revolve around both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, our perception of our ability is an internal process that helps us determine whether we want to strive to complete a task or if we are happy living within our predetermined means. Extrinsic motivations are our perceived possible rewards resulting from completing the task at hand. The quality in which we complete tasks is also determined by our motivation to complete the task, if we do not seeing a clear and engaging reward, there is a greater chance that we will not complete the task to the best of our ability. Several different theories can be implemented into[awkward expression?] achievement motivation methodology as they all play a role in self-belief, or in extrinsic influences altering our perception of a task.

As everyone is different, and reacts to stimuli in different ways, it becomes increasingly harder to measure a person’s reaction to a particular stimuli. This poses a significant issue when measuring achievement motivation to an accurate standard. Testers cannot determine whether a person is genuinely passionate about completing a task, similarly as there are multiple factors affecting achievement motivation, it becomes even harder as scientists cannot properly skew results as per external influences.

How much do social factors influence impact achievement motivation?[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Extrinsic motivation vs intrinsic motivation

Social factors are a significant factor into the initial motivation of someone to complete a task (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). The question of how much does this influence is then brought to the surface. As outdoor education is predominantly a group activity, and in some cases has been specifically classified as so (Mutz & Muller, 2016), social influences must be considered. Another question is, in what way does social influence affect an individual's motivation to complete a task? A possible theory could be that the result of social influences is based upon the initial thought of the person about the task, whether positive or negative and is then exacerbated by social influences. Similarly, if the subject has not taken part in the activity previously, social influence could become more important as they base their opinion on the general mood of the group, or the previous experiences of others in the group. The resulting positive or negative feeling would then affect the manner in which the participant takes part in the activity. If someone expresses a negative opinion about an activity before starting, then that could result in others taking upon that feeling and therefore lessening their motivation to participate.

The practical problem to solve[edit | edit source]

The major issue to be addressed is the need to increase our motivational levels to a level that is conducive to a healthy environment. A fantastic way in which to increase our motivation levels is to take part in physical activity, more specifically taking part in outdoor education activities[factual?]. Outdoor education provides a fantastic opportunity to build on someone’s motivation and really push the limits of what they think they can do and open new possibilities. This could revolve around activities such as hiking, horse riding, or orienteering.

Multiple benefits have come out of being in the outdoors, and learning how to deal with different situations, so it is clearly worthwhile (Maller, Townsend, Pryor, Brown, & St Leger, 2006).

With children becoming more and more focused on technology (McCurdy et al., 2010), it’s fair to say that the outdoors is becoming less and less important. Thus, leading to a lack in physical skill development. Outdoor education can combine a lot of skills together, it can provide an ideal circumstance to push someone to unknown limits. This situation is paramount in children and adolescents. It’s no secret that children and adolescents face significant social issues as they progress through their schooling life, resulting in lower sense of self, and a lack of motivation. This lack of motivation can seep into different areas such as schooling life through an unwillingness to try new things, or simply not wanting to try something for fear of social ostracism. Also, into other areas, where children are not willing to try new activities, because they are too afraid to fail. This feeling can become increasingly exacerbated through adult life and have possibly detrimental effects.

Does sedentary behaviour have a negative impact on our health?[edit | edit source]

This increasing sedentary life raises a question relating to our motivation levels: Does a sedentary life have a negative effect on our health? Initial observation would state “yes” we are more ok with sitting down and watching TV than getting out and doing exercise. This is seen in global obesity levels as the Australian institute of health and welfare reported a statistically significant increase in sedentary behaviour. Similarly, a study of American and Canadian adults reported an increase in television watching compared with previous years (Field et al., 2016). A study conducted by Gray and colleagues (2015) concluded that excessive sedentary behaviour had a positive correlation with unhealthy habits (excessive eating of unhealthy foods and a lack of physical exercise) and more favourable motivations to participate in sedentary behaviour (boredom, entertainment, family time).

Can we fix it?[edit | edit source]

The question stands, can we fix this issue? The simple answer is “yes”. Physical activity is a simple activity that can be completed anywhere. A study by Maller and Colleagues (2006) stated that nature is a vastly under-utilised source, simply put outdoor education can have a profound impact on our physical health, therefore improving out motivations, and helping us have an all-round healthier lifestyle.

The outdoors can help people redefine their limits and give them the confidence to try new activities. This is essentially done through pushing people outside of their comfort zone and testing their ability to think outside of their usual parameters.

