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These three articles about about how to review outdoor experiences were published in
the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership (1992-1993).
This series of three articles are by Roger Greenaway.
  1. Doing Reviewing               Russia Russian Translation
  2. Reviewing by Doing
  3. Reviewing Adventure Activities

Doing Reviewing

by Roger Greenaway

It is ten years since I first became convinced of the value of reviewing. And I have spent much of my time since then encouraging or training others to develop their reviewing skills. This article describes some of the experiences which have sustained my commitment to combining adventure and reviewing - especially in work with young people.

[Terminology: In this article, the terms 'reviewing', 'processing' and 'reflection' are used interchangeably to mean "an activity that is used to encourage individuals to reflect, describe, analyze and communicate what they recently experienced."] [1]

Reviewing is an essential feature of experience-based learning, but some outdoor educators are still not convinced of its value. Even those who are convinced of its value, often find that reviewing is the most vulnerable feature of a programme:

"Things are going really well. Let's not spoil it by stopping for a review just now."
"Things aren't going too well. Let's wait until they're a bit happier before we stop for review."
"We've run out of time to do a proper review. Let's start with a review next time."

Next time … there are new priorities, or the experience has 'gone cold' and no-one is interested in going over what happened last time. [2]

Why is it that some adventure educators are more committed to reviewing than others? What is it that makes outdoor enthusiasts enthusiastic about reviewing?

Attitude shift

Conversion to reviewing is unlikely to result simply from being introduced to a toolkit of reviewing techniques. Becoming 'converted' to reviewing might require a major attitude shift which involves taking a substantial step towards a more facilitative style of working. Adventure educators already appreciate the value of experience as a means of precipitating attitude change, and it is through experiencing 'good' reviewing at first hand that they are perhaps most likely to come to appreciate the value of reviewing - and want to do it.

Adding value

I myself became convinced of the value of reviewing by experiencing it as a course participant. Once 'converted', I was keen to try out and develop reviewing methods which added value to experiences in the outdoors. I was especially interested in developing reviewing methods which kept the sense of adventure alive during reviews, and which sustained high levels of involvement throughout the review process. I felt this was consistent with my growing belief that both 'adventure' and 'reviewing' were part of a continuing process of curiosity and exploration. Rather than seeing 'adventure' as exciting, and 'reviewing' as dull, I soon discovered that the whole process could be a highly involving learning experience.

For example, I have just returned from running an activity-based weekend residential event in which (as often happens in my experience) young people singled out a review session as being a highlight of the course. It is my view that reviews can be as challenging or rewarding as any outdoor activity, and that they can add considerable value to the adventure under review.

The consequences of not reviewing

Other outdoor educators have been 'converted' to reviewing through experiencing the consequences of not reviewing (whether as a group leader or as a group member). For example: A teacher taking part in an outdoor personal development course was encouraged to take on responsibility for navigation on a mountain walk, but she made a route-finding mistake. As a result of this error no more offers of responsibility came her way throughout the rest of the course, and she felt less inclined to volunteer or take risks from that point on. None of this was reviewed because it was not part of the course culture to do so. A course which was designed to build confidence and encourage people to take risks was having the exact opposite effect. The leader was unaware of the negative impact of this incident on the woman involved.

Without a review, the leader was unable to learn much about the negative consequences of this event. Without a review, the woman had little chance to gain anything positive from the experience. The only positive outcome was the woman's determination to review experiences when she herself took others into the hills.

Power and responsibility

Any leader who does not review could be providing similarly counter-productive experiences. Adventure education is a powerful medium in which to work. With power comes responsibility: it is precisely because the medium of adventure can be so powerful that adventure educators have a responsibility to find out what kind of impact the experiences are having. And as educators, it makes sense to assist and assess the learning experiences which are aroused by adventure. Through reviewing leaders demonstrate that they …

Crossing thresholds

In adventure education, we frequently invite participants to cross 'thresholds'. We might try to inspire them with stories about how other 'adventurers' have crossed thresholds and have benefited from doing so. We might try to persuade them that if they can overcome a fear in a physical challenge, they might be better able to overcome other challenges in life [3]. Adventure is all about crossing thresholds. But 'reviewing' is a threshold which some adventure leaders are still reluctant to cross.

Some reluctant reviewers may be only a step away from crossing this threshold and becoming enthusiastic reviewers. It is likely that both believe first and foremost in the importance of the quality of the experience. Both are likely to see themselves as educators who wish to provide rich and meaningful experiences to complement (or compensate for) other kinds of educational experience. It is likely that both value doing and experiencing as the most vital elements in the kind of education which they provide.

