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NOLS Partnership Overview

Origin of the Partnership

The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) have maintained a productive, professional, and collegial partnership spanning more than 30 years. Beginning in 1980, the two schools signed a memorandum of understanding through which NOLS students would receive University of Utah credits for participating in their NOLS expedition. As part of this agreement, the PRT faculty began yearly reviews of NOLS curriculum and instructor qualifications. Today, the relationship between the two organizations is characterized by high quality outcomes including process-oriented research, educational exchange, and an annual scholarship provided to a PRT student to attend a NOLS course.

NOLS Background

NOLS is a wilderness education school, established in Wyoming in 1964 by mountaineer and educator Paul Petzoldt. NOLS’ mission is to be the “leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.” In 1964, during their first summer of operation, NOLS served 100 students in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. Today, over 4,000 students attend expeditions around the world annually, ranging from week-long wilderness adventures in the canyons of Utah to semester long programs around the world. NOLS curriculum focuses on leadership, judgment and decision-making, communication, small group behavior, outdoor skills, and environmental awareness. Students are most typically college-age, although professional, adult, and youth programs are popular as well.

Educational Exchange

The partnership between NOLS and PRT is served by educational exchange. Several members of the PRT faculty teach for NOLS. Kirk Nichols began working for NOLS in 1986 and continues to instruct each year, Jim Sibthorp regularly teaches NOLS adventure courses and Nate Furman taught for NOLS from 2001-2011. Throughout the years, a number of PRT graduate students and adjunct faculty have worked as NOLS instructors. 

NOLS Research Partnership

The partnership is also served through research. Led by Dr. Jim Sibthorp, and NOLS Education Director Liz Tuohy, a number of studies have been conducted on topics ranging from risk management to outcome achievement. Recent work has focused on the processes that lead to development and transfer of learning in adventure education.

