ePortfolio: Dr. Simon Priest

OUTDOOR & EXPERIENTIAL

 

 

THE OUTDOOR TREE OF MANY RELATIONSHIPS: In 1984, I went to study with Phyllis Ford at the University of Oregon, but she left for another position shortly after I arrived. The good news was that I got to teach her graduate courses; the bad news was that I had no one to mentor my work. I was guided by Dean Celeste Ulrich toward a unifying philosophy of Outdoor Education (OE).

The common definition then was Ford's: "learning in, for, and about the outdoors." However, OE had no uniquely identifying subject matter and appeared to be in conflict with itself with adventurers damaging the environment. As a result, OE was too easily dismissed as a potential teaching method for learning in schools and colleges.

I began to redefine OE and came up with the metaphor of a fruit bearing tree. Outdoor Education is a tree with two branches growing from a common trunk: Adventure Education (AE) and Environmental Education (EE). Both AE and EE use nature to teach about relationships. AE learning is mostly intrapersonal (understanding oneself) and/or intrapersonal (relating to others). EE learning is mostly ecosystemic (components interact in networked ecology) and/or ekistic (humans impact the quality of nature and this impacts the quality of their lives). When all 4 relationships are learned, teaching a fifth becomes possible: the spiritual (knowing one's place in the global scheme of change). Learning in all instances is driven by the engine of experiential education: a philosophy and method of teaching that is fueled by the energy of an outdoor setting. OE is firmly rooted (through six senses and three domains) in the nutrients of an interdisciplinary curriculum. When OE flowers and bears fruit, the result is people who know themselves and/or others, understand reciprocity in nature, comprehend their kinship role for the planet, and take action to make a difference.

 

 

THE ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE PARADIGM AEP: While working on my doctorate, I met an Australian masters student named Peter Martin and we became fast friends. While taking a social psychology grad course together (taught andragogically by Gaylene Carpenter), we combined the play ideas of Ellis and Mortlock with Csikszentmihalyi's flow research and this graph resulted in 1985.

Risk is the potential to lose something of value, while competence is the collection of skills and abilities that are applied against risk to result in a positive outcome. With inaccurate perceptions of risk and competence (in red), one might expect only an adventure. However, since real values for both are different (in blue), a minor misadventure results. Through guided reflection (see next model) and repeated attempts, perceptions come in line with reality. The result is an astute adventurer: a person with accurate risk and competence perceptions.

While we initially developed the AEP for the outdoors, it has enjoyed a widespread application to financial risk taking in business and gambling as adult play.

 

 

COMPETENCE EFFECTANCE IN RISK TAKING: While both working on our doctorates separately in differing fields in 1986, Kimberley Klint and I merged the works of White (Effectance Motivation) and Harter (Competence Motivation) in an effort to describe human motivation and risk taking behavior. This rather complex model, partially confirmed by linear structural relations and path analysis, has 3 parts: positive, neutral, and negative.

The positive is an upward corkscrew that can lead to greater risk taking, while the negative route is a downward spiral that leads to lesser risk taking. The Razor's Edge is in the middle of the neutral part. This is the imaginary thin line that risk takers attempt to stay atop for the feelings they get.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL GROWTH CURVES: In 1993, I was asked to present my view of the future for Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning. My presentation was bleak and controversial, because I saw the profession dying with a clear need to reinvent itself. In the presentation, I identified ten indicator hallmarks that I had seen occur in several nations. I used these like a rubric to chart the location of the central tendancies for many visited countries on a typical growth curve. This version shows positions in 1993 with the assumption that each nation may have moved forward since then and several other countries have since entered the fray.

 

 

THE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE: Many of these existed in 1990's, but few clearly explained both the learning and the guidance of learners. Mike Gass and I created this cycle in 1992 to address both.

  1. ACTION: experience the activity
  2. REFLECTION: highlight the lessons learned
  3. INTEGRATION: fit new learning into daily life
  4. CONTINUATION: sustain changes against erosion

After people participate in an activity, they reflect on their experiences so as to highlight the lessons learned. This new learning is integrated into their work, school or family life, and they make a change that is sustained in the face of strong erosive forces. If not carefully counteracted, the forces (lack of resources, old hurdles, peer pressure, etc.) tend to revert a person back to square one.

