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The Foremost Task of Education

The Foremost Task of Education
by Dan Miller, Chief Learning Officer, AEE

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an indefatigable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.” – Kurt Hahn

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The Eloquence of Change

The Eloquence of Change
Submitted by Kim Neal Wasserburger, M.S.W, Experiential Educator and Consultant

I have experienced a dichotomy of roles and responsibilities as a career social worker as I enter the discussion of the benefits of “adventure/experiential education.” I have waded through the glossary of terms and definitions that must be examined and understood before conclusions can be drawn, and I have contributed to the research demonstrating that engaging participants in experience has a greater potential for significant impact than talking to them about the same things (Tucker, 2012). At times, the data resulting from my role as “administrator” do a disservice to the practitioner as well as the participant and financier when the research findings are broadly applied as an umbrella of effectiveness without regard to the type of specific activity, nature of the participants and the environment or the context (example: zip line, high ropes, challenge course, group dynamics, etc.)  in which the activity occurs. Careful consideration must be taken when associated benefits to the client/student/participant are backed by the blanket phrase “research says” without differentiating between these constructs, what outcome is being measured, precise language of facilitation and generalizations of the transference of those benefits to a future context.  It is not possible to assert beyond intention that a corporate client in a group dynamics session will be so impacted that he or she is going to return to work a healthier and a more productive team member/employee. Or, that a student from a school is going to participate in a similar day program, achieve wellness and a new perspective, return to school and be a better student and citizen. Such generalizations do not take into account that with any “experience” there are too many intervening variables to account for to make such statements.  Flawed research structure and methods, lack of follow-up studies, and differentiation in terms all contribute to the indifference about making definitive statements about program effectiveness, outcomes, and transference of the outcomes beyond the activity (McAvoy1996), (Gillis&Spellman,2008).  Consideration of “unintended” results must also be included and understood as they are part of the equation (Ringer&Gillis,1995).  In the same breath it is not possible to rule out that something greater and deeper might happen that defies the researchers’ understanding.

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