Referred Journal Articles

  • Richmond, D., Sibthorp, J., Annarella, S., & Ferri, S. (2017). Complementing Classroom Learning through Outdoor Adventure Education: Out-of-School-Time Experiences that Make a Difference. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning. 10.1080/14729679.2017.1324313. Full Text Available
  • Collins, R., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2016). Developing ill-structured problem-solving skills through wilderness education. Journal of Experiential Education. DOI:10.1177/1053825916639611.  Full Text Available
  • Schumann, S. & Sibthorp, J. (2016). Improving the accuracy of outdoor educators teaching self-efficacy beliefs through metacognitive monitoring. Journal of Experiential Education. DOI: 10.1177/1053825916640540.  Full Text Available
  • Richmond, D., Sibthorp, J., Jostad, J., Pohja, M., & Gookin, J. (2016). Social dynamics in outdoor adventure groups: Factors determining peer status.  Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership. 8(1). 41-56. DOI: 10.18666/JOREL-2016-V8-I1-7283.  Full Text Available
  • Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., & Gookin, J. (2015). The adolescent social group in outdoor adventure education: Making social connections that matter. Research in Outdoor Education. 13. 16-37.  Full Text Available
  • Sibthorp, J., Collins, R., Rathunde, K., Paisley, K., Schumann, S., Pohja, M., Gookin, J., & Baynes, S. (2015). Fostering experiential self-regulation through outdoor adventure education. Journal of Experiential Education, 38(1), 26-40. doi:10.1177/1053825913516735  Full Text Available
  • Schumann, S. & Sibthorp, J. (2014). The development and scaling of the Teaching Outdoor Education Self-Efficacy Scale. Journal of Research in Outdoor Education, 12, 80-98. doi:10.7768/1948-5123.1217  Full Text Available
  • Paisley, K., Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., Gookin, J., Rajagopal-Durbin, A. (2014). Considering students’ experiences in diverse groups: Case studies from NOLS. Journal of Leisure Research, 46(3), 329-341. Full Text Available
  • Schumann, S., Sibthorp, J. & Hacker, D. (2014). Illusion of competence: Increasing self-efficacy in outdoor leaders. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 6(2), 97-113. doi:10.7768/1948-5123.1174  Full Text Available
  • Furman, N. & Sibthorp, J. (2014). The development of prosocial behavior in adolescents: A mixed methods study from NOLS. Journal of Experiential Education, 37(2), 160-175. doi:10.1177/1053825913489105 Full Text Available
  • Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., & Paisley, K. (2013). Understanding groups in outdoor adventure education through social network analysis. The Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 17(1), 17-31. Full Text Available
  • Collins, R., Sibthorp, J., Gookin, J., & Schumann, S. (2012). The role and importance of program quality in outdoor adventure programs for youth: Examining program quality indicators as predictors of outcome achievement among NOLS participants. Research in Outdoor Education, 11, 28-46. Full Text Available
  • Waage, T. & Paisley, K. (2012). Understanding the contribution of wilderness based educational experiences to the creation of an environmental ethic in youth. Research in Outdoor Education, 11, 18-27.  Full Text Available
  • Schumann, S., Schimelpfenig, T., Sibthorp, J., & Collins, R. (2012). An examination of wilderness first aid knowledge, self-efficacy, and skill retention. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Journal, 23, 281-287.  Full Text Available
  • Collins, R., Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2012) “Black and White Thinkers” and “Colorful Problems”: Understanding student thinking in outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 4(2), 11-25.  Full Text Available
  • Jostad, J., Paisley, K. & Gookin, J. (2012). Wilderness-based semester learning: Understanding the NOLS experience. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 4(1), 16-26.  Full Text Available
  • Sibthorp, J., Furman, N., Paisley, K., Gookin, J. & Schumann, S. (2011). Mechanisms of learning transfer in adventure education: Qualitative results from the NOLS transfer survey. Journal of Experiential Education, 34(2), 109-118.  Full Text Available
  • Shooter, W., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2010). The importance of trust in outdoor education: Exploring the relation between trust in outdoor leaders and developmental outcomes. Research in Outdoor Education, 10, 48-56.  Full Text Available
  • Schumann, S., Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., and Gookin, J. (2009) Instructor Influences on Student Learning at NOLS. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Education Leadership, 1(1), 15-37. Full Text Available
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Furman, N., & Gookin, J. (2008) Long-term impacts attributed to participation in adventure education: Preliminary findings from NOLS. Research in Outdoor Education, 9, 86-102.  Full Text Available
  • Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., Gookin, J., Furman, N., Schumann, S., & McAvoy, L. (2008). Predictors of participant development though adventure education: Replication and extension of previous findings from NOLS. Research in Outdoor Education, 9, 60-74.  Full Text Available
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Gookin, J., & Furman, N. (2008). The pedagogic value of student autonomy in adventure education. Journal of Experiential Education, 31(2), 136-151.  Full Text Available
  • Paisley, K., Furman, N., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2008). Student learning in outdoor education: A case study from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Journal of Experiential Education, 30(3), 201-222.  Full Text Available
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Gookin, J., & Ward, P. (2007). Addressing Response Shift Bias: Examining the use of retrospective pretests in recreation research and evaluation. Journal of Leisure Research, 39(2), 295-315.  Full Text Available
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., & Gookin, J. (2007). Exploring participant development through adventure-based recreation programming: A model from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Leisure Sciences, 29(1), 1-18.  Full Text Available

Abstracts, Presentations and Proceedings

Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Rochelle, S., & Gookin, J. (November, 2016). The dynamical nature of social connections for adolescents in outdoor recreation programs. Presented at the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Research Symposium. Minneapolis, MN.