 

 

THE FOUR PURPOSES OF ADVENTURE PROGRAMS: As young professors in 1992, Mike Gass and I (with help from Lee Gillis) were struck by the seemingly discrepant uses of experiential programming and so we divided program purpose into 4 types that highlight the very practical differences for each intent. The table summarizes the key differences arranged by the 5 ordered phases of program development.

 

 

ETHICAL SELF-EXAMINATION: Around 2015, Mike Gass and I developed this continuum for determining where leaders stand on any issue and the strength of their stances. This is important as an initial step toward knowing your non-negotiable values and how your particular position is located with respect to those of your customers, clients, and profession. This knowledge permits you to comprehend your degree of neutrality and objectivity as you work with different groups.

 

 

SIX STAGES OF OUTDOOR TRIPS: In 1995, I began an adventure travel and eco-tourism program at Brock University and hired Mike Strong to be the Coordinator. He provided some ideas to create these six stages of outdoor trips. The model informed our adventure travel and eco-tourism trips as well as our outdoor fields trips for the leadership program. The six stages were:

  1. DREAM about the possibilities and trip experience
  2. PLAN for logistics, equipment, timing, and staffing
  3. RESERVE the campsites, transport, permits, and rentals
  4. TRAVEL and monitor safety/risk, environment, and technical activity experiences
  5. SHARE through videos, slideshows, formal presentations, and informal emails to friends and family
  6. REMEMBER enough good to want to do it all over again!

Since then, technologies have revolutionized processes for the middle four stages. For example, sharing your trip experience with others has a whole new meaning with the advent of blogging and other forms of social media.

 

 

TECHNOLOGY IN THE OUTDOORS: Rarely have I gone outdoors without technology. In the early days, technology was more about changes to gear: plastic boots, internal pack frames, lightweight materials, advances in waterproofing, and fleece replacing wool! Today, technology is synonymous with computing. I can remember the debate about how taking a cell phone would change the nature of the experience and it did.

The diagram below outlines the need for an energy source, the variety of devices in use, their functions (as per the above middle four stages of outdoor trips), and the applications used to perform those functions. Of course, wearable technology is changing the game even further. Nowadays, I take most of this technology with me when I go outdoors, but then I am a technophile.

 

 

SEVEN TEACHING STYLES: In 1997, Mike Gass and I developed this model of seven teaching styles built on sound philosophy from well established physical education pedagogy. The learning experience is divided into three phases: before, during, and after. The choices in these phases can be made by the leader or client. The seven styles are simply different combinations of who makes the decisions at each of the phases. The phases can be broken down as follows:

  1. BEFORE (Pre-experience): WHY (reasons to learn, uses of lessons, depth of information, relevance to client), WHAT (subject matter, intended objectives, expected outcomes, required resources, evaluation methods), HOW (methods, techniques, feedback, evalaution), WHO (clients, groups), WHERE (setting, positioning), & WHEN (scheduling, sequencing).
  2. DURING (Experience): INTRODUCTION (briefing, framing,), PACE (rhythm, speed), DIRECTION (adjustments), RESTING (breaks, teachable moments), & REDOING (repeat to perfect).
  3. AFTER (Post Experience): REFLECTION (gaining meaning facilitation), EVALUATION (criteria, procedures), INTEGRATION (links to life), FEEDBACK (verbal, non-verbal, source, delay, withhold), & FOLLOW-UP (enhance transfer, alternatives).

 

 

THE LEARNING GRADIENT: Don Hammerman and I came up with this gradient in 1990. I never thought much of it, but since Bob Stremba remarked that this really resonates with his students, I have added it here. Basically, the retention of information increases as the instructor moves from telling, through showing, to doing, withasking questions to confirm and cement learning. Three types of useful questions are recall, process, and application.

 

 

SIX PHILOSOPHY QUESTIONS: A few years ago, Mike Gass and I were rewriting chapters for a new edition of one textbook when we settled on these questions to explain how the six branches of philosophy (the study of wisdom seeking the real truth of the human condition) intersect with our profession. This chart explains the connections with some sample questions.

 

 

SOUND JUDGMENT BASED ON EXPERIENCE: In 1989, many in my related fields of experiential learning seemed confused over the differences and similarities among problem solving, decision making, and judgment. I clarified these as "trinity" and separated the interwoven three. Since some simply saw judgment as making good decisions and others saw it as competently solving problems. I created teaching models to show how each interacts and how judgment was processed in the mind.

