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Setting Goals and Objectives

This is an excerpt from Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming 3rd Edition Ebook With Field Handbook by Simon Priest & Michael A. Gass.

Goals and objectives form the foundation for all lessons taught in adventure programs. Setting goals and objectives is critical to outdoor leaders and almost as important to clients. You should use goals and objectives to define the direction of the adventure program and prepare and organize adventure experiences. Clients should use them to plan for after the adventure program as they continue dealing with daily life. In all cases, writing detailed goals and objectives can augment the reasoning processes for both you and your clients.


Goals
are general intents that stem from the adventure program's purpose. Objectives are specific target declarations that clarify and expand each goal. If, for example, the purpose of a program is to reduce juvenile delinquency in a community, then one goal might be to reduce self-destructive behaviors in at-risk youth who are clients. Furthermore, one of several objectives for this goal might be to improve the self-concept of youth clients as measured by their scores on the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale or other assessment tools through adventure activities conducted over three months. Although you and your clients should write down goals and objectives, consider them to always be in flux and never carved in stone. Note that a program could also use goals and objectives to direct leaders' or clients' behaviors or performances.


We can divide goals into four different kinds: regular work goals, problem-solving goals, innovative goals, and developmental goals. Let's examine these four types for an adventure program working with female survivors of sexual abuse. Note that we have written these goals with the behavior in mind that you should target.

  • Regular work goals are those that make up the major portion of your responsibilities to ensure the safe, effective, and efficient delivery of program services. Example: Empower clients by giving them greater control over the experience.
  • Problem-solving goals give you opportunities to solve major problems and prevent program quality from suffering by solving them. Example: Intervene in potential flashback situations that may limit client benefits.
  • Innovative goals proactively improve the delivery of program services. Example: Anticipate and eliminate barriers to transfer of learning when clients return to society.
  • Developmental goals are intended to improve your performance so that a program can improve services, adjust to changing market conditions, deliver better-quality services, and reinvest in staff. Example: Educate staff on upcoming minor alterations in the boundaries associated with physical contact with clients.


Objectives are extremely detailed, and several objectives may constitute a general goal. In other words, one goal may have multiple objectives. With corporate clients, a normal goal is to develop teamwork. Four resulting objectives for this singular goal could be related to trust, support, cooperation, and communication. For example, on completion of the adventure program, the client will have demonstrated the following:

  1. Trust in group members by completing the Trust Fall into others' arms from a tabletop
  2. A willingness to accept and offer help as evidenced by sharing at least five ideas during a complex group task without receiving discouraging comments from any group members
  3. An ability to work with others without argument under adversity or time deadlines
  4. Effective listening skills by speaking one at a time during all debriefing sessions and not making comments unrelated to the discussion

Note that we have written these objectives with the client's targeted behavior in mind. All four of these interdependent objectives identify elements of conduct, conditions, or criteria (Mager, 1984). Conduct denotes what you expect a client to do, generally using active verbs to portray either a process or a product of performance. Conditions describe the circumstances under which performance takes place. Criteria indicate acceptable performance, generally using some measure of evaluation to determine success. Objectives ideally include all three of these elements. For example, after finishing the module on kayak strokes, the novice client will be able to paddle forward and backward and skull laterally through an English gate one meter/yard wide on flatwater (conduct), with no wind (conditions), and without touching the gate with the paddle or craft (criteria).


Another way of writing objectives is to make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound.

  • Specific: You should precisely state the expected outcome. If you want to be richer, specifically how much money do you need to obtain to easily meet your needs?
  • Measurable: Define the change as an outcome to reach. If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?
  • Achievable: Change should be possible. Setting unachievable objectives merely leads to frustration. Do you have the resources necessary for achieving this objective?
  • Realistic: You should base the change in actual circumstances. Is change real or valuable if it takes place during imaginary role-playing?
  • Time bound: You should expect the change to be accomplished by a certain deadline. If you have no time limit for completion, will you have the incentive to finish?


Last, adventure programs are typically evaluated based on goals and objectives. For goal and objective setting to be of any value, the goals and objectives you set must be relevant, concise, and meaningful. The more accurate and appropriate the goals and objectives set, the greater the true reflection of learning achieved.

Learn more about Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming, Third Edition, With Field Handbook.