  • Meerts-Brandsma, L., Furman, N., & Sibthorp, J. (November, 2016). Benchmarking Outdoor Expeditionary Program Risk Management Strategies. Presented at theAssociation of Outdoor Recreation and Education Research Symposium. Minneapolis, MN.
  • Sibthorp, J., Meerts-Brandsma, L., Rochelle, S., & Leemon, D. (October, 2016). State of the Field: Using Comparative Risk Management Data to Benchmark your Program. Presented at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference, Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Richmond, D., Sibthorp, J., Gookin, J., Rochelle, S., & Price, R. (March, 2016). Non-Cognitive Factors and Adolescents with Low Socioeconomic Status: Contributions of Outdoor Adventure Education Experiences. Presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence, Baltimore, MD.
  • Richmond, D., Sibthorp, J., Rochelle, S., Gookin, J., & Price, R. (January, 2016). Using Outdoor Adventure Education in College Pathway Programs: The Development and Retention of Non-Cognitive Factors. Presentation at the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Biennial Research Symposium, Martinsville, IN. Book of Abstracts.
  • Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., & Butner, J. (September, 2015). Using Dynamical Systems Theory in Outdoor Experiential Education. The Association of Experiential Education Symposium on Experiential Education Research. Portland, OR. Book of Abstracts.
  • Richmond, D., Sibthorp, J., Annarella, S., & Ferri, S. (September, 2015). Promoting Non-Cognitive Factors through School/Recreation Program Partnerships. The NRPA Research Sessions. Las Vegas, NV.
  • Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., & Gookin, J. (presentation, November, 2014). Testing a Social System Model of Outdoor Adventure Education. The Association of Experiential Education Symposium on Experiential Education Research. Chattanooga, TN.
  • Collins, R., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., & Gookin, J. (presentation, October, 2014). Effects of wilderness expedition experience on ill-structured problem-solving skills. The NRPA Leisure Research Symposium. Charlotte, NC.
  • Richmond, D. & Sibthorp, J. (February, 2014). Group Cohesion in Outdoor Adventure Education: Examining Demographics and Peer Selection Factors. Presentation at the Wilderness Education Association’s Outdoor Leadership Symposium, Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., & Gookin, J. (February, 2014). Student Perceptions of Group Cohesion and Satisfaction: The Effect of Time and Student Composition. Presentation at the Wilderness Education Association’s Outdoor Leadership Symposium, Salt Lake City, UT.
  • Richmond, D., Collins, R., Sibthorp, J., & Pohja, M. (January, 2014). Creativity and Divergent Thinking in Outdoor Adventure Education. Presentation at the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Biennial Research Symposium, Martinsville, IN.
  • Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., & Gookin, J. (January, 2014). A Multilevel Model of the Influence of Leadership Consideration and Goal Conflict on Group Cohesion. Presentation at the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Biennial Research Symposium, Martinsville, IN.
  • Schumann, S. & Sibthorp, J. (November, 2013). Improving the Accuracy of Emerging Outdoor Educator’s Teaching Self-Efficacy Beliefs through a Metacognitive Monitoring Intervention. Presentation at the AEE Symposium on Experiential Education Research, Denver, CO.
  • Paisley, K., Jostad, J., Sibthorp, J., Pohja, M., Gookin, J., Rajagopal-Durbin, Aparna. (October, 2013). Considering students’ experience in diverse groups: Case studies from NOLS. [Abstract]. NRPA Leisure Research Symposium Book of Abstracts.
  • Sibthorp, J., Collins, R., Gookin, J., & Pohja, M. (2013). Fostering Self-Directed Learning in College Aged Students through Wilderness Semesters [Abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 5(2), 165-168. doi:10.7768/1948-5123.1218
  • Jostad, J. (2013). Group identification and group homogeneity: A case study of NOLS courses [Abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 5(2), 128-130.
  • Jostad, J., Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2013) The multi-dimensionality of group cohesion: A temporal examination of NOLS courses [Abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 5(2), 131-135. doi:10.7768/1948-5123.1211
  • Schumann, S., Schimelpfenig, T., Sibthorp, J., & Collins, R. (2013). An examination of wilderness first aid knowledge, self-efficacy, and skill retention [Abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 5(2), 155-160. doi:10.7768/1948-5123.1216
  • Schumann, S. & Sibthorp, J. (2013). the development and scaling of the teaching outdoor education self-efficacy scale [Abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 5(2), 161-164. doi:10.7768/1948-5123.1217
  • Sibthorp, J., Collins, R., Paisley, K., Rathunde, K., Schumann, S., Gookin, J., & Baynes, S. (2012). Developing lifelong learners: Enhancing dispositional enjoyment of learning through optimal engagement in adventure education programs. Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium (pp. 13-16). Martinsville, IN.
  • Gookin, J., Sibthorp, J., & Paisley, K. (2012). Measurement of challenge (stress) type and intensity in wilderness education students. Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium (pp. 16-18). Martinsville, IN.
  • Collins, R., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2012). The importance of program quality in youth development: Program quality indicators as predictors of outcome achievement among NOLS participants. Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium (pp. 99-104). Martinsville, IN.
  • Waage, T. & Paisley, K. (2012). Understanding the contribution of wilderness based educational experiences to the creation of an environmental ethic in youth. Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium (pp. 80-82). Martinsville, IN.
