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Challenge Activities for the Physical Education Classroom: Considerations

Emily McKenzie, Tyler Tapps, Kevin Fink & Matthew L. Symonds

strategies cover january february 2018 A number of positive outcomes are associated with the experience of a challenge course in a variety of settings (Clem, Smith, & Richards, 2012; AQ1 Conley, Caldarella, & Young, 2007; Davis, Ray, & Sayles, 1995; Glass & Benshoff, 2002; Newberry & Lindsay, 2000; Robitschek, 1996). More specifically, adolescent participants in a challenge course have experienced positive outcomes such as increased cohesion, increased skills in goal setting and strategizing for goal achievement (characterized as agency and pathways, respectively), and increased classroom involvement (Conley et al., 2007; Glass & Benshoff, 2002; Robitschek, 1996). Although informative research continues to unveil the positive outcomes of a challenge-course experience, it has mostly focused on those experiences that take place at a challenge-course or an adventure-based location. Schools, particularly physical education classes, could be an effective setting in which to provide the positive experience associated with challenge courses to a wider, more diverse population of adolescents.

A challenge-course environment is characterized by novel, unique experiences for the individual and/or a group. Although students may have participated in a particular activity before, they have never done it with the particular group and the exact set of previous experiences to guide them through the process. Additionally, facilitators and teachers create an environment in which it is safe to try new things without fear of judgment or ridicule; and what might otherwise be viewed as failure is seen as a learning opportunity.

A key feature of challenge-course experiences is that a group works toward a common goal. The specific goal changes based on the needs of the group, but ultimately, the group must work together toward one unifying goal.

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