Outbound Training: The Hospitable Learning Space for the Apprehensive Learner


Which farm animal is the best learner?

Answer: Horse (It’s because they have a ‘STABLE’ environment)

Jokes aside, the environment or the learning space is crucial in enabling learning. In the context of Experiential Outbound Training, an optimal environment is needed for learning to take place.

Now, it does not mean a non-challenging environment that is comfortable. Failures and disappointments can be one of life’s greatest places of learning. What it means is an environment that enables learning, not keeping people in a place of boredom but balancing challenge and opportunity strategically.

A learning space is not only a physical space but is much more according to Alice and David Kolb in their book, ‘The Experiential Educator’ (2017). It requires an alignment of the different dimensions of the learning space: Psychological, Social, Institutional, Cultural, and Physical.

  • Psychological refers to learning styles, learning skills, and values
  • Social refers to peers, facilitators, and community members
  • Institutional refers to policy, organizational goals, and traditions
  • Cultural refers to values, norms and history, and language
  • Physical refers to classrooms, architecture, and environment

One of the beautiful aspects of Experiential Outbound Training design that Breakthrough uses predominantly for team learning is the Adventure Wave. Jim Schoel, Dick Prouty, and Paul Radcliffe introduced the Adventure wave in their book, ‘Islands of Healing’. Despite certain efforts to set the learning context, learners may have pre-conceived notions that hinders learning. The wave addresses the psychological, social, and cultural dimensions of teams in enabling the transition to learn.

The wave talks about how a group evolves through the series of experiences presented to them. It advocates the use of non-threatening activities at the beginning of the experience so that participants are taken to a space of openness to learning psychologically. The social and cultural dimension is addressed as team members get comfortable talking to each other and being open and vulnerable. The intensity of learning increases as the wave progresses. Thus, even an apprehensive learner evolves through the course of the experience.

In Breakthrough’s experience since 2000, having facilitated over 2.75 lakh participants we have witnessed this transformation happen. Their learning impact can be seen quite evidently at the end of the experience. The adventure wave enables such an experience as it strategically involves the learner and demystifies their apprehensions.

Organizations have benefited tremendously through this learning methodology especially when they are trying to steer teams, get them involved, and empower them in a new direction. This is one of the psychologically rooted elements of Outbound Training – the learning space and makes it one of the most powerful ways for teams to learn together. If you would like your team to benefit from such an experience do reach out to us.

Authored by Blessy Esther, Head – Marketing & Sr. Facilitator at Breakthrough


Kolb, Alice Y., and David A. Kolb. The Experiential Educator. 2017.

Schoel, Jim, et all. Islands of Healing.  Project Adventure, Incorporated, 1988

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