Perceptions of involvement in a non formal experiential programme
Perceptions of Involvement in a Nonformal Experiential Programme
Paper presented at FERA Conference on Education
2013, Jyväskylä, 21–22 November 2013
Motivation for the paper
The Patrol System is an experiential learning method applied by the Scout Movement. The
method aims at active citizenship via peer leadership, small-group democracy, and outdoor
Much of the research on the experiential learning approach is focused on measuring
programme outcomes. Quite recently, however, several authors have called for more studies
on how the results are achieved. This gap is sometimes referred to as an educational black
box: “We know something works but we do not know why”. (1)
With a few exceptions (eg. Rogoff et al., 1995) the educational black box is also true for the
patrol system. (2) Yet, patrol membership is often seen as a very important learning
– When you learn in a patrol, how to work in a team, and as a patrol leader how to keep the
patrol together in all possible situations, you have learnt the most important lessons for your
life. (Christoffer Taxell, president, Confederation of Finnish Industries, 2005–2006 ). (3)
– In the Scouts you learn how to work together and that everyone is valuable. Moreover, it has
to be fun. These learnings apply to any situation and every organisation. (Anssi
Vanjoki, EVP, Nokia Plc 1998-2010). (4)
1 Shellman 2011, Seaman 2008, Allison & von Wald 2013
2 About scouting as research subject see Vallory 2007, 45
3 Turun Sanomat 2013
4 Kipinä 2010
The Patrol System as an experiential
Experiential education (EE) can be defined as follows: “Experiential education is a
philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with
learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop
skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities”. (1)
Compared with many other experiential education applications, the Patrol System has special
– While many other EE applications last for days or weeks, patrols can have regular
meetings for several years. Thus, it is sometimes seen as incomparable with other EE
– Patrols are led by peer leaders , who are not educators but rather fellow learners. In
Finland , the role of adult educators was increased in the current Scout Programme
introduced in 2008. Still, the patrols described in this paper have usually had their
meetings without direct adult supervision.
– The role of intentional reflection is quite weak. Even the joint diaries kept by the patrols
are quite descriptive in nature.
1 Itin 1999, 92
2 McKenney et al . 2009, 547
Public schools as an inspiration
The Patrol System was developed in the early 20th century in the UK. That time saw many
educational and social reforms, including moving all the primary and secondary schools
under local government control and establishing many progressive schools. The Patrol System
should be seen as a combination of many ideas that were topical at the time. (1)
According to the founder of the Scout Movement, R.S.S. Baden-Powell, the movement
offered to all boys the character training that many of them missed out on by not attending a
public school. (2)
It has been argued that the public schools and the Scout Movement shared many educational
goals and operating principles . (3)
Public school prefects are a model for patrol leaders. Prefects are pupils who have been given
limited authority over other pupils. The prefect system is seen as major character training
method in the public schools. At the time of the founding of the Scout Movement BadenPowell also promoted the use of the prefect system in elementary schools for character
1 Hankinson 1995, 73-4; MacDonald 1993, 11
2 Jeal 1989, 36-7, 97; Rosenthal 1996, 104
3 Gerr 174-6; MacDonald 1993, 161
4 Kim 2010, 96; Weinberg 1967, 23
In the beginning of the 20th century there were two different traditions within British
progressive education. One was influenced by Freud, and in those schools pupils shared the
power with the teachers. The other tradition, the New School Movement, supported the
initiative of pupils but also allowed the teachers to inspire and lead them. (1)
Within the New School Movement some schools made particular use of the outdoors.
Abbotsholme of Cecil Reddie was the initiator of the movement and had many similarities
with the Scouts. Another school , Gordonstoun, was founded by Kurt Hahn, who later
founded Outward Bound. (2)
Hahn is often considered the most important figure within the field of experiential
education, along with Dewey. Outward Bound was partly influenced by the Patrol System. (3)
The Scout Movement also approaches Montessori's idea of education as preparing oneself
for both the physical and moral world outside of the school, as well as the idea of
encouraging pupils’ natural curiosity. (4)
The interweaving of adult control and autonomy and initiative among youth is central to the
Scout Movement. (5)
1 Searby 1989, 1,21
2 Cook 1999, 159
3 Veevers & Allison 2011, xvii, 53; Smith & Knapp 2011, ix, 284
4 Standing, E.M. 1998, 354-359; Warren 1986, 392
5 Kahane 1997, 55-58
Methodology and material
In many Scout troops, the patrols keep shared diaries about their
meetings. The patrol members usually write the entries in turns.
The research material of this study consist of 272 diary entries covering
the years 1957-1999. All the entries are from the same troop from
Western Finland. The authors are aged between 10 and 18
Four patrols were chosen for a closer analysis based on
– The quality of documentation
– Shared authorship
– Stability in patrol membership
The patrols are named as follows:
– The Wolves (operating in the 1980s), the Bulls (operating in the
1990s), the Curlews (operating in the 1980s) and the Ravens
(operating in the 1970s)
The goal is to give voice to the children and adolescents and hear their
While the material gives information about how the Scouts perceived
various activities, it is not a reliable source of what actually happened.