Different experiences

For many young people the outdoor environment and outdoor activities are different. It is mainly because the experience of the outdoors is so different for many young people that it has such impact. Providers of outdoor experiences frequently go to great lengths to make things as different as possible - plenty of fresh air, staying away from 'civilisation', walking in the dark, camping in strange places, etc. Even working in groups is a new and different experience for many young people.

The reluctant reviewer may think that sitting around talking (especially if it is indoors) is not particularly different, adventurous or stimulating. The reluctant reviewer is likely to favour maximising the time spent doing adventurous things outdoors - believing that the more adventurous the programme, the more impact it is likely to have. The enthusiastic reviewer is likely to hold much the same beliefs, but is more likely to be in touch with what is going on, and will be better placed to adjust and adapt the programme to suit the needs and interests of the learners.

Action-packed programmes

Having an action-packed programme is probably the first mistake if the purpose is to provide adventure education rather than simply to provide adventure. According to John Dewey, "Experience plus Reflection equals Education" [4]. It follows from this that experience without reflection does not equal education. Equally, reflection without experience would not equal education. The challenge is to get the balance and relationship right between experience and reflection - if education is to be the outcome.

An 'overdose' of active experience in the outdoors is not in my view an improvement on the 'underdose' of active experience in the 15,000 hours that young people spend at school. When working in the outdoors, and relatively free of timetable constraints, it should be much easier to get the balance right between experience and reflection - such that young people have a taste of learning through adventurous experience, and do not simply experience adventure.

Reviewing sequences

Starting with a programme of activities and then fitting reviewing around the activities is not a promising start for designing a programme of adventure education. Why not start with a programme of reviewing and fit the activities around the review programme? Just as there are natural sequences of activities (say, from ice-breakers through to independent expeditions), so there are natural sequences for reviewing. One such sequence is described by Nadler and Luckner in their 'processing curriculum' which they describe as …"the thread that binds and weaves together diverse adventure activities with participants' emotional experiences." [5] This sequence starts with trust building and awareness raising, moves to responsibility and experimentation and ends with transfer of learning.

Keeping in touch

Thinking in terms of reviewing sequences is generally helpful, but can be overdone. One of the main purposes of reviewing is to keep in touch with what participants are thinking and feeling, and that may not happen to correspond with a pre-planned reviewing sequence. In adventure education, the priority for reviewing is surely to find out first of all what kind of adventures young people are experiencing? They may not be the kinds of adventures that were planned, and each individual may be experiencing (and learning) something quite different: "Adventures can happen almost anywhere with almost any activity. What is an adventure, and what sort of adventure it is, depends very much on the perception and previous experience of the 'adventurer'." [6]

Unexpected outcomes

Reviewing provides the opportunity for checking on what kinds of adventures are happening. For example: On a one week course for apprentices, the overnight solo was generally seen as the biggest challenge of the course. The apprentice least affected by the experience was the one who had spent much of the previous week sleeping out in a bus shelter because of problems at home. This was not revealed until the review.

On another course, a young trainee did not believe the positive things that others in the group were saying about him: His self-esteem was so low that he thought at first that they were being sarcastic. It took two further review sessions for him to accept that they were telling the truth. He had been blocking out the positive learning from adventurous experiences. However 'good' or 'big' the adventure experiences, it was in the review sessions that he eventually succeeded in overcoming this personal barrier. For this young participant, it was the review which provided the biggest challenge and the most significant learning.

In both of these examples, the reviewing process revealed to the leader that the programme was not working as planned: in the first example, an apparently 'big' adventure turned out to have little significance; and in the second example above, an apparently 'positive' sequence of adventures turned out to have been reinforcing a negative self-image. Through reviewing, the leader was able to find out what was happening, respond appropriately and bring about more positive and worthwhile outcomes.

Learning from experience

It often happens that a reviewing technique will add value to the adventurous experience for those taking part, while also providing information to the leader which helps him or her to evaluate the impact of the experience. Reviewing allows the leader to evaluate the success of a programme in progress while it is still possible to make changes, but the main function of reviewing is to enable participants to learn from their experiences. Improving young people's ability to learn from experience is arguably the most sustainable and dynamic outcome which adventure education can provide.

What did you learn?

The sleepiest and least productive reviews are those where the leader is exclusively concerned with evaluation. Starting a review by asking "What did you learn?" is not likely to turn into a memorable review session. Adventure experiences are valuable because they provide challenge and arouse feelings: they rarely provide ready-made lessons. Following an adventurous experience, participants are more likely to benefit if the review sequence allows them to express and sort out their thoughts and feelings. At the end of a good review, participants might be expected to respond more intelligently to the question "What did you learn?". At the very least, a good review will have stimulated reflective processes that might otherwise have been brushed aside by the next activity.

