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Learning from incidents and students’ perceptions of safety and challenge: A case study of Outward Bound New Zealand

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Abstract

Risk is a complex component of outdoor adventure education (OAE) that can both enhance and diminish meaningful learning experiences. Outdoor professionals are searching for the balance between providing a high level of safety and challenging students through outdoor adventure activities. This case study of Outward Bound New Zealand (OBNZ) utilised a mixed method approach involving interviews with senior management staff (n = 5) and analysis of incident reports, quality control forms, and pre- and post-programme evaluation questionnaires from short-course (8 days) and long-course (21 days) participants (n = 6, 792) between 2009 and 2014. The purpose of the qualitative part of the study was to examine the learning from incidents in relation to changes to safety management at OBNZ. The quantitative analysis was used to examine the relationship between students’ perceptions of safety and challenge and how incidents impacted learning outcomes. The findings indicated that OBNZ has responded to increasing compliance requirements through the review of standard operating procedures and multiple external and internal safety audits, developing a current industry best practice incident reporting system and a heightened sense of responsibility and supportive culture amongst instructors to keep students safe and facilitate high-quality courses. These findings have implications for other OAE providers in their review of incidents and development of appropriate safety management systems that enhance safety, quality, and culture whilst still challenging students and achieving significant learning outcomes.

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Correspondence to Melanie Mott.

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Melanie Mott has worked for 15 years as an Experiential Education Curriculum Consultant for Yukon Education, Canada, as a secondary school outdoor education teacher, and as an instructor at Outward Bound, New Zealand.

Andrew Martin, PhD, is an associate professor at Massey University, New Zealand. During the past 20 years he has undertaken research on the educational processes and course outcomes of Outward Bound in New Zealand and the Czech Republic.

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Mott, M., Martin, A.J. Learning from incidents and students’ perceptions of safety and challenge: A case study of Outward Bound New Zealand. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education 20, 14–23 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03401010

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