Bringing Challenge Course Activities Into the Classroom: Pedagogical Strengths, Obstacles, and Recommendations


  • David P. Schary Winthrop University
  • Seth E. Jenny Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
  • Geoff S. Morrow Winthrop University
  • Tyler Wozniak



adventure education, experiential education, facilitator, learning experience, outdoor education


The challenge course (CC) is a popular element in experiential education, providing individuals with activities and reflective debriefing that build numerous social and psychological processes. To date, little research shows if CC activities can be successfully implemented in a college classroom setting. Using an introductory course at a U.S. liberal arts university, this study examined the perceived strengths and limitations of a classroom-based CC intervention with intentional follow-up activities throughout the semester. Employing a qualitative, descriptive study design, the class instructors (n = 5) and CC facilitators (n = 9) described their experience in two separate 1-hr focus groups. Three overarching themes emerged from the data: (a) perceived benefits of the intervention, (b) perceived challenges of the intervention, and (c) pedagogical recommendations for future interventions. In addition, several subthemes within each theme were also revealed. Despite noting several obstacles, the participants indicated that CC programs provide a unique learning experience that can be modified for the college classroom. 

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