A good review helps to transform a powerful experience into an empowering learning process in which personal and social development is more in evidence. Reviewing can both enhance and demonstrate the educational potential of adventure.

References [Doing Reviewing]
1: L. K. Quinsland and A. Van Ginkel (1984), How to Process Experience, The Journal of Experiential Education, 7 (2), p.8-13
2: Roger Greenaway (1990), More Than Activities, Save the Children Fund, p.44
3: Stephen Bacon (1983), The Conscious Use of Metaphor in Outward Bound, Colorado Outward Bound School, USA.
4: John Dewey (1938), Experience and Education, New York, Macmillan: Reldan Nadler and John Luckner (1990), Processing the Experience, Theory and Practice, (Northern Illinois University), p.36
6: More Than Activities (see 2 above) p.60

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 Reviewing By Doing  

by Roger Greenaway

In Part One, 'Doing Reviewing', I explained why I believe that reviewing is of fundamental importance in adventure education. That article ended with the promise that Part Two would describe "a variety of active methods for reviewing adventures". These methods are described below following a brief introduction to a four stage reviewing sequence to which they can be linked. As in Part One, the term 'reviewing' refers to:

"an activity that is used to encourage individuals to reflect, describe, analyse and communicate what they recently experienced." [1]


The 4 Stage Sequence Explained

Examples of Active Reviewing Methods linked to each of the 4 stages
    1. EXPERIENCE "What happened?"
    2. EXPRESS "What was it like?"
    3. EXAMINE "What do you think?"
    4.  EXPLORE "What next?"

Active Reviewing

'Active reviewing' is not necessarily any better nor any more 'advanced' than reviewing by talking. If the discussion after an adventure is an engaging one and is helping young people to learn from their experience, then it is probably best not to interrupt the 'flow' with an 'active review technique' (or with a new activity). But having an extensive and varied 'toolkit' of active reviewing techniques does increase the chances of finding a suitable method (or combination of methods) for making the best use of time spent reviewing.

Choosing a method

The choice of technique may be an intuitive one. It may feel right to provide a contrast, such as by following a chaotic activity with a structured review, by following a slow activity with a busy review, or following a challenge with something easygoing. On the other hand, it may feel right to stay with the mood of the moment and, for example, follow an energetic activity with an energetic review, or follow an inspirational adventure with an equally stimulating review.

But the choice of technique need not be wholly intuitive: there are a number of theoretical models which serve as a useful guide to shaping reviews and to choosing the methods which are most likely to work well.


Several American writers [2], emphasise the importance of 'sequencing' in 'debriefing' or 'processing' (i.e. reviewing). The concept of sequencing typically refers to the order in which questions are asked by the facilitator in a discussion-based review. It can be equally important for 'active' reviews to follow a sequence - preferably one supported by a theoretical model from the fields of groupwork, educational drama or experiential learning. One model that I find particularly useful as a guide for both 'conversational' and 'active' reviewing is Juch's synthesis of several experiential learning theories into a four stage cycle [3]:

For my training workshops in reviewing skills, I have developed variations of this basic sequence, the second of which 'XXXX' provides the main structure for this article.

stage 1 stage 2 stage 3 stage 4
DOING -> SENSING -> THINKING -> PLANNING Juch's synthesis [3]
* since renamed 'FUTURES' in Playback to make dreams more attainable
For an update on this model see the foot of this page

A four stage reviewing sequence

  1. EXPERIENCE The first stage is to establish or 'relive' what happened. This stage can serve as a useful reminder of significant incidents that may have been forgotten or overlooked. If the event under review was a success, this stage might take the form of a celebration. If there were problems, this stage would be more like the collecting of evidence. Young people may be surprised to learn of the different perspectives that other group members may have of the 'same' event. The main focus of this first stage is on what happened.

  2. EXPRESS The second stage is a vital one, but tends to be the stage most at risk if review time is limited. This stage recognises that experiences (especially adventurous ones) stimulate the senses and arouse emotions. This stage focuses on the quality of the experience: "What was it like?", "How did it feel?" Young people may have difficulty expressing themselves. If the experience was new and different, they may need to find new and different ways of communicating their experiences - perhaps through using drama and other expressive arts.

