How Do Adventure-Based Team Building Programs Produce Change? A Case Study.
Adventure-based team building programs are commonly used for the purposes of creating positive change in individuals and groups of people. Nevertheless, the body of research on these programs is largely composed of quantitative studies that examine their efficacy and outcomes, but fail to address questions regarding how these programs facilitate positive change. Answering past scholars’ call for theory-based research that explores processes, the present study utilized a qualitative case study design to explore how a challenge course program facilitated interpersonal and intrapersonal change among a group of post-secondary students employed as Residence Life Staff at a mid-sized Canadian university. Data were collected via researcher observations of the program, focus group interviews, individual interviews, and document collection, and analyzed through inductive and comparative analysis. Results revealed that the program facilitated increases in group sociability and participants’ interpersonal relationships, communication and confidence. Program elements that facilitated those changes, such as an informal atmosphere and an element of challenge, were also identified. Kurt Lewin’s (1947a) theory of planned change was utilized as a theoretical framework for understanding the process of change, which illuminated the importance of participants’ pre-program readiness for change (i.e., unfreezing) and the sustainment of those changes post-program (i.e., freezing). Lewin’s conceptualization of field theory and group dynamics offered further relevant theoretical insights. Findings have implications for future participants, practitioners, and researchers, and make a theoretical case for the continued use of Lewin’s theory of planned change as a framework in the field of adventure and experiential education.