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The Effects of Adventure Education on At-Risk Populations and Group Cohesion. By Dave Lueck ESS 777 Fall 2008. Introduction.

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the effects of adventure education on at risk populations and group cohesion

The Effects of Adventure Education on At-Risk Populations and Group Cohesion

By Dave Lueck

ESS 777

Fall 2008


This project aimed to research the effects of Adventure Education and similar programs on the behavior of at-risk populations, as well as on group cohesion. To that end, 10 Adventure Education/at-risk articles and 3 Adventure Education/group cohesion research articles were reviewed. The following slides provide definitions, results, limitations, conclusions, suggestions for future research, and a bibliography.

adventure education
Adventure education
  • A variety of self-initiated activities utilizing an interaction with the natural environment, that contain elements of real or apparent danger, in which the outcome, while uncertain, can be influenced by the participant and the circumstance. (Gilbertson, Bates, McLaughlin, and Ewert 2006)
adventure education5
Adventure education
  • The branch of outdoor education concerned primarily with interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships … uses activities that provide a group or an individual with compelling tasks to accomplish. These tasks often involve group problem solving and personal challenge. (Priest and Gass, 2005)
  • Direct, active, and engaging learning experiences that involve the whole person and have real consequences. (Prouty, Panicucci, and Collinson, 2007)
outdoor pursuits
Outdoor pursuits
  • Activities which entail moving across natural land and/or water resources by non-mechanized means of travel. (Ford and Blanchard, 1993)
at risk youth
At-Risk Youth
  • Youth who, for various reasons, are not fitting in with school or society. (They) live in a negative environment and/or lack the skills and values that help them become responsible members of society. (Cross, 2002)
  • A group of individuals who are likely to need intervention to avert potentially dangerous circumstances. (Stumbo, 1999)
definitions continued
Definitions (continued)
  • Locus of Control – Based on the theory that suggests there are two poles of thought regarding social expectancy. Internally oriented people tend to believe that the choices they make will have a impact on the outcome of a given situation. Externally oriented people tend to believe that the outcome of a given situation is generally out of their control. (Lindsay and Newberry, 2000)
  • Recidivism – Repeated or habitual relapse, as into crime. (Flexner and Hauck, 1996)
definitions continued9
Definitions (continued)
  • Resiliency – The capacity of those who are exposed to identifiable risk factors to overcome such risks and avoid negative outcomes such as delinquency and behavioral problems, psychological maladjustment, academic difficulties, and physical complications. (Bloemhoff, 2006)
  • Cohesion – A dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs. (Weinberg and Gould, 2007)
  • Lindsay and Newberry (2000) found that low elements challenge courses significantly increased internal locus of control of youth from residential care for at least three months.
  • Bloemhoff (2006) reported that at-risk adolescent boys increased in resilience after completing a high elements ropes course.
  • Cross (2002) found that a rock climbing program decreased alienation and increased sense of control in at-risk adolescents.
results continued
Results (continued)
  • Conley, Caldarella, and Young (2007) indicate that at-risk middle and junior high school students with internalizing behaviors improved significantly in involvement, but less than half of the students felt that they could take what they learned back to the classroom.
  • Lipsey and Wilson (2000) reveal in a meta-analysis that wilderness challenge programs involving intense physical activity and therapeutic enhancements reduce antisocial and delinquent behavior.
results continued12
Results (continued)
  • Autry (2001) found that a ropes course/hiking program brought about positive gains for at-risk adolescent girls in the areas of trust awareness, sense of empowerment, teamwork, and recognition of personal values. However, an inability to take those values back to everyday life was noted.
  • In a review of studies, Crompton and West (2001) report that outdoor adventure programs enhance self-concept and reduce recidivism in at-risk youth.
results continued13
Results (continued)
  • Edwards and Houghton (1998), after reviewing literature concerning intentional change in at-risk adolescents, conclude that many of them participate in negative behaviors to establish non-conforming reputations, which are often set by fifth grade. Furthermore, they resist change if it threatens there reputations. Outdoor and adventure education can present such populations with the appropriate time to effect change and achieve goals in pro-social ways.
results continued14
Results (continued)
  • Neill (2001) noted that an Outward Bound Australia program led to enhanced personal confidence, and improved social and leadership skills in disadvantaged youth.
  • Bensoff and Glass (2002), Hatch and McCarthy (2005), and Kugath (1997) all found that adventure programs improve group cohesion for adolescents, college student organizations, and family groups.
  • Crompton and West (2001) warn that many study designs are weak, and studies are more likely to be published if positive changes took place. Therefore, individual studies may not be representative of all research, and should be viewed with caution.
  • Neill (2001) cautions that while the participants in his study were disadvantaged, they were actively involved in efforts to improve their lives. Therefore, the programs capitalized on their pre-set drive to improve their lives.
  • Adventure education and similar programs positively affect various aspects of the lives of at-risk youth, as evidenced by the studies/meta-analyses of Autry (2001), Bloemhoff (2006), Conley, Caldarella, and Young (2007), Crompton and West (2001), Cross (2002), Lipsey and Wilson (2000), Neill (2001), Lindsay and Newberry (2000).
  • Adventure programs improve group cohesion, according to Bensoff and Glass (2002), Hatch and McCarthy (2005), and Kugath (1997).
  • Various types of programs, to include ropes courses, low elements, Outward Bound, and outdoor pursuits challenges produce significant results, as shown by Autry (2001), Bloemhoff (2006), Cross (2002), Lindsay and Newberry (2000), Lipsey and Wilson (2000), and Neill (2001).
future research
Future research
  • Because transfer of gains is an issue, study of transfer methodology would be useful.
  • Study of the effects of different types of follow-up intervention programs would help practitioners foster long-term progress in the behaviors of at-risk youth.
  • There appears to be a need for research that examines ideas for extending the longevity of challenge course gains in cohesion.

