Linking Outcomes with Ropes Course Program Design and Delivery


  • Kathy Haras
  • Camille J. Bunting
  • Peter A. Witt


Ropes course, means–end analysis, Challenge by Choice, Inviting Optimum Participation.


Ropes course programs provide numerous benefits but researchers have rarely articulated the importance of key program attributes or provided information about effective program design. Although design and delivery are among the factors considered most critical to program effectiveness, few studies of ropes courses have compared different program approaches.The purpose of this study was to identify the program attributes, and proximal and distal outcomes reported by participants under Challenge by Choice (CbC) and Inviting Optimum Participation (I-OPt) approaches to ropes course programs. The aim was to identify program design and delivery features that led to particular outcomes and provide information about how ropes course programs achieve their goals.The study involved 209 adolescents (ages 10-15) who took part in full-day ropes course programs. At the end of their program, participants completed a means–end analysis survey asking them to identify linkages among program attributes, proximal outcomes, and distal outcomes. Participants’ responses were coded, entered into the LadderMap software program, and organized into Hierarchical Value Maps (HVMs) —treelike network diagrams that graphically summarize the results.Overall, I-OPt program participants, identified different concepts and linkages than CbC program participants and these differences could be connected to variations in program design and delivery. I-OPt participants were more likely to mention attributes relating to low activities (e.g., “low ropes,” “trust exercises,” and “communication activities”). I-OPt participants also reported the proximal outcome “group efficacy” as significant, and were less likely to mention the proximal outcome “anxiety.” CbC participants were less likely to mention attributes related to low activities, rarely mentioned the proximal outcome “group efficacy,” and were more likely to identify the proximal outcome “anxiety” and the distal outcome “excitement.”This study found that different program design and delivery attributes resulted in different participant reported proximal and distal outcomes. Research that identifies the mechanisms that link program attributes to the outcomes will enable practitioners to create and conduct effective programs.





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