Outdoor Education Theory
Adventure-based Counseling

The Adventure Wave

James Neill
Last updated:
17 May 2006

The Adventure Wave

The Adventure Wave (Schoel, Prouty & Radcliffe, 1988) is a visual way to depict the three stages of the Adventure-Based Counselling (ABC) approach, which is widely used in outdoor education and experiential education programming. 

The Adventure Wave represents the variation in intensity and focus before, during and after an adventure activity and is symbolized by a wave.  The Adventure Wave involves the following three components:

Briefing: Briefing a group about an activity, before it takes place.  May involve telling the group a story or pointing out the relevance of the adventure activity. The briefing is also the time when the leader discusses any safety considerations and gives instructions for how the activity is to occur.

Activity: Doing the activity itself, with guidance and supervision from an instructor.

Debriefing: Reviewing and discussing what took place.  Participants reflect on their own experience and share feelings and insights with other group member's and explore how the experience relates to their own life. 

The Adventure Wave model is basically a 3-stage Experiential Learning Cycle, but places more emphasis on the role of the facilitator.  Research has shown that an Adventure Wave approach is often more effective in facilitating lasting change (e.g., see studies by Simon Priest).

The Adventure Wave model has been extended in at least a couple of interesting ways:

1. Priest & Gass proposed that there have been six generations of facilitation, from only activity (or "letting the mountains speak for themselves"), to activity plus debrief....and so on in complexity.  To read more, go to "Priest & Gass's 6 Generations of Facilitation".

2. The Adventure Wave has been used as the basis for a multi-wave model, with each wave representing a different colour and representing a different activity mode (e.g., physical, social, emotional).  This multi-wave model is the basis of "dramaturgy", an experiential style of game programming used by Outward Bound Czech Republic.  For more information about this multi-wave version, read this Brief Evaluation of the Mystery Adventure.  For more academic background, see work by Dr. Andy Martin.


Priest, S. (n.d.) The EBTD abstracts: Experience-based training & development studies. eXperientia. http://www.tarrak.com/FREE/res.htm

Schoel, J., Prouty, D., & Radcliffe, P. (1988).  Islands of healing: A guide to adventure based counseling.  Hamilton, MA: Project Adventure.