Effects of outdoor education[edit | edit source]

Outdoor education has been reported on demonstrating increasing trends in its benefits towards mental health (Neill & Richards, 1998). As a result multiple meta-analysis' have been undertaken to review the results of multiple studies to determine the effectiveness of outdoor education and to ensure that the trends are properly monitored to ensure implications for practice are discussed. The result of these reviews demonstrate a small to moderate impact on commonly tested results, for example; self-concept, self-confidence and locus of control. Additional results have demonstrated that the yielded positive results were retained, and in some cases increased further. Granted this meta-analysis by Neill and Richards was conducted in 1998, additional measures and research may have been completed that tells a different story about the results of outdoor education, however it is good to know that these results exist in order to build a base for additional research. The most powerful results were yielded from outdoor education courses that were made up of certain criteria, these being: longer intervals of the course and involved adult aged participants. Research demonstrated that within the three meta-analysis that were reviewed roughly 65 percent of the participants were better off than those who did not participate. Whilst this figure is not conclusive of outdoor education being consistently beneficial, it does demonstrate a positive trend.

The effects of outdoor education provide a solid base for benefits relating to motivation. Improvements in physical ability, peer relations, confidence, self-efficacy, wellbeing and independence all relate to increases in motivation (Bénabou & Tirole, 2002). All of these factors have been found to be affected by outdoor education in a positive manner (Neill & Richards, 1998). Specifically focusing on children, research has been conducted identifying the benefits of outdoor education, however there are mixed results, some authors have professed a positive result (Berryhill & Prinz, 2003) while others do not identify any relevant improvements (Gustafsson et al., 2012).

Major theories of achievement motivation[edit | edit source]

Achievement motivation is a highly complex idea that has many determinants defining its result. On a general basis achievement motivation is affected by personal belief, perceived result and social encouragement. Several theories were created to explain this phenomenon, including: Expectancy-value Theory, Bandura's Self-Efficacy Theory, Attribution Theory, Achievement Goal Theory, Self-Worth theory and Leisure Motivation Research (Rabideau, 2005). The major theories include Bandura’s Self Efficacy Theory, Self-Expectancy Theory coined by Wigfield and Eccles, and Self Worth Theory by Thompson and colleagues.  

Bandura’s self efficacy model (1977, 1997)[edit | edit source]

This model has multiple dimensions in which it operates, they revolve around intrinsic motivations, and social motivations. The basic meaning of Bandura’s model evaluates the person’s confidence in completing a goal. This model has a pre action goal, meaning the basis of the decision if focused on what will happen before and during the action rather than what will happen after. Bandura broke down the dimensions into four areas, these being: Performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, verbal encouragement of others and physiological reaction. These factors determined how much effort would be input into the activity. These all add up to the yes or no answer to the question “can I do this?” and if your perception of the task is one you believe is in your means to complete then the answer is yes, if not then your motivation to complete may come up lacking.  

How is the model impacted by outdoor education?[edit | edit source]

As previously stated, outdoor education is set to challenge others and pull them outside of their usual living means, essentially to push preconceived boundaries of ability. By doing this, it will enable the person to know that their ability reaches much further than they thought possible, therefore their previously thought limitations are voided, and the person can then weigh up on a more truthful scale whether they can complete a task or not. This is essentially based on one’s confidence in their own ability to complete a challenge.

This state of confidence can influence someone’s motivation to complete a challenge by giving them the insight into what is possible. Through confidence that was accelerated from outdoor education challenges, a person can perceive the task as not very daunting, therefore increasing their likelihood of participating in the class and determining how much effort and how long they will act upon the task. Simply put, being confident in your own ability can help influence what you think is possible, and how long you are willing to attempt this challenge.

This mode of thinking can help to give people more motivation to complete tasks that were previously daunting simply because they were too hard. Now due to changes in ability previous challenges are now seen as easy.

Expectancy value theory – Wigfield and Eccles (2000)[edit | edit source]

Like Bandura’s model, The Expectancy value theory places a heavy focus on preconceived ideas of performance and social cognitions as a major determinant in completing a task. The expectancy value model emphasises previous experience as a major contributing factor when determining motivation levels for an activity. The concepts of affective memories and self-schema were noted within this model, emphasising an in-depth knowledge of self and boundaries. Compared to Bandura’s model that did not place as much emphasis on the self, rather balanced it out with external influences as well.

The in-depth sense of self has the potential to impact the motivation of someone in either a positive or negative manner. If a person has a strong belief in their ability to complete a task, in other words has positive self-schema then it is assumed that they will have a greater motivation to participate in new activities and test the unknown. However, oppositely if someone does not have a positive self-schema than the resulting motivation levels may be low.

How does the help motivation levels?[edit | edit source]

When relating this back to the practical problem at hand, trying to increase people’s motivation levels through outdoor education[grammar?]. It comes down to helping people find a positive self-schema about themselves and allowing that to give them the confidence in their ability to try new activities and push the boundaries of their perceived limitations. This is then a continuous occasion as people constantly redefine new limitations about their ability. This will then have a positive correlation to one’s motivation levels to try new things.

