I N N O VAT I V E
WHY THE EDUCATORS’ INITIATIVE?
Even though professional development is acknowledged as important in
retaining teachers, in building capacity to address challenges in education,
and in improving educational organizations, it suffers a poor reputation
among teachers (Pritchard and Marshall, 2002). To that end, Wilson and
Berne (1999) found that “teachers are loath to participate in anything that
smacks of one-day workshops” and that there is a lack of empirical evidence
that teachers actually learn anything through professional development.
One approach that has played a viable yet underdeveloped role in educational
reform and professional development is the field of experiential education.
Emphasized is the need to use one’s experiences as the context for education.
Through facilitated reflection on these experiences, growth and transformation
are possible for professional educators. A study on the effects of an Outward
Bound Teachers’ Practica (Hawkes, 1970) found that an Outward Bound model of
professional development did have strong and discernible effects on the teachers’
classroom practices after their time on course.
O’Steen, B., Ph.D (2006). Beyond Sit and Get: Experiential Education Theory and Practice
in Teacher Education and Professional Development. Tertiary Education Research in
New Zealand Conference. 23-24 November, Christchurch, New Zealand.
PURPOSE OF EDUCATORS’ INITIATIVE
The purpose is to advance the practice of teaching in schools in order to create
a future of informed and engaged world citizens.
North Carolina Outward Bound’s Educators’ Initiative is a year-long professional development
program for classroom school teachers. It combines the transformational experience of a
North Carolina Outward Bound wilderness expedition with on-going follow-up activities to
support teachers in increasing their understanding and integration of experiential education
in their classrooms.
An evaluation of the Educators’ Initiative was conducted in the 2007-2008 school year by the
Evaluation, Assessment and Policy Connections (EvAP), a unit of the School of Education at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study confirmed that upon completion
of the Educators’ Initiative:
• Educators have increased job satisfaction
• The overall instructional environment in classrooms improved
• Behavior among individual students improved
• Educators changed instruction styles to better assist individual students
• The social structure in teachers’ classrooms changed
“I have been to many conferences, professional development programs, etc. Your program was by far the
most powerful and effective program that I have ever attended. I can honestly say that I am a better
teacher because of the Educators’ Initiative. Kudos.”
PROGRAM COMPONENTS INCLUDE
• The program begins with a seven-day backpacking and rock climbing wilderness
expedition in the North Carolina mountains.
• One-on-one monthly coaching calls with North Carolina Outward Bound professional staff help
teachers reflect on their teaching practice, set goals, get encouragement and celebrate successes.
• Development of a personal portfolio that includes documentation and reflection of teachers’ work.
• Monthly meetings between teachers at each school provide face-to-face opportunity for team
planning, idea sharing and community development.
• Monthly readings on thought provoking topics that spark discussion and collaboration.
• Mid-year and end-of-year retreats with all Educators’ Initiative participants.
“This has been one of
the best professional GOALS & OBJECTIVES
development experiences in • Develop and reinforce teachers’ understanding and appreciation of experiential
my career! I immediately teaching philosophy.
wanted to share it with • Provide teachers with specific tools to use in the classroom to facilitate both the content
my colleagues to help and process of experiential education.
them grow” • Provide teachers with tools to conceptualize and support intentional community
development among students.
• Encourage teachers to focus on reflective and student centered practice, empowering
student responsibility for classroom leadership.
• Develop community among participating teachers at their school as well as colleagues
at other schools.
• Create accountability for teachers and encourage sustainability of the program
through ongoing contact between colleagues as well as with North Carolina
Outward Bound staff.
Schools who have previously participated in the Educators’ Initiative
Myers Park High School, Charlotte NC
Charlotte Country Day School, Charlotte NC
Episcopal Academy, Newtown Square PA
The Galloway School, Atlanta GA
Boys Latin, Philadelphia PA
Grymes Memorial School, Orange VA
Art Space Charter School, Asheville NC
Club Boulevard Elementary, Durham NC
“Accountability. [At our school] we’ve had a fair number of bad workshops and bad presentations,
but we’ve had a fair number of good workshops and strong presentations. But even then, there
is no one there to hold you accountable for implementing those strategies. According to some
crazy statistic, if you don’t use them within three to six months, they rarely get used. Here that
simply wasn’t the case. We were accountable through a portfolio, we were accountable through
reflective practices, we were accountable through coaching calls. It wasn’t a fly in, fly out, flash
in the pan presentation.”
REQUIREMENTS TO PARTICIPATE
• Must have on-going support from administration of school.
• Minimum of two teachers per school providing a support network.
• Minimum one year full-time classroom teaching experience in a
public or private school; two years preferred.
• Must be teaching in a classroom setting during the up-coming school year.
• Ability to balance school and program requirements.
“During the Educators’ Initiative, focusing on challenges, thinking about
how I got challenged on the course, and thinking about how to bring those
challenges in for my kids and making those challenges positive so they
can learn and grow from them, and want to meet their own. Focusing on
the idea of team, and that we need one another. I’m reaching out to
colleagues and asking for help when needed, and encouragingmy kids
to ask for help from one another when they need it.”
“The personal challenge of the wilderness experience helped me to cultivate my sense of the beginners mind.
We (teachers) really are not what we intend to be sometimes, the experts in the classroom, sometimes an
erroneous belief that we’re all-knowing and powerful, but we’re beginners too. When I was out there on the rock
faces and realized I’m just as much a beginner as the kids are in class. This made me realize that not only
do I need to look at what they’re going through, but also that those challenges are powerful and they build
growth. In addition, the focus of the program - the coaching calls and having to be accountable each month
is a good thing. Also the sense of collegiality is great, having this network of people across several states is
a powerful thing, sharing that experience. But most of all is the fun - education can be fun, and having fun
makes education memorable, you remember what you did in school that was fun.”
For more information please call 800.841.0186
2582 Riceville Road, Asheville, NC 28805
The Mission of North Carolina Outward Bound
To inspire people to discover and develop their potential to care for themselves, others and
the world around them through challenging experiences in unfamiliar settings.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all
its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, “I am normally very successful at changing
disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental
status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, the rules and persuading people that there
reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any
public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) is a ‘better’ way. My instructors did not
allow me to do that. They let me fail. I grew.”
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of
program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact
USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of
discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence
Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or
(202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.”