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ePortfolio: Dr. Michael A. Gass







EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE: Many of these existed in 1990's, but few clearly explained both the learning and the guidance of learners. Simon Priest 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 SPRING: As a result of a Play for Peace research project, I expanded the above cycle into a three-level spiral framed in the metaphor of a spring. The experiential learning cycle takes place at the three different levels of individual, group, and community. EXPLAIN _________________





FOUR TYPES OF PROGRAMS: As young professors in 1992, Simon Priest 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-D ordered phases of program development: diagnose, design, deliver, debrief, and depart.





ETHICAL SELF-EXAMINATION: Around 2015, Simon Priest 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.





THE C.H.A.N.G.E.S. MODEL: Lee Gillis and I created this cyclic model organized under the 5-D sequential phases of program development: diagnose, design, deliver, debrief, and depart. It follows the acronym CHANGES:

  • C ontext __
  • H ypotheses ___
  • A ction ____
  • N ovelty ___
  • G enerating ___
  • E valution ___
  • S olutions ____






SEVEN TEACHING STYLES: In 1997, Simon Priest 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).





SIX PHILOSOPHY QUESTIONS: A few years ago, Simon Priest 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.





CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Building on the work of Yvars and of Leemon, Simon Priest 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





EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP BOOK: I am pleased to announce the 2017 publication of our third edition of this best selling textbook used by the majority of universities with outdoor adventure programs all around the globe. The latest copy from Human Kinetics comes with a digital field handbook and instructor's guide (edited by Brent Bell with contributed lesson plans from experts in their fields). My heartfelt thanks to Simon Priest for suggesting we do a new version after twenty years as number one.





SOLUTION-FOCUSED FACILITATION: _________________(move first diagram to Adventure Therapy page)





FRONTLOADING - THE REVERSE OF FUNNELING: Simon Priest and I experimented with frontloading as part of the work we did at the Corporate Adventure Training Institute (a research center) in Canada and identified these 6 types of questions (used after explaining the experience):

  1. REVISITING: what did we say we were going to do differently in this upcoming experience?
  2. MOTIVATION: how might learning in this next experience be useful in your life (work/school)?
  3. OBJECTIVES: what learning do you think this experience is designed to teach us?
  4. FUNCTION: what positive actions will we need to succeed and how can we do more of these?
  5. DYSFUNCTION: what negative actions might bring failure and how do we avoid these?
  6. PREDICTION: what do you think is going to happen next (or during this experience)?

Frontloading is simply asking a single prebriefing question (one of the above) immediately before a learning experience. Doing so focuses learners on change in/during the experience, so that less funneling (debriefing) is needed after the experience. Notice that the 6 questions are variations of the funnel sequence turned upside down. Therefore, the metaphor of a bullhorn is used for frontloading, but clearly one is not yelling at the learners!





FORTIFYING FOR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE: Simon Priest helped me put these six techniques into a stepwise sequence in 1999 and we called them "Fortifying" as in strengthening one's ability to appropriately address resistance to change. Here is an explanation of the six techniques that make up Fortifying.

  1. CLARIFICATION: Rather than risk potential conflict at the outset by engaging in argument with resistant individuals, ask a coworker (admired by the resistant individuals) to explain the changes to them.
  2. NEGOTIATION: Bargain with resistant individuals and settle on what is reasonable and/or necessary for them to make the requested changes.
  3. CONFUSION: In an effort to have resistant individuals re-examine their positions on change from many different perspectives, simply act genuinely puzzled and mystified by their responses to "help me understand...."
  4. PARADOXICAL: Do the unexpected in a kind of reverse psychology. For example, for people who worry about change, talk with them about the benefits of worrying and encourage them to take a specific time each day to list what could possibly go wrong.
  5. DOUBLE BIND: Describe two possible courses of behavior and the consequential outcomes from your past experience with others, then explain that to resistant individuals that they are free to choose their own paths: change or something else.
  6. ROLE SHIFT: If all else fails and after more than three strikes for resistant individuals, find them new jobs that are either doing different work in another part of the same organization or in a completely new organization!

Warning! Fortifying should be used in a stepwise manner, ethically for the benefit of resistant individuals, and with their best interests at heart and in mind. These techniques should not be used to manipulate, control, or power play a person or group.

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