Purpose – This paper aims to evaluate the perceived efficacy of outdoor groupwork skills programmes for the undergraduate and postgraduate students, and the factors that influence its success. It also illustrates the use of Kirkpatrick’s (1994) 4-level model of training evaluation as a framework for qualitative investigation of learning and transfer, from the perspective of key stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach – Over 24 hours of recorded data were collected using a video diary room, one-to-one interviews and focus group discussions. Participants were current students ( n = 66), alumni ( n = 12), outdoor education instructors ( n = 6) and academic staff ( n = 5). The data were transcribed, and then analysed by conducting conventional content analysis. Prolonged engagement, triangulation, peer debriefing and referential adequacy were used to establish the trustworthiness and reliability of the analyses. Findings – Outdoor groupwork skills programmes were widely viewed as being effective for developing interpersonal skills, attitudes and knowledge that were then further developed and applied during degree courses and later in the workplace. Four of the main perceived benefits were increased social integration amongst peers, academic success, personal development and employability. A range of psychological and environmental factors were reported to influence the extent of skill development and transfer, and are presented in the Model for Optimal Learning and Transfer. Practical implications – This study supports outdoor groupwork skills programmes as an effective method of groupwork skills training during higher education, and offers recommendations for promoting learning and transfer following training courses. Originality/value – This is the first study to systematically evaluate the long-term impact of outdoor groupwork skills programmes in higher education. A novel methodological approach is also demonstrated, which can be replicated in other contexts of training evaluation.
European Journal of Training and Development – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 16, 2015