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  Mission, Values & Context  
  Summary of Objectives  
  Evidence-Based Curriculum Development  
  Staff Excellence  
  Philanthropic Support  
  Environmental Stewardship  
  Focus Areas  
  Risk Management  
  Access to Wilderness Classrooms  
  Financial Equilibrium and Strength  
  Expanding Brand Awareness  
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Evidence-Based Curriculum Development

  • Develop Course Quality survey
  • Enhance Leadership Curriculum
  • Improve Environmental Studies Curriculum
  • Research student outcomes

Photo: David Anderson

The Goal
NOLS will improve educational outcomes and impacts for our students through focused curriculum advances in the areas of leadership and environmental studies. We will develop and implement the capacity to collect, evaluate, and use relevant objective data in the design and assessment of what and how we teach.

The experiential learning process is core to the NOLS philosophy of education and this, in turn, is core to our mission. NOLS has pioneered, and today sets the standard for, the collection and use of objective data in outdoor education risk management and regularly encourages independent academic assessments of our educational outcomes. We believe that we can be more effective educators by integrating properly framed, consistently collected, objective evidence in the development and assessment of most all of our activities. We believe that such evidenced-based decision-making will strengthen and complement the spontaneous, spiritual, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions of our community and give further credibility to the process of experiential education. Furthermore, we also believe that leadership and environmental education are cornerstone elements of our education and are a critical part of our brand. It’s our desire to strengthen and develop our present curriculum in these areas measured by this evidence-based methodology.

We will focus on developing the leadership outcomes of our longer courses and those with specific populations with an intention to create developmentally-appropriate program design and instructional strategies. We also acknowledge the need to develop our own staff in concert with this strategy. Concurrently, our environmental studies curriculum will be improved by integrating climate change and sustainability concepts as a core focus. This, in turn, will improve the transferability of college credit while also creating better alignment with departments and curricula in U.S. universities.

Further Goals and Tactics
1. We will develop a new objective Course Quality Survey to assess how well we accomplish our mission on all traditional NOLS courses, and to continue generating a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of new program design and instructional strategies.

2. We will adapt our leadership curriculum to the learning needs of specific populations of students, creating developmentally appropriate teaching strategies and tools.

3. We will improve the quality of our environmental studies curriculum, developing student outcomes and teaching tools to support those outcomes.

a. We will integrate climate change and sustainability into our core curriculum.

b. We will integrate ecological concepts into our semester biology curriculum.

c. We will improve the transferability of our environmental studies college credit by reframing it to better align with departments and curricula in U.S. universities.

4. We will make focused curriculum advances in these areas:

a. Semesters: We will assess what students learn on our semesters beyond what they typically learn on 30-day courses and develop a core framework for semesters. We will examine and improve what happens on a NOLS year program. We will develop pre-course online education for our semester students to augment their NOLS experience.

b. Adult courses: We will study what adults transfer from NOLS to their lives and diversify our adult education curriculum to adapt it to different sub-groups of adults, especially including “emerging adults” from the Millennium Generation.

c. Adolescent courses: We will follow up on past research on outcomes of teenage students, develop teaching tools that meet these students’ developmentally appropriate needs, and measure the effectiveness of at least one teaching method.

d. Transformation: We will measure how NOLS courses transform students’ views of themselves and/or their world regarding at least one environmental issue and one social issue and make specific curriculum advances based on these measurements.

5. We will research student outcomes of WMI and NOLS Professional Training programs, with the aim of ongoing program improvement.

NOLS Strategic Plan: Providing Our Vision and Guiding Our Actions
Photo: Louis Sass
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