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Reviewing Adventures: Why and How?

REVIEWING ADVENTURES
WHY & HOW?

'Reviewing Adventures' is out of print
but you can view some extracts on this page


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Contents

  1. REVIEWING ADVENTURES
  2. THE QUALITY OF THE EXPERIENCE
    (implications for reviewing)
    Reviewing vs. evaluation
    Surviving without reviewing?
    Combining action and reflection
    Summary
  3. THE PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF REVIEWING
    Five purposes of reviewing
    The scope of reviewing
    Summary
  4. MODELS OF REVIEWING
    Integrated vs. segregated learning
    Meeting personal and social needs
    Matching review methods to developmental needs
    Accentuate the positive or eliminate the negative?
    Two families of learning models for reviewing
    Family one: alternative models
    Summary
  5. A SEQUENCE FOR REVIEWING
    A four stage reviewing sequence
  6. TECHNIQUES FOR REVIEWING
    (linked to the four stage reviewing sequence)
    Summary
    Reviewing and the transfer of learning and development
  7. REFERENCES
  8. RESOURCES FOR REVIEWING ADVENTURES


Preface to 'Reviewing Adventures'

Why should I feel the need to reassure other adventurers that I am a friendly being who believes both in the value of adventure and in the value of reviewing?

In my own experience combining reviewing and adventure is "win-win" - each enhances the other.

But some approaches to reviewing can kill all sense of adventure and can instantly reduce young people's interest and involvement to zero, or worse.

Reviewing can of course be boring or irrelevant if reviewers feel out of their depth or don't really believe in what they are doing. But I believe that there are much deeper reasons why reviewing does not always live up to its promise, and does not always 'hit the mark'.

Most writers on reviewing (myself amongst them) emphasise the importance of following a particular sequence in reviewing. After following the sequence, out comes the 'transferable learning' from the adventure!

But what about the value of unreviewed adventures - which every adventure educator knows about?

Is there not a direct conflict between those who believe in the value of 'pure adventure' and those who believe in the value of 'processed adventure' (i.e. adventure that has been processed through reviewing)? And where there is such a conflict, what scope is there for compromise?

In this book, I have explored these issues, and I have proposed some solutions - both practical and theoretical.

The book starts with some challenging questions, then explores some models of learning and development, ending with descriptions of a number of active and creative reviewing methods.


INTRODUCTION TO
'REVIEWING ADVENTURES'

&quotExperience in itself is neither productive nor unproductive, it is how you reflect on it that makes it significant or not significant for good or ill ..." (Bolton, 1979)

Adventure education is a powerful medium in which to work. With power comes responsibility. It is precisely because the medium of adventure can be so powerful that adventure educators have a responsibility to find out what kind of impact adventurous experiences are having. And as educators, it makes sense to assist and assess the learning experiences which are aroused by adventure. Through reviewing, facilitators demonstrate that they care about what participants experience, value what participants have to say, and are interested in the progress of each individual's learning and development (Greenaway, 1992).

Reviewing energises the process of learning from experience. Some of the reviewing methods that are possible after an adventure fit the dictionary definition of 'review': "to see, view or examine again: to look back on or over: to survey: to examine critically: to revise..." (Chambers's Dictionary). But this definition does not convey the full range of methods that can be used to enhance learning and development after an adventure. 'Review' is a word that can sound cold, clinical and critical, as if it will produce a sudden (and solemn) change of climate following an intense or lively experience. But the alternative terms for reviewing ('debriefing', 'processing' and 'reflection') are really no better at suggesting that a review can be as lively and involving as the adventure that precedes it.

Reviewing may be justifiable as being a rewarding experience in itself. But how essential is it to the process of learning from experience? Is it always necessary to review an experience to learn from it?

  • Are there not plenty of adventurous experiences which are rewarding in themselves, and in which the learning is self-evident?
  • Is not the outdoor environment valued because it allows people to learn directly from the consequences of their actions?
  • Surely adventures can be meaningful enough without needing to make sense of them through reviews?
  • When learning has already been an integral part of the experience, should reviewing not be seen as an optional feature?

These are important questions to ask, because the experiences at the heart of adventure-based learning can be substantially different in character to the kinds of experiences which feed other forms of experiential learning. The importance of reviewing does seem to depend on the nature of the experience, but to conclude that 'big' experiences need less reviewing, seems insensitive and irresponsible.

  • How then, should the nature of the experience affect the nature of reviewing?
  • Is experiential learning theory (such as that of Kolb, 1984) really so versatile that it can be usefully applied to any experience - from boiling an egg to climbing a mountain?

According to the authors of "The Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators" (Pfeiffer and Jones, 1983) it is "axiomatic" that the processing stages of the experiential learning cycle "are even more important than the experiencing phase". They even urge facilitators to be careful that the activity "does not generate excess data". Climbing a mountain or descending whitewater would surely be just the kind of experiences which would "generate excess data"!

    There is clearly an enormous difference between a way of working which advocates keeping experiences down to a reviewable size, and a way of working which is founded upon a philosophy of adventure.

The style of this book is a questioning one. It challenges readers to test out, or work out, their own philosophy and practice for reviewing in adventure-based learning. This approach has been adopted because it is a field in which there is such a wide variety of settings and purposes. There are also many different sources of practice from which a facilitator can draw inspiration for reviewing. These might include, for example: action learning, art therapy, behaviour modification, counselling, developmental groupwork, educational drama, experiential learning theory, gestalt psychology, meditation, nature awareness, sensitivity training, values clarification, visualisation, etc. Wherever the ideas come from it is important that there is a 'good fit' between the style of reviewing and the experiences generated by the adventure. This will help to ensure that what is gained through adventure is not lost through review.

    When the reviewing style 'fits', learners sense its value, and it is then the whole process - of activity and review - that becomes the adventure.

It is when activity and review are working well together that the real adventure takes off - the adventure of personal and social development. It is an adventure which includes three interdependent elements:

  • new and challenging activities
  • new group experiences and
  • new ways of learning

The challenge is to discover ways of merging these three elements rather than attempting to depend on any one model or sequence as a guide for practice.

    In the short term, a single element may dominate the experience, but ultimately this dynamic form of education depends on the harnessing and intermixing of these three sources of adventure: the activity adventure, the group adventure and the learning adventure.
Some of the ways in which these three elements can be combined are explored on the following pages - with a special emphasis on reviewing.


Sorry - 'Reviewing Adventures' is now out of print

Reviewing Adventures: Why and How?
Author: Roger Greenaway
Publisher: National Association for Outdoor Education (1996)
ISBN: 1 898555 01 X

Please use the articles index to find old and new writing on related themes.

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