Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

The Challenge Course Facilitator Technical Skills Assessment Tool

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

The Challenge Course Facilitator Technical Skills Assessment Tool

Article excerpt


A study was conducted to develop a technical skills assessment tool for the training and development of challenge course facilitators. Researchers accessed two professional on-line listserves to collect a sample size of twenty-seven currently used technical skills assessment tools. The assessment tools were critically analysed by three independent reviewers. As a result, ten commonly assessed technical skills were identified. A rubric was then developed based on the ten technical skills. A Delphi panel consisting of seven challenge course professionals completed a total of four reviews and revisions of the rubric resulting in the Challenge Course Facilitator Technical Skills Assessment Tool.


Since the early 1990s, practitioners began formal discussions surrounding challenge course facilitator competencies and training curricula on a national level (Priest, 1995). These discussions and other national activities reflect the explosive growth of the challenge course industry. Outdoor professionals estimate that over 15,000 challenge course programs exist in the United States (Attarian, 2001). The challenge course profession experienced significant growth since its inception in the early 1960s. In the United States, organizations such as the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), the Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA) and the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) represent professional groups that support challenge course industry development. While in Australia, two national avenues exist. The Outdoor Council of Australia promotes professional development by including challenge course leadership in the National Outdoor Leader Registration Scheme (NOLRS). Also the National Training Information Service provides a National Outdoor Recreation Training Package that addresses facilitator standards. As the challenge course profession matures, so does its programming methods, construction standards, facilitation standards and safety systems.

Little research exists that focuses on the assessment of challenge course facilitator technical skills competencies; however, the discussion among professionals in Australia and the USA has been historically rich and at times heated. In both countries, challenge course providers take great pride in their individual programs and enjoy a diversity of practices. This diversity allows for creativity and unique program identities. However, the diversity also creates a sense of independence that fosters resistance if national standards and assessment systems are perceived as impositions. The researchers in this study believe methods exist to create systems that preserve individual program uniqueness while improving the quality the profession. This study represents an exploratory effort to instigate more thought and discussion surrounding standardized facilitator development within the industry. Specifically, a research project was designed to create an assessment tool for technical skills facilitation. In the USA and Australia, national organizations provide facilitator standards and competencies but rely on individual members or external providers to implement their own assessment techniques.

In Australia, the "National Outdoor Recreation Training Package is the only official framework for assessing facilitator standards at present. A range of technical colleges (TAFEs) and commercial providers use the training package to deliver courses and discrete qualifications for ropes course instructors and supervisors" (M. Dingle, personal communication, April 19, 2007). The Training Package outlines facilitator competencies and the context to assess the competencies but does not mandate a universal assessment tool. Mark Dingle, Secretary of Outdoor Education Australia also shared with the researchers that the Training Package is in its infancy and is slowly gaining broader industry acceptance and is considered the benchmark by the market insurers and accreditation and regulatory bodies. …

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