The judgment cycle begins with specific experiences (could be first-hand, vicarious or observed). These are input to the brain and reflected upon inductively (from specific to general) looking for some learning that is then stored in memory as general concepts. When information (vital to problem solving or decision making) is unknown, missing or vague, then general concepts are retrieved from memory and reflected on deductively (from general to specific) seeking application to the uncertainty. A specific prediction is output and substituted for unknown, missing or vague information. Whether this works or not is refined in the final step of evaluative reflection, where the solution or choice is considered for its efficacy and becomes a new specific experience to add in the next cycle.

 

 

HEURISTICS VERSUS INTUITION: A couple of decades after the above model of judgment, I delved deeply into a comparison of judgment driven by heuristics and judgment driven by intuition. Heuristics are mental short cuts that we use to extract the most relevant memories and refract or reshape these to fit our unknown situtation. Heuristics save a lot of time and energy by easing and reducing our enormous cognitive load for using judgment during problem solving and decision making. Intuition is a spontaneous response to an uncertain situation without conscious awareness or cognitive reasoning, but with convinced confidence and yet very little effort. Intuition is that gut feeling that can identify intricate patterns in the data at a subconscious level and lead to rapid sound judgments without comprehending how this was accomplished. Beware that both heuristics and intution are not foolproof: they can be wrong from time to time!

 

 

RISK MANAGEMENT ANALYSIS: While working with Rusty Baillie and Bill March to identify the "real razor's edge" in 1987, we talked a lot about the order of tasks associated with analyzing and managing risks. Following our discussions, I came up with this sequence of ten steps and six inhibiting factors at each step.

 

 

CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Building on the work of Yvars and of Leemon, Mike Gass and I adapted this 2016 organizational chart showing the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of people who respond to a major crisis, like a lost client or unfortunate fatality during a program. Our adaptation is composed of the FIELD STAFF (who have notified the administration and become “the front line” response to any incident), an appointed INCIDENT DIRECTOR (who oversees the emergency response and networks with others to provide assistance), and eight additional functions.  These extra eight functions typically include maintaining program continuity, documenting actions taken, coordinating responses in the field, evacuating the injured, notifying their families, communicating with the media, investigating after the fact, and conferring with legal counsel. We recommend 4-8 people take on these eight additional roles. Functions can be paired as shown in the org chart.

 

 

THE LADDER OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING: The same year (1984) as figuring out the tree above, I pondered what is required for a person to take action for change and came up with these steps arranged on a ladder (which I promptly stood up against the tree to pick its fruit). The nine steps on the ladder are organized into three phases: receptivity, recognition, and response. In receptivity, the students must have opportunity, interest and ability to learn about a setting. In recognition, they should generate awareness, gain appreciation, and understand the issues. In response, they ought to develop empathy (through spiritual relationships), take ethical action (no eco-terrorism), and evaluate whether or not they made a difference.

 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: Back in 1981, I was very concerned that environmental sustainability was a sufficiently important topic and yet most people only approached it from their own personal perspectives. These were usually a combination of three primary and three secondary viewpoints.

  1. HUMAN needs (sociological)
  2. NATURE needs (environmental)
  3. MONETARY needs (economic)
  4. socio-economic (human & monetary)
  5. socio-environmental (human & nature)
  6. econo-environmental (nature & monetary)

In an effort to help everyone visualize and understand the perspectives of one another, I created this model based on intertwined wire rope. Half a dozen sample needs are listed under each perspective with room for a 7th. Sustainability means balancing all of these sometimes competing needs. Thanks to my undergraduate environmental education professor, Milt McClaren, who helped clarify my thinking.

 

 

NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT: When I began teaching wilderness resource management back in 1984, I identified a dozen natural resources and their related sciences and industries in an effort to limit the scope of the instructional subject matter (* a third excluded at that time). Unique to this list of twelve, even today, are the commodifications of weather (human behavior changes alongside climate), aesthetics (the health and healing properties of nature), and relationships (the reciprocity of ekistics and service to nature). During my later cross appointments to environmental studies departments, I chose this optical illusion background to demonstrate the interconnectedness of all natural resources. Here is the partial list with some updated terms.

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