The acceptance of the need to facilitate (process/debrief) an experience through group discussion is well documented in adventure education literature (Luckner & Nadler, 1992; Priest & Gass, 1997b). While there is considerable literature on how to facilitate an experience (Greenaway, 1992; Hammel, 1986; Luckner & Nadler, 1992; Sugarman, Doherty, Garvey, & Gass, 2000), no published studies have sought to explicate the nature of leader-student interaction and the resultant social order in facilitation sessions. In a departure from 'outcome-based' studies, this research uses an ethnomethodological approach, and the tools of conversation analysis, to explicate how members collaboratively construct what is taken to be a facilitation session. This thesis analyses the organisation of talk on a turn-by-turn basis in verbal facilitation sessions as a way of studying social order. This empirically based research is significant in that it uses recorded data from actual facilitation sessions; it does not present an idealised or exemplary account of how talk should appear.
Particular reference is made to how the leader and students In these settings structure the interaction in a manner that serves to regulate participants' opportunities to contribute. It is argued that the leader's right to establish the topic for discussion, to pre-allocate student turns at talk and the right to evaluate student replies places the leader in a position to determine what is contextually appropriate knowledge. The leader's pervasive use of the initiation-reply-evaluation (l-R-E) interactional sequence, and with it, the right to evaluate student responses, is premised on the leader's asking questions that have a 'known-in-advance' answer. The use of the l-R-E sequence in these settings, is I argue, evidence of the instructional nature of these sessions. It is argued that these sessions demonstrate marked asymmetries of knowledge and power relations that afford the leader a powerful position from which to orchestrate the direction of talk and determine what constitutes contextually appropriate knowledge. The analysis of how talk is structured in these facilitation sessions is not merely a study of 'turn-taking', it is an account of how certain knowledge(s) is articulated and privileged in these settings, issues that are at the very core of adventure education theory. The issues of power and knowledge are not peripheral issues for adventure educators, rather they are central to adventure education's conceptualisation of learning that is based on the premise that the learner's experience, and their reflection on that experience, is the basis of valid knowledge.
It is maintained that in these sessions the leader is positioned as a 'gatekeeper' through whom student contributions must be mediated. I suggest that these findings question the positioning of the facilitator in current literature and call for a reappraisal of the way that verbal facilitation is currently practised. In particular I draw attention to the consequences of using the l-R-E instructional sequence and the influential role that leader formulations, or paraphrases of the student's reply, have in mediating what students say in these sessions. This thesis acts as a salient reminder for practitioners and theorists alike to carefully examine the consequence of our actions, consequences that if left unexamined may very well have implications that are contrary to the stated aims of adventure education. In using a research methodology from a different epistemological tradition I have suggested new ways to study the process of facilitation and in doing so have hopefully opened up new avenues for research in an area that is central to the adventure education paradigm.