The effects of activity sequencing on challenge course group development
Kopf, Donald M
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In the rapidly expanding field of adventure therapy, group development has long been recognized as a cornerstone for success. One of the critical factors considered important by most theorists for successful group development is sequencing, or the order in which activities are presented to participants. By sequentially ordering events so that they are successively more challenging, adventure-based intervention theorists agree that group development is facilitated. However, this theory, like many in this field, has not been experimentally tested. The current study seeks to investigate the relationship between group development on a challenge course and sequencing of activities. In a typical challenge course, activities can be divided into four stages: orientation, team activities, advanced team activities, and termination. Each is designed to encourage the development of different factors associated with successful group development. If sequencing is as crucial as hypothesized, then altering the sequence of activities should have a measurable impact on the development of groups as they progress through a challenge course. To explore this hypothesis, three experimental groups proceeded through a challenge course. Each experimental condition progressed through a normally ordered challenge course sequence, but had a different stage omitted. Only the control condition groups participated in all four stages. Using the Expressiveness, Anger/Aggression, and Order/ Organization subscales from the Group Environment Questionnaire (Moos, 1994) and the Engagement and Avoidance dimensions from the Group Climate Questionnaire Short Form (MacKenzie, 1983), 12 planned comparisons were made between the different experimental conditions to see where differences lay. Preliminary analyses indicate there were no differences based on ethnicity, age or gender on the variables of interest. Primary results indicate that the only significant differences occurred on the experimental condition that did not participate in stage two activities, those designed to develop communication, teamwork and cooperation. These groups scored higher on the Order/Organization scale- opposite of what was hypothesized. No other experimental conditions showed significant differences on any of the other measures despite having skipped various activities designed to develop those qualities. This finding suggests that sequencing may not be as critical for successful group development on challenge courses as is currently hypothesized.