Adventure Based Learning

Mark Squires

Adventure Based Learning (ABL)

See also: Education Resources

What is Adventure Based Learning 1?

ABL is based on a philosophy “which in essence states that individuals are usually more capable (mentally, emotionally and physically) than they perceive themselves to be, and if given the opportunity to TRY in a supportive atmosphere, can discover this excellence within themselves.”

ABL utilises group initiatives, low and high challenge course elements and many other activities to facilitate team building, problem solving, trust and communication. The experience allows the individual and team to approach physical, social, mental and emotional challenges in a safe and secure setting.

Adventure-based learning provides physical and intellectual problems for groups to solve. The “group challenges” help people explore issues of leadership, cooperation, and conflict. The hands-on activities provide a laboratory for people to experiment with different ways to lead or support a team. As with other experiential training, at the end of each exercise participants explore options for greater effectiveness through reflection, reviewing, de-briefing and goal setting.

Because a group is making decisions in the moment, ABL helps groups see their own dynamics more clearly. It is a powerful method for team-building and self-discovery.

Boyle River OEC

What is Adventure Based Learning 2?

Adventure Based Learning uses experiential learning (learning by experience) and the excitement of trying something new, to further support the concept that people learn most effectively when they:

  • are having fun
  • are interested in what they are learning
  • are actively participating in their learning
  • feel a sense of control over what they are learning
  • reflect on the experience afterwards
  • make connections to other learning and life situations.
  • It can succeed where conventional methods are failing….

In adventure-based learning programmes the teacher or facilitator challenges a group to achieve a goal, but does not explain how to successfully complete the challenge. Students must work to find a solution individually and together as a team, and must communicate and learn from each other in order to be successful.

Students begin to recognize the inner resources, strengths, and positive qualities within themselves and within their team. Reflecting and debriefing on the experience or “adventure” afterwards allows them to learn more about both their personal behaviour and contributions as well as the group’s, and relate it back to their everyday lives and routines to create positive change.

Positive change often occurs when students, individually and in groups, face problem-solving or risk-taking situations. Adventure-based learning programmes have proven to be successful in meeting both educational and personal goals and conduct them in a safe, managed environment.

Adventure Based Learning UK

ABL Process Model

Adventure Based Learning Process Model

A brief explanation of each of the components of this process

The Outlook, Boonah

Experiential Education

Experiential Learning & Experiential Education

Experiential Learning & Experiential Education

Theory, philosophy, learning cycles … and more

The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them. (Aristotle)



Experiential education: Defining features for curriculum and pedagogy

Experiential education: Defining features for curriculum and pedagogy

Dr Simon Beames, senior lecturer in Outdoor Learning at Moray House School of Education, provides a research-based overview of what comprises ‘experiential learning’…

In the field of outdoor learning it is not uncommon to hear people wax lyrical about how ‘experiential’ the content of a given course is or was.  The trouble is that most folk have their own ideas of what a course that has experiential elements comprises.  If we strive to make our programmes more experiential, we need to have a precise and shared definition of what experiential education is.  Here are three popular definitions, in varied lengths!

  • Short: Learning by doing combined with reflection (Priest & Gass, 2017, p. 45).
  • Medium: Challenge and experience followed by reflection leading to learning and growth (Association for Experiential Education, n.d.).
  • Long: …a philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people’s capacity to contribute to their communities (Association for Experiential Education, n.d.).


Teaching Matters
University of Edinburgh

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