  3. EXAMINE The third stage is more analytical and rational. 'All-talk' reviews tend to arrive too soon at this stage, especially if reviewers are too impatient to draw out the learning from the activity. If the experience has been a 'whole person' experience, it is important to use review methods which match the fullness of the experience - using review methods, for example, which encourage the creative and analytical parts of our brains to communicate with each other. Analytical thinking is an important feature of any reviewing process, but it can be easier to capture the broader 'developmental' benefits of adventure at the earlier 'expressive' stage of this learning sequence.

  4. EXPLORE The fourth stage is the most practical stage. It involves trying out something that has been prompted by earlier stages of the cycle. It might involve preparing carefully for the next adventure, but it could equally involve making a commitment to 'dive in' and find the confidence and courage to take bigger risks. This 'planning' stage would usually involve setting targets and raising safety awareness, but it is equally important to keep the sense of curiosity and exploration alive - if the experience is to be both educational and adventurous.

Active reviewing methods: examples

1: EXPERIENCE "What happened?"


A highly versatile active review method for all stages, but especially this one, is re-enactment or 'action replay':

"Just as on television, the action is 'played back' either to examine an incident more closely or to re-run an event worth celebrating ... action replays as a reviewing technique break free from the constraints and expense of television, and involve group members in re-enacting the incidents. The purpose is the same (i.e. to examine or celebrate what has just happened) but initially action replays can be a fun activity of their own. Once the leader has demonstrated the possibilities, group members can take it in turns to direct the action, deciding what to replay, when to hold, reverse, repeat, slow down or fast forward." [4]

The purposes and variations of action replays are endless:


An alternative form of 'action replay' is for group members to choose or make objects to represent themselves, which they then operate as 'puppets'. This is especially useful if space or confidence is limited, but it can be an equally effective way of 'reliving' the experience.


If the experience was a journey, or can be represented in the form of a map, then using a large piece of paper, the group work together to produce a map of their adventure. The map shows incidents, observations, and high and low points along the way. The process of making the map will often quite naturally carry a group forward into the next two stages of this review process.


The above techniques are not intended for audiences outside the group, but if a group wishes to communicate their adventure to others (e.g. to celebrate a success, or to be honest about what did not go well) then the above techniques could double as a rehearsal for a performance or presentation to others. Performing in front of others could be an even bigger adventure than the original one on which it is based!

2: EXPRESS "What was it like?"

Most of the techniques for 'stage one' can be continued or adapted to focus attention on expressing feelings associated with the adventure. There are also many new reviewing activities that can be introduced at this stage.


One of the most direct ways of finding out about young people's 'ups and downs' is literally to ask them to move their heads (or hands) up and down as someone talks through the experience being reviewed.

A valuable outcome from this exercise is when young people express surprise at another's position. Differences are more likely to show up if participants first record a number (say, 10 = high, 0 = low) for particular moments or stages of the adventure. Discussion can be prompted (if necessary) by encouraging young people to look around and ask questions if anyone else's position interests or surprises them. This feature of the exercise enhances group and social development by increasing young people's awareness of the feelings of others. [5]

'Ups and downs' is a quick and easy way of allowing each individual to 'express' their feelings. These instant snapshots prompt individuals to talk more openly about their feelings. These snapshots may also indicate issues that are worth examining (in stage three).


Line-ups are a similar concept to 'ups and downs'. People arrange themselves along an imaginary line which represents a spectrum of feelings. One end can represent feeling 'confident', 'out of my depth', 'right', 'supported', 'influential' etc.. The other end represents an 'opposite' feeling. It is usually better if the language used is suggested by the young people themselves. It is a good idea to use a curved line so that everyone can see each other. Alternatively, the centre of the room (or review space) can represent the more 'positive' end of the line, with the walls representing the opposite end. Discussion is encouraged (where necessary) as for 'ups and downs'.


Although 'line-ups' are a useful tool, they are little more than 'warm-ups' for the 'expressive' stage of a review. A more three-dimensional representation of an adventure can be achieved by selecting and developing suitable visual (and active) metaphors.

For example, the phrase 'out of my depth' (mentioned in 'line-ups) could be part of a swimming pool metaphor. Ask the group to imagine that the room (or review space) is a swimming pool. Show them where the edges, shallow end, and deep end are, and ask them to get 'in the right place' for particular stages of the experience under review. This is not simply a line-up from 'shallow' to 'deep': encourage the group to use the metaphor creatively. For example, someone may have felt they were taking it easy - 'floating on an air-bed'. Someone may have felt 'like a pool attendant'. Another may have felt they were 'bomb-diving' others all the time etc. When everyone has found 'the right place', they should find some way of 'showing' what they are doing there.

