Developing excellence in outdoor provision

Enhancing training pathways for outdoor qualifications
- the Mountain Leader qualification

In spring 2016 Mountain Training commissioned a PhD which Will Hardy began in September of that year. For an introduction to the project, see below.

In October 2019, Will produced a report of his findings, in advance of his full PhD thesis. The report was presented to the Mountain Training Cymru, England and Scotland council meetings and then to the Mountain Training UK and Ireland council meeting at Plas y Brenin on 9th November. This final presentation was followed by a workshop in which council members from all of the national organisations considered possible actions Mountain Training could take to address some of the findings.

We are extremely grateful to Will Hardy, Dr Ross Roberts and Prof Lew Hardy and hope we will be in a position to conduct further research in the future. This report has provided us with much to think about and develop in the coming months and years, which we will do alongside stakeholders and providers to enable more people to become Mountain Leaders. We will also endeavour to use our learning to help other groups of candidates make the very most of their experiences in the mountains, crags and walls of the UK and Ireland.

Bangor University and Mountain Training PhD history

In spring 2016, Mountain Training staff and Bangor University lecturers agreed to support a PhD research project on the generic Mountain Training qualification pathway (registration, training, consolidation and assessment).

Walking and now climbing qualification reviews are well established processes to ensure our qualifications are fit for purpose but they don’t necessarily focus on how candidates progress through a qualification from registration to successful assessment; a delivery model created over fifty two years ago. The research should help us get more people to go further within a scheme and may also suggest ways of enhancing the pathway.

The PhD is funded by a European Social Fund: Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2), with Mountain Training making an annual contribution. The PhD is expected to last for three years and began in September 2016.

The doctoral student is Will Hardy, an active climber and mountaineer who has climbed throughout the UK, Ireland and further afield in summer and winter. He will be supported and supervised by Bangor University staff from the Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance including Dr Ross Roberts and Professor Lew Hardy (IFMGA Guide).

Here are some extracts from the proposal that was submitted to KESS 2:

“We believe that a PhD examining the factors enhancing progression along the qualification pathway, and then examining the impact of strategies that seek to improve progression, stands to make a substantial impact for the organisation, but also has substantially wider implications in terms of increasing the number of people making use of the outdoors.

Furthermore, within the performance psychology literature there is only limited understanding of how individuals develop along pathways to achieving excellence (see Hardy et al., 2013). At the moment we envisage that the PhD would comprise 3 separate yet interlinked phases. Broadly speaking, Phase 1 will involve studies that serve the purpose of information gathering from individuals at various points along different qualification pathways, Phase 2 will comprise a series of dissemination and implementation events with Mountain Training Stakeholders, and Phase 3 will see the completion of either one large scale or several smaller scale intervention studies aimed at trying to improve various aspects of the qualification pathway.

Given that the most serious non-completion rates are with the lower level awards our focus in the PhD will be on understanding and then intervening with the Mountain Leader and Climbing Wall Award. Aside from the non-completion issue, these awards are well established and also have large numbers of people going through them each year, making them ripe for exploration. Although our focus will be on these two pathways, it is likely that many of the implications arising from the research will be relevant for the other qualification pathways; therefore focusing on these awards will not inhibit the potential wider reach of the research.”

For more information, here is a two page outline of the PhD: