Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

'Dramaturgy': An Holistic Approach to Outdoor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

'Dramaturgy': An Holistic Approach to Outdoor Education

Article excerpt


This paper presents an overview of the holistic method of course design, 'dramaturgy', used at Outward Bound Czech Republic. The paper is based on part of a doctoral study, which aimed to evaluate the educational process and outcomes of a course for international participants, 'Intertouch'. 'Dramaturgy', a theatre term, involves the development of themes and the integration of a wide variety of social, physical, creative, emotional/reflective activities into a course scenario aiming to enhance the challenge to participants in ways other than physical. The 'dramaturgy' is then adapted during the course for the specific needs of the individuals and group. The findings are based on the analysis of the researchers' participant observations and participant responses to open-ended questions up to one year after a course for international participants, Intertouch, which was trialled at Outward Bound Australia in March 1999. The results identified that the development of the course 'dramaturgy' is an effective method of course design that has implications for the next generation of Outdoor Education programme development and training of staff.


The first generation of outdoor adventure programmes emphasised personal growth through physical challenge (Doughty, 1991; Wurdinger, 1994) and 'letting the mountains speak for themselves' (James, 2000). The second generation added an intellectual dimension by processing the experience assisted by facilitation and review (Bacon, 1987; Doughty, 1991). Flor (1991) indicated that experiential educators also need games, exercises, initiatives, and common outdoor activities to place individuals in challenging situations that call upon creative and intellectual capacities. A range of diverse non-physical activities have been used in the development of adventure programmes (Gass, 1990), particularly in reviewing activities (Greenaway, 1993). Greenaway (1993) indicated that most review sessions involve talking in a group, however other methods such as art, drama, music, poetry, storytelling, photography and writing are also very effective. Anderson-Hanley (1997) discussed the use of the review for reflection about more spiritual issues. This could also be done during 'solo', quiet times, or individual activities. She pointed out that there was a need to integrate more aspects of spirituality as the fields of adventure and experiential education evolve.

Schoel, Prouty, and Radcliffe (1988) emphasised the importance of a sequence of carefully orchestrated activities involving for example, trust exercises, games, and problem solving exercises in achieving improvements in self-concept. Burnard (1991) also advocated the use of experiential learning methods involving role-play, drama and structured group activities in the development of interpersonal skills. Doughty (1991) indicated that there was a need for a more holistic approach that balanced physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of personal development. Gilsdorf (1995), supported this view and emphasised that that the focus should be on the art of combining games into thematic sequences, then framing, leading and debriefing adventure activities to maximise personal and social learning.

Outward Bound Czech Republic

The methods used at Outward Bound Czech Republic (OBCZ) offer such an holistic approach, by integrating a range of social, physical, creative, and emotional/reflection activities. Krouwel (1994) suggested that "the Czechs have much to teach us about how to use the outdoors and related experiential training ... These days the outdoors is quite 'old hat' to many people, and at least a leavening of other challenges, especially 'real ones', can only help personal and team development" (p.142). Krouwel (1994) believed that the OBCZ courses offered a holistic challenge, which adapted quickly to group and individual circumstances. He stated:

  Anyone who has been condemned to run a series of identical courses
  will recognise the way in which energies are drained and observation
  blunted by repetition. … 
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