How a summer camp counselor-in-training program may foster resilience and self-efficacy in adolescent boys
Over the years, a number of quantitative studies have attempted and failed to capture the positive psychological growth that comes from participation in outdoor adventure education, as well as the precise source of that growth. The logical conclusion from this is either that such growth is an illusion, such growth can’t be measured, or that the studies were in some way methodologically flawed. The present study takes an intensive ethnographic/autoethnographic approach to study the progress of six teenage boys in a bifurcated eight-week summer camp program evenly divided between adventure travel and apprenticeship as staff to younger children. The study set out to find out what antecedent factors predicated the development of resilience and self-efficacy, with a particular focus on the culture of the camp as a whole and the expectations placed on staff conduct; the developmental trajectory of the individual; the individual’s past experience with adversity; the individual’s self-concept both at a given point of observation and over time; the group dynamic of the CIT cohort; the mentorship of older staff; the formal training as a counselor; and the expectations of a caregiver role. In addition to clear measures of self-efficacy, and, in some cases, resilience, the study also revealed generalized positive psychological growth as a result of a healthy, value-setting group dynamic. Of particular interest was the development of the study itself, with its reflective interviews and focus groups focused on positive adaptation to challenges, as an additional antecedent factor.