If the mood and the metaphor are right, then playing creatively with the metaphor, can help young people to find a powerful means of expressing themselves. Listen out for any metaphors that young people are using naturally in their conversation - they may be particularly good ones to play with! [6]


The creative arts offer plenty of scope for helping people to describe their experience:

Experiences can be represented creatively in many ways including: a collection of objects or souvenirs, finger painting, a sketch or painting, a collage, mural, cartoon, poster, newspaper story, photographs, video, song, play, model or junk sculpture. [7]

3: EXAMINE "What do you think?"

The first two stages encourage people to 'relive' and 'stay inside' the experience. This is now the stage for 'stepping outside' the experience and 'looking back' on it from a more detached and critical point of view.


If a group have been making a collage representing their adventure, now is the time to step back and study the collage, and encourage discussion about it. For example, try asking: "If a visitor turned up and saw your collage what do you think they would notice? What questions might they ask?" This can be followed up by finding a volunteer from the group to take the part of an interested visitor. In effect, the 'visitor' will have become the facilitator of a group discussion, which is based initially on observations and questions which group members will have themselves supplied. [8]


This review activity is best done outside as it needs plenty of space! It is a similar concept to 'line-ups', except that it requires people to make assessments and judgements (rather than simply asking people to recall facts and feelings as in stages one and two).

Everyone stands in a line (as if starting a race) and closes their eyes. The facilitator now asks individuals to make judgements about group behaviour during the activity, by asking questions one at a time. For example:

The answers are silent ones! After each question, ask everyone to take up to x paces forward for positive answers, and up to x paces backwards for negative answers. After the last questions, group members open their eyes, turn towards each other and talk! The exercise can be repeated with similar questions about individual achievement: Variations are endless: combinations of eyes shut and eyes open, or starting off in a large circle, facing inwards or outwards, using questions from the group etc.


There are many variations of this appraisal activity in which young people find, make or mime gifts for each other. The gifts either represent something that the 'donor' appreciates about the person, or they can be in the form of "I wish you could have more of this". The session should be arranged so that 'appreciates' outweigh 'criticisms'. One method of ensuring this is to split the group in two, and to ask each half group to work together to find, make or mime three gifts for each individual in the other half group: two gifts should be in the form, "We admire you for this" and one gift should be in the form, "We wish you had more of this".

Personal appraisal does not need to be related to a particular context, but as a review technique, the qualities represented by the gifts should have been in evidence during the activity under review. For example, the gifts might convey the message:

"We admired you for your courage when trying to rescue the bird, but we wish you wouldn't go it alone so much, and had asked us to help too. We admired you for staying calm when you needed rescuing."

Once young people realise that everyone will be giving and receiving feedback, they sense the fairness and the potential value of this kind of exercise, and become very committed to making it work.


Some assertions made during a review can be tested out immediately. If someone says, "We are very trusting in this group" or, "We are not very trusting in this group", this could be a good cue for a trust exercise to test out the assertion. It may be a fairly crude test of the assertion, but it will at least highlight the issue and provide a fresh angle from which to consider it. Similarly, an assertion that "We do listen to each other" or "We are not very good at listening to each other", can be a cue for a listening exercise. It is useful to anticipate likely review issues and have a few quick exercises "ready for action".

This is yet another situation where action replays are a useful standby:

"So you would like this group to be more trusting? Let's see what that might be like. Let's 'replay' the part(s) of the activity where you weren't very trusting and try to be more trusting this time round."

However the replay works out, it should provide a fresh perspective on the issue, and a more detailed picture of what is possible.

4: EXPLORE "What next?"

And now for something completely different? Sometimes it is best to make a fresh start and set out on a new adventure with an open mind. But if there have been significant outcomes from the review process so far, it may be important to keep these in mind when setting out on the next activity or adventure.


A group may simply want to repeat an activity because they want to improve in some way second time round. Check with the group, "What are you trying to find out by doing this activity again?" Once you (and they) are clear about their motivation, it may be possible to suggest variations which will make the repetition more worthwhile - for example, by changing roles or responsibilities, or by reducing or increasing the challenge.


If a group is taking on a particularly difficult challenge, or seems likely to repeat mistakes, then it can be useful to 'rehearse' the activity. This can involve trying out different ways of doing the activity - either 'almost for real' or by acting out (as in action replays). This might involve acting out how the group will work together, or it could involve picturing things going wrong, and acting out how they would cope.