  • Jostad, J., Paisley, K. & Gookin, J. (2011). Student learning on semester courses: Perspectives from NOLS [Abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 3(2), 94-96.
  • Morgan, C., Collins, R., & D'Eloia, M. (2011). Supporting self-regulated learning processes in adolescents: An examination of teaching methods used on outdoor adventure expeditions. Paper presented at the International Conference on Outdoor Leadership, Estes Park, CO.
  • Jostad, J., Paisley, K. & Gookin, J. (2011). Student learning on semester courses: Perspectives from NOLS. Paper presented at the International Conference on Outdoor Leadership, Estes Park, CO.
  • Jostad, J., Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J. & Gookin, J. Meeting the needs of your students with fun. (November, 2010). NOLS Staff Newsletter.
  • Furman, N. & Sibthorp, J. (2010, November). The Transfer of Expedition Behavior Skills from the National Outdoor Leadership School to Life Post-Course (abstract). The Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education research symposium. Keystone, CO.
  • Sibthorp, J., Schumann, S., Gookin, J., Paisley, K., & Rathunde, K., (November, 2010). Experiential Education and Lifelong Learning: Examining Optimal Engagement in College Students. The AEE Symposium on Experiential Education Research. Las Vegas, NV.
  • Collins, R., Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J., (November, 2010). Black and White Thinkers and Colorful Problems: Intellectual Differentiation in Experiential Education. The AEE Symposium on Experiential Education Research. Las Vegas, NV.
  • Furman, N. & Sibthorp, J. (2010, February) The Effects of a Treatment Curriculum on the Learning Transfer of Prosocial Behavior in Adventure Education [abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 2(2). 39-43.
  • Shooter, W., Sibthorp, J., & Gookin, J. (2010). The importance of trust in outdoor education: Exploring the relation between trust in outdoor leaders and developmental outcomes. Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium (pp. 46-48). Martinsville, IN.
  • Rose, J., Paisley, K., Sibthorp., J., Furman, N, & Gookin, J. (2009, October). Adventure education learning mechanisms across populations: Qualitative results from the National Outdoor Leadership School [abstract]. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 2(2). 68-72. Full Text Available
  • Schumann, S., Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., and Gookin, J. (2009, February) A Typology of instructor influence on student learning (abstract). Wilderness Education Association (WEA) Outdoor Leadership Research Symposium. Bloomington, IN.
  • Furman, N., Sibthorp, J., Schumann, S., Paisley, K., & Gookin, J. (2008 –in press). Learning transferable lessons from adventure education: Qualitative results from a NOLS transfer survey (abstract). Conference Proceedings of the Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education Research Symposium. San Diego, CA.
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Furman, N., & Gookin, J. (2008, January) Long-term impacts attributed to participation in wilderness education: Preliminary findings from NOLS (abstract). Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium, (pp. 115-117). Martinsville, IN.
  • Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J., Gookin, J., Furman, N., & Schumann, S. (2008, January). Predictors of participant development though adventure education: Replication and extension of previous findings from NOLS (abstract). Abstracts from the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors Research Symposium, (pp. 15-17). Martinsville, IN.
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Gookin, J., & Furman, N. (2007). The pedagogic role of participant autonomy in adventure-based programming (abstract). NRPA Leisure Research Symposium. (pp. 254-257). Indianapolis, IN.
  • Furman, N., Paisley, K., & Sibthorp, J. (2006). Student learning on expedition-based outdoor education courses (abstract). In W. Taylor, G. Kay, T. Coates, G. Hanley, L. Morgan, & B. Wolfe (Eds.), Proceeding and Research Symposium Abstracts of the 20th Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Conference. (pp. 142-144). Whitmore Lake, MI: Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., & Gookin, J. (2006). Predictors of Perceived Development on Courses from the National Outdoor Leadership School (abstract). Research in Outdoor Education, Volume 8. (pp. 165-167). Bradford Woods, IN.
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Gookin, J., & Ward, P. (2005). Participant Development through Adventure-Based Recreation Programming: A Model from The National Outdoor Leadership School (abstract). 2005 NRPA Leisure Research Symposium. (p. 11). San Antonio, TX.
  • Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., Gookin, J., & Ward, P. (2005). Response Shift Bias: Examining the Use of Retrospective Pretests in Recreation Research and Evaluation (abstract). 2005 NRPA Leisure Research Symposium. (p. 59). San Antonio, TX. Publications (not refereed)
  • Paisley, K., Furman, N., Sibthorp, J., Gookin, J. (2008). Student learning in outdoor education: A case study from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Horizon: Newsletter for the Association for Experiential Education, May, 2008.
  • Leemon, D., Schimelpfenig, T., & Sibthorp, J. (2007). NOLS Field Instructor Seniority Part One: Seniority vs. Incidents and Evacuations. The NOLS Staff Newsletter.
  • Szolosi, A., Sibthorp, J., Paisley, K., & Gookin, J. (2004). Examining Risk Management Strategies Employed in Outdoor Programs. Published at www.outdoored.com
  • Paisley, K., Sibthorp, J. & Szolosi, A. (2003). Building a risk management lexicon. The Outdoor Network 14(4). 1, 30-32. Full Text Available

National Outdoor Leadership School Website

PRT Main Office

270 South 1400 East
Room 201, William A. Stewart Building

Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Phone: 801-581-8542
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