Integrating Values Clarification into Outdoor Adventure Programs and Activities

By Attarian, Aram | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Integrating Values Clarification into Outdoor Adventure Programs and Activities


Attarian, Aram, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Many of our nation's schools, colleges, and leisure services organizations are offering programs that focus on basic skills instruction in a variety of outdoor adventure pursuits. These programs are designed to provide participants with opportunities for challenge and adventure in a natural setting, emphasizing safe and environmentally sound traveling and camping practices.

Instructional objectives for these programs are usually based on three primary areas - the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains (Harmon, 1978). The psychomotor (or physical) domain includes the acquisition of specific skills, such as canoeing or rock-climbing abilities. Cognitive objectives focus on knowledge, facts, and problem-solving skills and may include, for example, improving one's knowledge of land navigation or first aid. The affective domain is used to develop attitudes, values, and feelings towards particular issues or ideas, including attitudes towards the environment.

By placing more emphasis on the affective domain, outdoor adventure activities can become a valuable medium for teaching participants the skills necessary to enjoy the environment without damaging it. According to Ford and Blanchard (1993), outdoor activities can create "an initial sensitivity toward the environment, the first and essential step on the path toward increased understanding of environmental processes, increased understanding of our place in, and dependence upon, the ecosystem, and...to action on behalf of the environment" (p. 54). If outdoor recreation opportunities are to contribute to values development, then as educators we must continually place ethical challenges before our students (Leopold, 1966). According to Simpson (1993), "some people will experience an environmental awakening through exposure alone. On the other hand, none of the magic will be lost if the persuasive powers of nature are backed up by a little formal instruction" (p. 35). The principles and practices of minimum impact and resource management should be included in skills-oriented programs to help in this process.

Values Clarification

Research has shown that a number of approaches can be effective in enhancing participants' knowledge of environmental issues and developing positive attitudes towards the environment (Disinger, 1985). One approach may be a process known as values clarification. Values clarification is a theory that helps people define their values. The theory assumes that if an individual is successful in clarifying his or her own values, then changes in behavior will result. Values clarification also encourages people to spend more time reflecting on their thoughts and to question the values of society as a whole (Raths, Harmin, & Simon, 1978). Raths et al. (1978) identified seven criteria on which the process of creating values is based:

* Being free to choose without coercion. Actively selecting a value gives it more meaning.

* Choosing from alternatives. Decisions are more meaningful if options are available.

* Making choices after considering all options. Forethought reduces the chance of undesirable or unexpected outcomes.

* Prizing and cherishing. By developing values, we can become more aware of what we cherish.

* Publicly affirming. Speaking out publicly about our feelings and beliefs in socially acceptable ways helps clarify our values to others.

* Acting on our beliefs is a way to realize our own values.

* Acting with order and consistency means that our actions are based on choices.

By consciously integrating these elements into an outdoor activity program, instructors can provide students with encouragement, support, and guidance to help develop positive attitudes towards the environment.

Developing a Conceptual Model

In their book Clarifying Values through Subject Matter, Harmin, Kirschenbaum, and Simon (1973) describe an approach for teaching values and making teaching more meaningful. …

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