Most of the techniques already described for 'looking at' the past can also be used to for 'looking at' the future. Just as re-enactments can be adapted to apply to the future (pre-enactments!), so can 'ups and downs', 'line-ups', 'visual metaphors' and 'creative arts'. All of these techniques can be used to create 'pictures' of how a group (or an individual) would like things to be for the next activity. Once group members have pictured a future state that they would like to achieve, they can work out the steps towards it. Rather than simply stating or writing down the steps, each of the steps can be illustrated or acted out, depending on which active or creative medium the group is working in.


An imaginary extra person in the group can be created by asking, "What kind of person would you want to join this group to help you be more successful?". Encourage the group to name, describe and adopt this extra person for the adventure - and look after them during the adventure. If the idea does not capture the imagination of the group, then abandon it! But if the idea takes off, it can provide excellent stimulation for review. The creation of the character in the first place is a way of encouraging the group to analyse what they are lacking. And having an imaginary character can add a fascinating extra dimension to the review process.


These are some of the basic principles and building blocks of active reviewing. They can be brought together in various ways to encourage full involvement in reviewing, and to sustain a lively and supportive climate for learning. The four stage reviewing sequence,


provides a guide for managing the reviewing process. This vivid, all-round approach to reviewing quickly leads to young people remembering or anticipating review issues during an outdoor adventure, and so being more alert and aware during the activity itself. Heightened awareness means that young people will be getting more value from the activity, and will be more able to see and make connections with other events in their lives.

"The ultimate aim of reviewing exercises is to make reviewing a habit, thus stimulating and developing people's ability to learn from experience." [9]


References and Resources for 'Reviewing by Doing'

1: L. K. Quinsland and A. Van Ginkel (1984), How to Process Experience, The Journal of Experiential Education, 7 (2), p.8-13
2a: Reldan Nadler and John Luckner (1990), Processing the Experience, Theory and Practice, (Northern Illinois University)
2b: Clifford Knapp, Processing the Adventure Experience, in: Miles and Priest (1990), Adventure Education, (Venture Publishing Inc.)
2c: Schoel, Prouty and Radcliffe (1988), Islands of Healing, (Project Adventure, Inc.) pp. 65-86 (chapter on sequencing)
3: Bert Juch (1983), Personal Development Theory and Practice in Management Training, Shell International/Wiley
4: Roger Greenaway (1990), More Than Activities, Save the Children Fund, p.52 (action replay)
5: For more about 'happy charts' see: More Than Activities (as above), p.50
6: For using metaphor and related ideas, see: Sue Jennings, Creative Drama in Groupwork, (Winslow Press), p.145
7: More Than Activities (see 4 above), p.53
8: A tougher version of this idea, 'An Inspector Calls' is described in: John Hunt and Penny Hitchin (1989), Creative Reviewing, (Groundwork), p.60
9: Creative Reviewing (as above), Staff Training Edition, Supplement, page v.

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 Reviewing Adventure Activities  

by Roger Greenaway

    This article presents four examples of how the four stage reviewing sequence

    can be applied to different kinds of adventure.

    As in previous articles [JAEOL 9(1) and 9(2)], the term 'reviewing' refers to:

    "an activity that is used to encourage individuals to reflect, describe, analyse and communicate what they recently experienced." [1]

Adventures stimulate stories. The stories which young people tell about their adventures are shaped by a number of different influences. These influences are likely to include:

It sometimes happens that just one of these influences will dominate all the others:

What is meant in this article by "stories" (or "storylines") are the various ways in which people recall, frame, interpret or talk about their experiences. Reviewing is a means of intervening in these sense-making processes: firstly to find out what impact an adventure is having, and secondly to enhance the value of the experience. Reviewing can make the positive impact of adventures longer-lasting by developing and extending the "stories" which arise spontaneously during adventures.

The way in which the examples in this article have been created was firstly to choose a variety of adventure activities. These were: rock climbing, skiing, unaccompanied walks and accompanied adventurous journeys. The next step was to think of the kind of experience which typically occurs in each of these activities. The four experiences chosen were: success; learning a skill; responsibility and co-operation. Combining these two steps resulted in the following titles:

  1. Climbing: reviewing to build on success
  2. Skiing: reviewing to develop learning skills
  3. Expedition: reviewing to develop responsibility
  4. Group adventures: reviewing to develop co-operation
These examples aim to show how reviewing can help to bring out what is "already there" in the experience. It is of course quite possible that the same activities could be used for quite different purposes - providing that there is a close fit between what participants experience most intensely and the main aim of the activity. It is also possible to have a number of aims attached to one activity, but this does risk loss of direction without any aims being satisfactorily achieved. Consequently, each of the examples below demonstrate ways of staying focused on a single aim throughout a reviewing sequence. The four examples also demonstrate how at least four of the key influences mentioned in the opening paragraph (the activity + the aim + the review + the leader) can work together to achieve a key purpose within the field of adventure education.

