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Instructor Effectiveness

Understanding Outdoor Education Philosophy & Theory

James Neill
Last updated:
06 Feb 2005

Philosophy of outdoor education

Theories of outdoor education

The instructor has considerably responsibility for the well-being and development of participants.  Thus, the instructor needs a solid understanding of the philosophy and theory behind the outdoor education practices and policies s/he implements.

Kurt Hahn said, ‘Outward Bound is like Achilles’ sword.  It heals as it cuts’.  This dual, contrasting function is not an automatic one.  The Outward Bound ideology is compelling, persuasive, and facilitating.  It can also cut deeply and not heal.  The philosophy and the articulation of ends and means must be understood beyond clichés.  Otherwise, imitation, gimmickry and labels or crutches, not walking sticks, take over.  When understanding vanishes in euphoria, any form of experiential learning becomes impossible because we limit our capacity for experience and for transfer.

Outward Bound does not automatically work.  Outward Bound staff who cannot both theoretically and practically communicate the articulation of Outward Bound’s basic ends and means may well be regarded as arrogant, elitist and pancreas pushers (Peih, 1974).