Images of Outdoor Management Development.

Introduction Contents Abstract What is OMD? Literature Methodology Conclusions Contact Me


These findings are based on a comparison between the literature and participants' understanding on Outdoor Management Development (OMD). Bringing participants understanding of OMD to the literature on the filed was not meant to be a validation of the literature. It was intended to be a comparison of the understanding held by two communities who have an interest in OMD, course participants and the authors of the literature on OMD. There are 4 main findings that arise from this comparison:

1. Experiential learning cycle

The first set of findings is concerned with the processes which took place on the course. Both the literature and participants make explicit reference to the use of the experiential learning cycle on OMD courses and both refer to the different stages of the cycle. However, participants placed as much emphasis on the stage of the learning cycle known as `active experimentation' as they did on the `reflective observation' stage. This contrasts with the frequently stated suggestion in the literature that `reflective observation' is the most important part of the experiential learning cycle.

2. Active experimentation

The second set of findings is centred on the suggestion participants made that, regardless of success or failure during the activities, they learnt from active experimentation. This contradicts suggestions that delegates need to achieve successes in order to benefit from attending a course. Participants in this study described how they experimented at the edge of their competence, accepting a high risk of failure, to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. They suggested that active experimentation requires more than just the freedom of choice to decline to take part in activities they feel uncomfortable or uncertain about. To actively experiment participants needed to be able to talk openly about any aspects of the activities they found difficult and what they considered were their vulnerabilities as well as capabilities. They also needed to feel supported and part of, what is often referred to as a `no-blame' culture. Given these conditions, participants felt able to experiment at the edge of their competence, accepting that mistakes and failure could easily happen.

3. The role of the trainers

The third set of findings concerns the nature of the relationship between the trainers and the participants that enabled the development of the conditions described above. Participants suggested that the trainer, rather than just behaving in a supportive manner and conducting effective reviews, needed to behave in a way that encouraged the development of a climate which enabled participants to manage their feelings and learn from active experimentation. This included the need for the trainer to demonstrate care, respect and trust for the participants. These subsequently developed between learners. Furthermore, they were felt to be a significant aspect of participants' relationship with other members of staff at Brathay Hall they came into contact with during the programme.

4. Course outcomes

The fourth set of findings is concerned with outcomes from the course. The outcomes from the course included four outcomes concerned with personal development and four inter-personal or team-based outcomes. These were based on participants' descriptions of changes in their feelings and emotions rather than changes in their cognitive or intellectual development. These were changes in how they felt about themselves and their fellow team members.

Philip Donnison

October 2000

Introduction Contents Abstract What is OMD? Literature Methodology Conclusions Contact Me