The four stage reviewing sequence which is used in these examples was described in "Reviewing by Doing" in JAEOL 9(2), but for easy reference is summarised here:

  1. EXPERIENCE The first stage is to establish or 'relive' what happened. This stage can serve as a useful reminder of significant incidents. This stage can help to set the agenda for later stages, but the main focus of this first stage is on what happened.

  2. EXPRESS The second stage is a vital one, but tends to be the stage most at risk if review time is limited. This stage recognises that experiences (especially adventurous ones) stimulate the senses and arouse emotions. This stage focuses on the quality of the experience: "What was it like?", "How did it feel?"

  3. EXAMINE The third stage is more analytical and rational. 'All-talk' reviews tend to arrive too soon at this stage, especially if reviewers are too impatient to draw out the learning from the activity. If the experience has been a 'whole person' experience, it is important to use review methods which match the fullness of the experience.

  4. EXPLORE The fourth stage is the most practical stage. It involves trying out something that has been prompted by earlier stages of the sequence. This stage would usually involve setting targets, but it is equally important to keep the sense of curiosity and exploration alive. [2]

1) CLIMBING: reviewing to build on success


Before going climbing, do some trust exercises, organise the choosing of climbing partners and emphasise safety issues. Ensure that young people have set realistic targets, perhaps by asking: "If you get half way up a climb would you see that as success or failure?"


Staff listen out for and record any quotes that may be useful reminders at the review stage.


Experience: Guided reflection: (guided by prompts from the leader with pauses for silent thoughts): "Lie down. Relax. Try to remember what you were thinking and feeling as you walked up to the climbing site ... when you first saw the rock face ... when you were putting on the gear ... when the belaying system was explained ... when you were belaying your partner ... when you started off climbing ... half way up ... when you'd finished."

Express: Soundtrack: (outline instructions for each person to follow): Sketch the climbing route on A4 paper. Overlay transparent plastic (e.g. OHP film) and add speech bubbles and thought bubbles to show what you were saying and thinking at different points of the climb. Add comments from spectators if they affected you in any way.

Examine: Lift off the plastic film, and talk with a partner about other situations (in your own experience) which this pattern of words could fit. If none come to mind, then wipe off some words (starting with those specific to climbing) until you can think of a situation that more or less fits. Describe or sketch the similar situation. See how the words fit and discuss any similarities and differences.

Explore: Choose a future occasion in which there are likely to be challenges or difficulties (next activity or "back home") and produce a sketch or strip cartoon (including speech and thought bubbles) to show how you would like things to work out.


The most important feature of this technique is the separation of the words (or soundtrack) from the rock face picture when the transparency is lifted. It makes 'transfer of learning' a visible concept which can be readily understood.

If young people have difficulty finding a similar situation, then provide one or two visual examples (prepared earlier) to demonstrate what you mean by "fitting the words to another situation".

A good staff to student ratio is advisable for this review as it is basically an individual activity which may need some one-to-one support (from staff or other group members).

The review process outlined above is only recommended following a climbing session in which all young people experienced achievement - at least in the sense that they performed better than they had expected.

2) SKIING: reviewing to develop learning skills


How did you learn? Before setting off to the slope give each learner a record which lists different ways of learning, e.g.:


The instructor should simply aim to provide a good skiing session and should not be unduly influenced by the review process which is to follow it.


Experience: (Instructions to group members) Tick the learning methods which you yourself experienced during the session.

Express: Score each learning method which you experienced on a scale 0 - 10 to show how helpful you found each method during that particular session. Explain and discuss your scoring with a partner.

Examine: Look at the variations between how different people like to learn to ski. Do some people prefer to learn in different ways? How much is this variation in how people like to learn to do with confidence, skiing ability, motivation, etc.?

Discuss how you like to learn other new skills. How is learning to ski similar and different to learning these other skills?

Explore: If the instructor is not involved in the review, then find a suitable way of giving any useful feedback to the instructor. Encourage individuals to try out different ways of improving their skiing (during or outwith their lesson).


This approach to reviewing was first devised in order to make better use of the minibus journey back from regular skiing sessions: the paired conversations can be carried out during the journey. If individuals keep all their records, it is then useful to review how their experiences and preferences changed over the whole period of their skiing lessons.

Where young people really want to learn to ski, then it makes sense to give some attention to learning methods as well as to skiing methods. The more the instructor is involved in (or at least informed about) this reviewing process, the better the chances that the instructor will end up with the winning skiing class!

