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Bacon's (1987) Three Stages in the Evolution of the Outward Bound Process

James Neill
Last updated:
02 Aug 2004

Bacon (1987) extended James' (1980) first two stages in the evolution of Outward Bound programming, by adding a metaphorical model:

  • 1st  generation model (James, 1980):

    • "Letting the mountains speak for themselves"

    • Focused on experience alone

    • Dominated Outward Bound and adventure programming in the 1960s and early 1970s;

  • 2nd generation model (James, 1980):

    • "Outward Bound Plus"

    • Focused on experience plus discussion about experience

    • Emphasized discussion, group process and imported techniques

    • Characteristic of outdoor education programs in the 1980s

  • 3rd generation model (Bacon, 1987):

    • "Metaphorical"

    • Stressed role of experiential metaphors, including "rites of passage"

    • Gained more prominence during the 1990s, although the "Outward Bound Plus model is still dominant

Bacon (1987) described the metaphorical model:

The primary goal of the Metaphoric Model is to help a larger percentage of the group achieve experiential metaphors. Within the context of that goal, the smaller the introduction, and the less defined the introduction, the better. Best of all is no introduction; next best is a relatively undefined introduction such as a reading, poem, or story; and least preferred is a formal discourse or mini-lecture. However, the mini-lecture which achieves an experiential metaphor is much to be preferred over a MST [Mountains Speak for Themselves] or OBP [Outward Bound Process] model where experiential learning is only attained by a few students. It is best to strive for a minimal intervention, but to do as much as necessary to achieve a good outcome.

Bacon (1983) suggested that the metaphoric model be supplemented by a mythic or archetypal model in which students access ancient patterns of learning by symbolically recreating the formative challenges of heroes and heroines.  Of course Bacon (1987) conceded these ideas are not new in fact by definition such rites of passage are incredibly old.


Priest and Gass (1997) have expanded on Bacon's three stages, and proposed 6 generations of facilitation methods in adventure programming.  Gass (Gass' publications) and Gillis (Adventure Therapy Web), in particular, have written about use of metaphorical facilitation methods in outdoor education.  See also the critique of the metaphorical approach by Hovelynck.



Bacon, S. B. (1987).  The evolution of the Outward Bound process.  Greenwich, CT: Outward Bound USA.