Self-worth theory[edit | edit source]

Self-worth theory (Thompson et al., 1995) focuses on previous experiences,[grammar?] if someone identifies failure as a likely outcome from previous encounters, then the chances of them not putting in a genuine effort is increased. This is due to preservation of self-esteem, allowing for a grey area of uncertainty to form in which they are not entirely sure if they can complete a task or not. This lack of effort allows a person to put the blame of failure on a lack of trying rather than on a lack of ability. Fear of Failure and success are not considered polar opposites in this theory, instead they interact in ways that lead people to underachievement due to fear of failure (De Castella, et al., 2013).

This theory has a high emphasis on perceived ability,[grammar?] a study was conducted by De Castella and colleagues (2013) where students were asked to perform impossible math equations that were labelled as moderately difficult and very difficult. The results showed that effort was not changed when attempting the moderately difficult problems.

This theory is based around one’s perception of their self-worth, with a significant emphasis on ability to complete tasks. This takes on a more social emphasis as opposed to Bandura’s model, or Expectancy value theory. A person’s image they choose to demonstrate to the world is critical in this theory, as it directly relates to feelings of self-worth and ability. Without ability self-worth plummets. When comparing this to outdoor education, self-worth theory does not mix well with developing motivation. The likelihood of someone trying new activities and genuinely trying is low if using this theory, the baseline need for people to try new things is a suitable belief in themselves to achieve a suitable level of completion of the activity. Outdoor education has been shown to increase self-confidence, however it does require stepping out of a comfort zone. The issue clear arises of which one comes first, self-confidence or outdoor education intervention? This question will need to be addressed in detail.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

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See also[edit | edit source]

Outdoor Education information

References[edit | edit source]

1.  Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191.

2.   Becker, C., Lauterbach, G., Spengler, S., Dettweiler, U., & Mess, F. (2017). Effects of regular classes in outdoor education settings: A systematic review on students’ learning, social and health dimensions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 485.

3.   Berryhill, J. C., & Prinz, R. J. (2003). Environmental interventions to enhance student adjustment: implications for prevention. Preventive Science, 4(2), 65-87.

4.   Bénabou, R., & Tirole, J. (2002). Self-confidence and personal motivation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(3), 871-915.

5.   De Castella, K., Byrne, D., & Covington, M. (2013). Unmotivated or motivated to fail? A cross-cultural study of achievement motivation, fear of failure, and student disengagement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 861.

6.   Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (1999). Test anxiety and the hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 628-644.

7.   Field, S. C., Lauzon, L. L., & Meldrum, J. T. (2016). A phenomenology of outdoor education leader experiences. Journal of Experiential Education, 39(1), 31-44.

8.   Gustafsson, P. E., Szczepanski, A., Nelson, N., & Gustafsson, P. A. (2012). Effects of an outdoor education intervention on the mental health of schoolchildren. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 12(1), 63-79.

9.   Gray, C., Gibbons, R., Larouche, R., Sandseter, E. B. H., Bienenstock, A., Brussoni, M., ... & Power, M. (2015). What is the relationship between outdoor time and physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and physical fitness in children? A systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(6), 6455-6474.

10. Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K. E., Carter, S. M., Lehto, A. T., & Elliot, A. J. (1997). Predictors and consequences of achievement goals in the college classroom: Maintaining interest and making the grade. Journal of Personality and Social psychology, 73(6), 1284.

11. Hayashi, A., & Ewert, A. (2006). Outdoor leaders' emotional intelligence and transformational leadership. Journal of Experiential Education, 28(3), 222-242.

12. Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P., & St Leger, L. (2006). Healthy nature healthy people:‘contact with nature’as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health promotion international, 21(1), 45-54.

13. McCurdy, L. E., Winterbottom, K. E., Mehta, S. S., & Roberts, J. R. (2010). Using nature and outdoor activity to improve children's health. Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care, 40(5), 102-117.

14. Mutz, M., & Müller, J. (2016). Mental health benefits of outdoor adventures: Results from two pilot studies. Journal of adolescence, 49, 105-114.Mental health can be described as the absence of mental disorders, but also more broadly as the state of subjective wellbeing, more closely the resistance to stress and anxiety.

15. Neill, J. T., & Richards, G. E. (1998). Does outdoor education really work? A summary of recent meta-analyses. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 3(1), 2-9.

16. Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological review, 91(3), 328.

17. Parkin, D., & Blades, G. (1998). Risk management and outdoor education: A practical approach to ensuring positive outcomes. Horizons, 66, 10-15.

18. Rabideau, S. T. (2005). Effects of achievement motivation on behavior. Retrieved from.

19. Thompson, T., Davidson, J. A., & Barber, J. G. (1995). Self-worth protection in achievement motivation: Performance effects and attributional behavior. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 598-610.

20. Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy–value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary educational psychology, 25(1), 68-81. 20. Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological review, 92(4), 548.

External links[edit | edit source]

Personality Research

Outdoor Education

The Best Kindergarten You've Ever Seen - Outdoor Education

Achievement Motivation Information

Albert Bandura information