The diaries in the picture are not those referred to in the article.
Photo: Juha Haapakangas
Control and autonomy as perceived by
- Direct adult supervision was quite occasional.
- The roles of the patrol leaders varied from
unrecognizable to really dominant
- Joint goals created enthusiasm even though many
of them were not implemented.
- ”Then we started to design a boat for our patrol”
- ”We made great plans and decided to collect
money and travel to Stockholm” Curlews
Programme and activities
– Used quite actively by some patrols
– When describing the delivery of training, passive
expressions were often used
– ”We were practicing reading sea maps - for the
sake of appearances ” Ravens
– Even quite young Scouts used expressions like
”We agreed to go to an overnight hike”
Values and traditions
- Patrol yells, flags and other symbols were seldom
mentioned. Often the use of such symbols was
encouraged by adult leaders.
- Patrol members identified ”un-Scoutish” topics
Freedom of choice
– ”Intially, we intended to go to the museum but we
did not – then we decided to go to the police
station, but we couldn’t get in. Well, then we went
to the library and read magazines” Curlews
Resignation and social structures
An earlier study shows that resigning from the Scouts is done in the connection with
– the feeling of being an outsider in the patrol
– the feeling that nothing is done in the patrol meetings (1)
These two things seem to be interconnected. Those members who are less involved in the
social structure of the patrol, give more emphasis to the content of the meeting:
– ”We started by chatting. When we were in full swing, one unaccredited person came
bragging about the victory of the Owls. So we continued the meeting by eating snacks
we got from the Wolf Cubs.” Bulls
– ”We did not do anything, but Peter came to see us for the entire meeting. Simon was
coloring the map, but we others did not have anything to do. ” Bulls
1 Suomen partiolaiset, 2006,. 86.
Despite limitations, joint diaries are a useful source of information when trying to understand
learning in patrols.
Special attention should be paid to the social relations and the cohesion of patrols
Even when adult involvement is increased, the balance between control and autonomy
should be maintained.
Allison & von Wald 2013. Enough about the outcomes … what about the process: Personal
development and experiential learning. Journal of Outdoor Activities, 7(1), 24-29.
Cook, L. 1999. The 1944 Education Act and outdoor education: from policy to practice. History of
Education. Vol. 28, No. 2, 157 - 172
Gerr, H. 1981. Baden-Powells Entwurf einer Erziehung durch Scouting. Einflüsse und
Hankinson, A. 1995. Geoffrey Winthrop Young: Poet, mountaineer, educator. London: Hodder &
Itin, C. M. (1999). Reasserting the Philosophy of Experiential Education as a Vehicle for Change in the
21st Century. The Journal of Experiential Education 22(2), 91-98.
Jeal , T. 1989. Baden-Powell. Yale: Yale University Press
Kahane, R. 1997. The Origins of Postmodern Youth: Informal Youth Movements in a Comparative
Perspective. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter
Kim. S. 2010. Little Prefects - The Embodiment of Masculinity in Interwar Britain. In J-H Lim & K.
Petrone. 2010 Gender politics and mass dictatorship. New York: Palgrave
Kipinä. 2010. Ketään ei voi motivoida. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from
Lim J-H & Petrone, K. 2010 Gender politics and mass dictatorship. New York: Palgrave
MacDonald, R. 1993. Sons of the Empire. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
McKenney, P. 2009. Girls' Outdoor Adventure Programs: History, Theory & Practice. In K. Warren et al.
Theory & Practoce of Experiential Education, 535-554
Rosenthal, M. 1996. The Chracter Factory. New York: Pantheon
Seaman, J. 2008. Experience, reflect, critique: The end of "Learning Cycles" era. Journal of Experiential
Education, 31(1), 3-18
Searby, P. 1989. The new school and the new life: Cecil Reddie (1858-1932) and the early years of
Abbotsholme School’ , History of Education, XVIII/1 .
Shellman , A. 2011. Looking into the Black Box. Journal of Experiential Education, v33 n4 p402-405
Smith, T. & Knapp, C. 2011. Sourcebook of Experiential Education: Key Thinkers and Their Contributions. New
Suomen partiolaiset. 2006. Partio -toiveiden herättäjä ja pettymysten tuottaja. Helsinki: Suomen partiolaiset.
Standing, E.M. 1998. Maria Montessori: Her life and work. New York: Plume.
Turun sanomat. 5.5.2013 Taxell palkittiin partiolaisten juhlassa.
Vallory, E. 2007. Global Citizenship Education. Study of the ideological bases, historical
development, international dimension, and values and practices of World Scouting. Barcelona: Universitat
Veevers & Allison. 2011. Kurt Hahn: Inspirational, visionary, outdoor and experiential educator. Rotterdam:
Warren, A. 1986. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the Scout Movement and Citizen Training in Great Britain, 19001920. The English Historical Review, Vol. 101, No. 399. pp. 376-398
Warren, K. et al. 2009 Theory & Practice of Experiential Education . Boulder: Association for Experiential
Weinberg, I. 1967. The English public schools: the sociology of elite education. New York: Atherton Press
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.