Teaching adventure education theory: Best practices.
Article Type:
Book review
Books (Book reviews)
Polley, Scott
Pub Date:
Name: Australian Journal of Outdoor Education Publisher: Outdoor Council of Australia Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Outdoor Council of Australia ISSN: 1324-1486
Date: Jan, 2009 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 1
NamedWork: Teaching Adventure Education Theory: Best Practices (Nonfiction work)
Reviewee: Stremba, B.; Bisson, C.A.

Accession Number:
Full Text:
Stremba, B., & Bisson, C. A. (Eds.). (2009). Teaching adventure education theory: Best practices. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


ISBN: 0-7360-7126-1, 395 pages.

Teaching Adventure Education Theory is a series of lesson plans for post-secondary adventure education. Each lesson plan is accompanied by theoretical background on the topic, and is supported by resources such as links to websites, power-point presentations, handouts, questionnaires, and signage on a CD.

The book is primarily for the North American market, but has international application. The 395 page volume is well structured, written and produced. Each lesson plan uses a similar format and the flow is logical and easy to follow. Aware of the diverse application of this text, it is able to be read by a broad range of adventure educators in addition to post secondary educators. There are clear links to the CD, which has some extremely useful teaching materials.

Stremba and Bisson have embraced, rather than supersede, other recent adventure education texts, such as Gilbertson, Bates, Ewert and McLaughlin's (2006) Outdoor Education: Methods and Strategies; Martin, Cashel and Wagstaff's (2006) Outdoor Leadership: Theory and Practice; Priest and Gass' (2005) Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming (2nd ed); and Prouty, Pannicucci and Collinson's (2007) Adventure Education: Theory and Applications.

Each lesson plan is written by a prominent tertiary educator and adventure education writer. The theoretical background supplied by each writer has a sound evidence trail to their writing, and links to the major (mostly North American) references on the topic. The lesson outlines are grounded in practice, and appear to be a reflection of what each educator is currently practicing.

The reader starts the journey with a discussion of adventure education curriculum and effective teaching of the theoretical concepts written by the editors. The ideas presented were concise and sound, and will no doubt assist with the structure of lessons for post-secondary education. A discussion of teaching methodologies and teacher qualities might have been a useful addition, but it could be argued that this is covered in other adventure education texts.

We are then guided through instructional theory, including background on Howard Gardner's (2006) multiple intelligence theories and their application to adventure education and planning for learning outcomes. The ideas presented are strongly grounded in experiential theory, and give clear directions for practice for future adventure educators.

The distinctly North American flavour to the history section (written by North American authors Cassidy, Buening and Rheingold) might be expanded by contribution from Southern hemisphere, European, Asian and other adventure educators. Perhaps this is an opening for a future article in the Australian Journal of Outdoor Education. Still, what was presented was illuminating. Some of the lesson plans clearly overlapped, providing repetition that would enhance learning.

The philosophical foundations section linked very clearly to western philosophical development, in particular those philosophers that were proponents of experiential education. The section might have provided post-secondary educators with a stronger framework to guide students through the importance and impact of having a clearly defined philosophical approach. There might also have been greater reference to the philosophical foundations of other cultures. Still, there were a couple of ideas that were presented, such as the musing forest, that might engage students in reflection about their philosophical self.

The theoretical foundations section might be re-labelled 'Theoretical Foundations of Personal Development,' as the focus is entirely on the development of the individual as a result of adventure education, and is clearly useful for educators using adventure as a tool for maintaining arousal and personal development.

The leadership theories section was excellent, and the 'Expedition Leaders Style Analysis' supplied on CD should prove useful in analysing preferred leadership styles in preparation for leadership.

It was great to see the editors include a section on social justice and ethics. Karen Warren has been a particularly prominent author in the US, and she has not shied away from tackling some harder issues. Her 'unpacking' of perceptions and beliefs, and methodologies to achieve this should prove useful. The focus on black-white and gender issues might have been expanded to include other groups that experience inequity, such as people with disabilities, Indigenous backgrounds, rural and remote dwellers, alternative religious beliefs, and non-heterosexuals.

The group development section was excellent, and a good basis for promoting improved group outcomes following the facilitation of an adventure education program. The lessons presented were sequenced well, and could be applied in the practical setting very easily. It might have been nice to include an introduction to models of therapeutic adventure facilitation, but this may well have been beyond the scope of the volume.

The final section on the human-nature connection was a useful introduction to thinking in this area, with Australia's Peter Martin providing a contribution with some useful ideas and models explaining how to introduce the 'nature as friend' concept that he has championed. Perhaps an additional chapter that introduces students to environmental sustainability pedagogy would have added a bit more depth.

One of the unfortunate consequences of such a tome labelled 'Best Practices' can be the stifling of critical inquiry. It might have been good to include a discussion of this aspect, and a section on promoting critical thinking.

In summary, a great reference for those that are conducting senior secondary and post secondary training in adventure education. It is still a useful volume for post-secondary students, as the introductions to each section and chapters were an excellent synthesis of current thinking in the domains presented. The volume fills a gap in the literature with regard to teaching and training outdoor adventure teachers, guides, leaders and facilitators. I found lots of useful ideas in this book. I wouldn't have included the label 'best practices' in the title, as clearly the context of practices plays a large part in determining what is 'best.' Perhaps 'good practices' would have been better. I would love to see a similar volume from some of Australia's tertiary educators.


Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons. New York: Basic.

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

Martin, B., Cashel, C., Wagstaff, M., & Breunig, M. (2006). Outdoor leadership: Theory and practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Priest, S., & Gass, M. A. (2005). Effective leadership in adventure programming (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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

Reviewed by Scott Polley

University of South Australia

About the reviewer

Scott Polley completed a Registered Nursing Certificate at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1986, a degree in Secondary Physical Education at University of South Australia in 1991, and Master of Education by Research (Outdoor Education) at LaTrobe University in 2005. He is currently working as a lecturer at the University of South Australia. Email: Scott. Polley@unisa.edu.au
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