Given today’s social milieu, there is no denying that the nature of the life experiences youth
are facing has drastically changed in recent decades. In this study, outdoor adventure
education (OAE) was explored as a possible intervention strategy for the development of
emotional intelligence during adolescence.
This research project consisted of a case study of an event, namely “The Journey”,
which is a 23-day outdoor adventure education programme for Grade 10 learners at a private
high school for boys in a major South African city. Through this research, which involved
collecting, analysing and interpreting data on the topic, an endeavour was made to explore the
possible impact of OAE on the development of emotional intelligence, as well as the
sustainability of skills acquired, and also on possible design elements that may impact on the
facilitation of the development of emotional intelligence.
This study was based on a socio-constructivist paradigm, which had developed from an
interpretivist world view. This research project represents a multi-method mode of inquiry:
both quantitative and qualitative data-gathering techniques were implemented as a process of
triangulation to provide a comprehensive analysis of the research problem. The research
proper (76 participants) was preceded by a pilot study (28 participants). For the research
proper, participants completed the Bar-On EQ-i: YV (Bar-On, 2007) questionnaire before
embarking on “The Journey” (pre) and again at its completion (post1). This was followed by
another post-test three months later (post2). Furthermore, 10 participants had also been
randomly selected to form part of a pre- and post- “Journey” focus-group interview and to provide reflective essays post- “Journey”. Another focus-group interview with selected staff
members was conducted post-“Journey”.
The identified themes generated from the quantitative and qualitative data collected
were as follows: emotional intelligence; outdoor adventure education; rites of passage;
“Journey” design elements; boarding; the emotional climate of the school; division based on
stereotypes; and sustainability of skills acquired.
In terms of emotional intelligence as a theme, the results indicated that participation in
“The Journey” not only results in an increase in the overall EQ skills of participants, but that
the impact also appears to be sustainable.1 As far as the impact of “The Journey” on the
various subskills of emotional intelligence is concerned, the findings revealed that there was
an increase in all EQ subskills directly after participation (quantitative and qualitative data).
However, the results of the research proper, where pre- and post2-“Journey” scores were
compared (quantitative data), suggest that increases were maintained in only three of the five
subskills mentioned, namely intrapersonal skills, adaptability and general mood. Thus it
appears that the initial increase in interpersonal and stress management skills did not have a