Stiehl, Jim

Committee Member

Brustad, Robert J

Committee Member

Sinclair, Christina

Committee Member

Fried, Juliet


Sport & Exercise Science


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





148 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Since its inception, Challenge by Choice (CBC) has been regarded as a foundational principle and standard operating procedure for challenge ropes course programs. Although CBC is the primary mechanism for facilitating intended ropes course outcomes and widely accepted in the adventure education field, until recently, it had remained an untested assumption. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of challenge by choice (CBC) in an adventure setting. Specifically, how was CBC understood and enacted, and did it appear to play a role in participants' involvement? Further, this study was guided by four specific sub-problems. First, what was the instructor's view of CBC and in what manner did he share that view with participants verbally, and through activities? Second, what were participants' understanding (comprehension, approval, and degree of importance) of CBC, and was this understanding related to their involvement? Third, were activities designed and presented as outlined in the CBC literature, and was this related to participants' involvement? Finally, did non-CBC factors (e.g., classmates, weather, and personal events/issues external to the course) have a bearing on participants' involvement? This study used a qualitative research design and investigated 33 students from three, eight-week challenge course classes taught by the same instructor at a mid-size university. Data collection methods included: formal interviews; informal interviews; instructor's audio-taped presentation of CBC; student journaling; and field observations. Utilizing a general inductive data analysis approach, the following three themes emerged: instruction, atmosphere, and challenge. Instruction positively influenced involvement while atmosphere and challenge both positively and negatively influenced involvement. These findings suggest that CBC might be necessary but not sufficient in explaining students' involvement. Findings also suggested that the three components: instructor, participants, and activities, seemingly influenced the CBC climate. Future research questions include: what are the most salient components of CBC, would expected outcomes differ when sharing CBC only through actions and not verbally, and what factors influence negative challenge course experiences?


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