Autry, C. E. (2001). Adventure therapy with girls at-risk: responses to outdoor experiential activities. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 35(4), 289-306.

Attah, E.B. and Fischer, R.L. (2001). City kids in the wilderness: a pilot-test of outward bound for foster care group-home youth. The Journal of Experiential Education, 24 (2), 109-117.

Benshoff, J. and Glass, J. (2002) Facilitating group cohesion among adolescents through challenge course experiences. The Journal of Experiential Education, 25 (2), 268-277.

Bloemhoff, H.J. (2006) The effect of an adventure-based recreation programme (ropes course) on the development of resiliency in at-risk adolescent boys confined to a rehabilitation centre. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 28 (1), 1-11.

Conley, L., Caldarella, P., and Young, E. (2007). Evaluation of a ropes course experience for at-risk secondary school students. Journal of Experiential Education, 30 (1), 21-35.

Crompton, J. and West, S. (2001) A review of the impact of adventure programs on at-risk youth. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 19 (2), 113-140.

Cross, R. (2002). The effects of an adventure education program on perceptions of alienation and personal control among at-risk adolescents. The Journal of Experiential Education, 25(1), 247-254.

bibliography continued
Bibliography (continued)

Edwards, J., Gordon, S., and Houghton, S. (1998). Effecting intentional change in adventure programming for “at-risk” adolescents. Perth, Australia: Proceedings of the International Adventure Therapy Conference. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 424 068)

Ford, P. and Blanchard, J. (1993) The leadership and administration of outdoor pursuits. USA: Venture.

Flexner, S. and Hauck, L. (Eds.). (1996) Random house unabridged dictionary. (2nd ed.) New York: Random House.

Gilbertson, K., Bates, T., McLaughlin, T., and Ewert, A. (2006) Outdoor education: methods and strategies. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Hatch, K.D. and McCarthy, C.J. (2005). Exploration of challenge courses’ long-term effects on members of college student organizations. Journal of Experiential Education, 27 (3), 245-264.

Kugath, S. (1997) The effects of family participation in an outdoor adventure program. Proceedings of the International Conference on Outdoor Recreation and Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 417 050)

Lindsay, J.F., Jr. and Newberry, E.H. (2000) The impact of social skills training and challenge course training on locus of control of youth from residential care. The Journal of Experiential Education, 23 (1), 39-42.

bibliography continued21
Bibliography (continued)

Lipsey, M.and Wilson, S. (2000). Wilderness challenge programs for delinquent youth: a meta-analysis of outcome evaluations. Evaluation and Program Planning, 23 (2000), 1-12.

Neill, J. (2001). The impact of outward bound challenge courses on disadvantaged youth. Colonial Foundation, 1-23.

Priest, S. and Gass, M. (2005) Effective leadership in adventure programming. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Prouty, D., Panicucci, J., and Collinson, R. (Eds.) (2007) Adventure education: theory and applications. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Stumbo, N. (1999) Intervention activities for at-risk youth. State College, PA: Venture.

Weinberg, R. and Gould, D. (2007) Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.