3) EXPEDITION: reviewing to develop responsibility


Before the group leave, make a record of the plan which includes the route, what each person's responsibilities are, in what circumstances the plan would change, what to do in the event of an emergency, etc.


Make a tape recording in which each person is invited to talk for a minute or two about their particular responsibilities and about any hopes or concerns they have about the expedition.


Experience: Sketch Map: Ask the group to make a large sketch map of the route taken, showing significant events such as decisions made, incidents (funny or serious), changes of mood, remembered quotes, changes of weather, observations about the environment, meeting other people, etc. [2]

Express: Happy Chart: Referring to the map, divide up the experience into about ten stages, and ask individuals privately to record their feelings at each stage on a scale of -5 to +5. Make a giant graph marking a vertical scale for feelings (-5 to +5) and a chronological list of the ten or more events along the foot. Using different coloured pens (or different symbols) each person marks in their scores for each event, joins them together, and signs their line. [3]

Examine: Invite comment and discussion about the pattern, paying particular attention to "surprises" such as not realising that one person was so high or so low. Also pay attention to individual scores at any point where their individual responsibility was important.

Explore: Discuss what responsibilities individuals would like to take on: either during another activity or in other settings in their local community.


The above methods are particularly useful for reviewing independent expeditions, when the reviewer knows little or nothing about what happened at the start of the review. The methods can also be applied to expeditions which were accompanied by the reviewer. Most of the methods described above can be used for reviewing any kind of journey: walking, cycling, canoeing, caving etc.

reviewing to develop co-operation


Gorge walking, scrambling, low level traversing, caving, and night walking. All of these activities involve journeying in adventurous places. They require general agility rather than any specialist skills. They are activities in which group members are likely to be giving and receiving plenty of encouragement, advice and physical help. Such adventures are likely to create a strong sense of group achievement.


Before the adventure, a strong emphasis is given to the fact that it is a group activity, and that safety, success and enjoyment will depend on the extent to which people help each other.


The level of difficulty can be adjusted in various ways during the adventure to try to ensure that everyone needs to give and receive help.


Experience: Rounds: My personal high point; my personal low point; what I found most difficult; what I found surprisingly easy. [3]

Express: Support sculptures: (preparation) Discuss with a partner the ways in which you feel that you helped individuals and contributed to the success of the group. Describe the ways in which you felt that others were helping or encouraging you.

Examine: Each person takes it in turn to stand in the middle of the room. They then bring in others closer to them depending on how much "support" they feel they received from each person in the group. The manner of the support can be shown by appropriate gestures and body positions decided by the "sculptor". As each person should be well prepared for this (from their paired discussions), these human sculptures are best carried out at a fast, even frantic, pace. As soon as each sculpture is complete, ask everyone who has been included to remember where the "sculptor" has placed them.

Explore: Try to summarise the discussion into a few key points about how the group can maintain and develop group co-operation. Ask individuals to think about ways in which they want to apply (to their everyday lives) what they have learned about themselves in relation to support and co-operation.


The kind of process outlined above can dramatically increase the levels of support and co-operation in a group. This helps to provide a solid base from which difficult or sensitive issues can be tackled more readily. The above sequence can also be useful preparation for groups to carry out more independent activities such as unaccompanied walks, problem solving exercises, or organising events in their local community.

References for Reviewing Adventure Activities
1. L K QUINSLAND AND A VAN GINKEL (1984), How to Process Experience. The Journal of Experiential Education, 7 (2), p8-13
2. ROGER GREENAWAY (1991), Reviewing by Doing, JAEOL 9(2)
3. ROGER GREENAWAY (1990), More Than Activities, Save the Children Fund

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This series of three articles was published in the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership (1992-1993).
  1. Doing Reviewing
  2. Reviewing by Doing
  3. Reviewing Adventure Activities
This (slightly revised) version was first published on the internet (1997) with permission from Chris Loynes, the editor.
Further minor revisions (2012)
Copyright 1992-1993 Roger Greenaway

For a free electronic copy of this document go to:

Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership
now part of the Institute for Outdoor Learning at


For the latest information contact:
Roger Greenaway
Reviewing Skills Training

9 Drummond Place Lane
phone/fax +44 (0) 1786 450968

The four stage cycle Experience, Express, Examine, Explore has been superceded by the 4F cycle: Facts, Feelings, Findings, Futures which has since become '5F'! The 5th F (Freedom or Flexibility) is represented by 'The Joker' and helps to keep the whole process alive and adventurous. See for the latest version of the active reviewing cycle.

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