Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

A Project Hahn Empirical Replication Study

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

A Project Hahn Empirical Replication Study

Article excerpt


The current study investigated affective and cognitive outcomes at pre, post and follow-up of 79 male and female Project Hahn wilderness program participants referred to the program through various agencies involved with employment, education, justice and welfare. The recurrent institutional design and selection of measures were based on an earlier empirical study by Sveen and Denholm (1997). Major findings include significant long-term effects reflecting greater participant self-actualisation (ES of .49) and decreased hopelessness (ES of .55). There was a more transitory increase in existential wellbeing. Police recidivist data indicated that 42 of 56 youth who had prior convictions did not re-offend in the two years following the wilderness intervention. Of 23 youth without prior convictions, 8 received convictions in this period. Overall, the study supports the continuing value of wilderness programs for at-risk youth.


Well-conducted empirical outcome research is rare in the field of outdoor education and experiential learning. The literature indicates that the current understanding of adventure education outcomes is based largely on theory rather than empirical research (McKenzie, 2000). Even more rare is replication research of empirical studies, a key point in empirically supported treatments (Newes, 2001). A critical task for research is to establish the relative efficacy of adventure programs. As Neill (2003) suggests, a comparison of a program's effect sizes with meta-analytic benchmarks will provide useful comparative information about program efficacy. On the basis of this brief, this paper will attempt to demonstrate the use of an empirical program evaluation to offer more robust evidence of the psychological benefits of wilderness programs, and how the replication process using refined research techniques also leads to more accurate and comparative judgements about changes in participants' wellbeing.

The original study

Sveen (1995; Sveen & Denholm, 1997) investigated Project Hahn, a wilderness program for adolescent offenders and others at risk of such behaviours, using the Recurrent Institutional Design (RID). Campbell and Stanley's (1966) quasi-experimental recurrent institutional cycle design was chosen as the most suitable design for this type of study due to its application to situations where a given aspect of an institutional process is on a cyclical schedule, continually being presented to a new group of respondents. The recurrent institutional research design combines the longitudinal (i.e., post- minus pre-scores--growth-oriented) and the cross-sectional (i.e., first group post minus the following group scores--behaviour difference) approaches commonly employed in developmental research. Campbell and Stanley (1966) recommend creating experimental and control groups from among self-selected participants in novel programs by manipulating waiting periods.

The Sveen and Denholm (1997) investigation was rigorous in that qualitative and quantitative aspects of Project Hahn were examined from a theoretically driven methodology aimed at the causes of adolescent risk (Dryfoos, 1990). From qualitative observational data, Sveen presented evidence suggesting Project Hahn could be conceptualised into the various components and aspects of a theoretical eclectic model (Walter & Marks, 1981). He then proceeded to perform a quantitative analysis measuring program efficacy at post and follow-up program stages using measures that corresponded to aspects of the eclectic theoretical model. Instruments included measures of social, personal and general self-esteem (The Culture Free Self Esteem Inventory--CFSEI) (Battle, 1992), self-actualisation (Self Actualisation Index--SAI) (Jones & Crandall, 1986), and body shape acceptance (Body Attitude Scale--BAS) (Rosen & Ross, 1968). Behavioural measures of education, employment and recidivism were also included. …

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