Bangor University and Outlook Expeditions working together to make a difference

A PhD student from Bangor University is working with Outlook Expeditions to make sure that young people get the most out of their expeditions.

Samantha McElligott, who currently lives in Llandegfan, Anglesey, is working with Outlook Expeditions under the three year KESS programme at Bangor University to measure the benefits of overseas expeditions as a positive developmental experience for young people.

During the first year of the research project, over 800 15-19 year olds were involved in summer expeditions with Outlook, one of the leading providers of expeditions for young people in the UK. Using questionnaires, the feedback then allowed Samantha to examine the effect of leadership behaviours on aspects such as participants' self-esteem, teamwork and communication.

The results have so far been very positive; demonstrating that Outlook's Expeditions have a positive and significant impact on the participants' self-esteem, leadership skills, levels of responsibility, teamwork and communication skills.

Samantha, who worked as an outdoor instructor in the past, said: “It has been proven that Outlook’s leaders are currently showing high levels of transformational leading behaviours. This is a behavioural approach which has been shown to inspire and improve learning outcomes. This approach has been used in areas such as business and the military before but this is the first time that it has been researched within the field of outdoor expeditions.”

She added: “I couldn’t be more passionate about the research – it is very important to maximise learning for young people on expeditions, which can be life-changing in themselves. The next stage will examine more closely the leadership behaviours and how we can train leaders to maximise the learning outcomes.”

Samantha has already been out to China and Mongolia on an expedition and is looking forward to leading another group in Bolivia at the end of July. She added: “I have always wanted to do a PhD related to development and coaching and I am very passionate about leading expeditions in the outdoors so when I saw an advert for this I couldn’t believe my luck – a PhD in my domain and on my doorstep!

“Working within the field of learning development for the next generation is so rewarding, and to do it within such a positive and unique environment is fantastic. My project really shows how research can impact the real world and I would jump at the opportunity to develop it further when my three years are up!

“It is a privilege to work with Outlook and with the young people and I have learnt so much. The whole experience is very rewarding and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me along the way – from Outlook staff, to teachers, pupils and parents.”

Matt Wells, Chief Executive Outlook Expeditions said: “We have always known that the young people who take part in our expeditions grow in confidence and develop a wide range of key skills including team work, leadership, organisation and communication.  

“We know this because we've watched it happen. What we wanted to do was explore this further, which is why we've commissioned Samantha’s academic research through Bangor University to look at the way young people benefit from expeditions and to ensure that Outlook Expedition leaders have as big an impact on this development as possible.  

“Samantha’s academic ability, personal passion for the subject and experience as an expedition leader makes her an ideal person to conduct the research on behalf of Outlook, she is an asset to the extended Outlook family.”

The research with Bangor University has been conducted under the KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships) programme. The aim of KESS is to provide the support that knowledge based industries need to enable them to grow.  The programme provides access to expertise within universities while also providing research training and post graduate education in a specialist area to a student, who then has valuable skills and knowledge.

Publication date: 25 May 2012