Chapter 2 - Program Principles and Methods

This chapter describes the key principals that form the foundation for all of the methods employed in implementing the White Stag program. These are the basis against which potential methods, activities, and content must be evaluated to learn if they are true to the program's ideals. These principals do not change.

The Infinity Principle

This concept relates to the idea that every individual is in a state of continuous growth. Leadership development is a never-ending process, continuing as long as the learner wishes.

In implementing the program, it was quickly recognized that leadership competencies cannot be acquired in a few training sessions or in a training course, but only as a result of a long-range developmental process. The understanding of this concept has led us to use the term "development" rather than "training." Thus, the program has been designed in a six-year sequence offering—in a spiral fashion—ever expanding new curricula for the learning of predetermined capabilities. [1]

To support this concept, each yearly program cycle consists of four phases:

Table 1. The yearly program cycle
Phase Description
Preparatory Phase To define current individual (and group) needs, their inventory of outdoor and leadership attitudes, skills and knowledge, and to motivate new learning.
Intensive Learning Phase To learn specific competencies of leadership through intensive involvement and continuous challenging hurdles.
Application Phase To apply the leadership competencies during the summer camp and in the home environment or sponsoring youth group, and to continuously evaluate the youths' application.
Evaluation To apply the leadership competencies during the summer camp and in the home environment or sponsoring youth group, and to continuously evaluate the youths' application.

See Chapter 4 - "Organizational Structure for a complete description of the phase structure and Resources for Leadership, Chapter 7 - "Leadership Development By Design for information on how individuals grow through program participation.

The Evaluation Attitude

The evaluation attitude is a "predisposition to continually examine and analyze the competencies we attain."[2] Evaluation is a critical component of the cyclical learning process. It does not just occur formally at the conclusion of activities, but informally as well, by all involved, throughout the project or task.

One who applies this attitude or technique will be continually aware of the objectives of his learnings and will attempt to measure his growth toward them.[3]

Growth in and improvement of leadership performance are dependent upon the individual's willingness to change, his ability to define the kind of change he needs, and his opportunity to objectively evaluate his success.

Evaluation is described in additional detail in Resources for Leadership, the companion book to this volume, in Chapter 16 - "Evaluation.

The Direct Approach

In most traditional or conventional training events, because of a lack of systematic programming, most of the emphasis is focused on attempts to change people's perception. Little time is usually allocated for practice and even less to measure changes in performance during the training situation. The White Stag method puts a strong emphasis on individual and group participation and practice long to ensure sufficient habit-formation during the training situation. We also systematically evaluate the participants, staff, and the overall program. We take a direct approach to leadership development...

...rather than being some nebulous characteristic which one has to be born with, leadership can be defined as a set of competencies which can be learned. Some eighty aspects of knowledge, skills, and attitudes have been taken into account in our research which have been clustered into competencies. To sum it up, an understanding of the concepts described here has helped us to bring into focus that the acquisition of leadership competencies should occur by plan and design, rather than by accident. Although leaders may emerge—as they do today—as by-products of group processes, this is neither an economical nor an effective way of developing leadership.[4]

The key notion here is that these behaviors are skills that can be learned. For many years, leadership in traditional junior Scouting leader training programs was referred to only indirectly, by example and inference.[5]

White Stag does not depend on happenstance or luck for leadership training to take place. This "indirect" way of training for leadership is what the White Stag method challenges and transforms into a "direct approach." The skills of leadership are specifically described.

The skills or competencies of leadership are fully described in Resources for Leadership.

The System Approach

The system approach[6] is used in developing the program. This approach necessitates the following steps:

  1. Identify in exact terms whatever the learner must be able to do at the end of training.
  2. Develop objective criteria by which we can measure whether the learner has attained performance objectives.
  3. State whatever has to be learned so that the learner can behave in the way described. Thus we establish the learning task.
  4. Specify what the training program has to do and by what means or by whom, and when, and where, to assure that the learner will complete the learning task.
  5. Design the program, pretest the design, and implement it.
  6. Evaluate the outcomes achieved, comparing them to the goals and objectives set at the outset. Make recommendations for improvement in the future.

The system approach includes developing goals and objectives. See Resources for Leadership, Chapter 18 - "Manager of Learningfor additional information.

The Manager of Learning Method

We need to shift our attention from instruction to learning. [7]

Learning means changing behavior. We postulate that this change takes place in an individual by the process of perception, practice, and performance. This sequence is rigorously adhered to in the White Stag plan.

Participants are given realistic opportunities to practice what they learn and to make mistakes under close supervision. Any problems they experience can be quickly spotted by staff, feedback given, and with continued improvement, the member gains increased confidence prior to experiencing the pressure of a real situation.

The Manager of Learning method, in brief:

  1. Confront the learning group with a situation in which the use of the competence to be learned is required. This helps them realize the need for increased competence and thus creates a desire to learn. We've labeled this a Guided Discovery.
  2. Introduce the learning program in a workshop situation where the competency is demonstrated and practiced. Call this Teach/Learn.
  3. Apply the learned skill in situations similar to—or identical with—the original "confrontation." (See step 1 above.) The group can readily recognize the "new way of doing things" and their increased competence. This is the Application.
  4. Confront the group—unexpectedly—with novel situations in which the competence is to be used; group evaluates the application of the competence. This is the Evaluation.
  5. Individuals formulate operational and measurable objectives for the application of the newly-acquired competence in the back-home situation in and out of Scouting.

All of the program participants' leadership development activities are scheduled and systematically programmed using the MOL structure.

The main characteristics of the MOL methodology are:

The MOL competency is described in much greater detail in Resources for Leadership, Chapter 18 - "Manager of Learning.

The Hurdle Method

Our primary mode for helping leaders-in-training to acquire a need to know and to apply new knowledge. A hurdle is an unexpected challenge presented to a leader and his group for which he has not specifically prepared and which requires them to apply specific leadership skills—and sometimes outdoor—skills. A hurdle is often used to introduce a guided discovery.

One of the paramount characteristics of a leader is his readiness to act in a novel situation. Unexpected tasks that require efficient group organization provides realistic and valuable practice. The hurdle concept was indirectly described by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. He referred to the White Stag in his last address at a World Jamboree in 1933, at Gödöllö, Hungary.

"You may look on that White Stag as the pure spirit of Scouting, springing forward and upward, ever leading you onward and upward to leap over difficulties, to face new adventures..."

Hurdles similarly should help learners move forward and upward in their understanding of and ability to apply the leadership competencies.

For further information on the hurdle method, see the companion volume to this book, Resources for Leadership, Chapter 6 - "Developing Learning Hurdles.

The Patrol Method

Lord Robert Baden-Powell intuited the dynamic power of the patrol method long before sociologists could prove it worked in youth or adult groups. He writes, "The formation of boys into patrols of from six to eight and training them as separate units, each under is own responsible leader, is the Key..." [8] This, he felt, was Scouting's most essential contribution to education.

Twenty years later, commenting on the successful use of the patrol method, he says, "The sum of the whole thing amounts to this—every individual in the patrol is made responsible, both in den and in camp, for his definite share in the successful working of the whole."[9]

Patrols enter every area of what we do. While it used to be that one man could hollow out a tree and make a canoe, or perhaps cut the wood and forge the steel required to build a stagecoach, today's society is a maze of complex tasks that create tremendous specialization.

There are few if any individuals who alone could design and build a car, bus or office building—which we all generally use. Cooperation—and patrols, or teams—are the hallmark of our modern society. Civilization is a group effort.

The patrol method is covered in considerable detail in Resources for Leadership, Applying The Patrol Method.

The Outdoor Approach

In White Stag, the outdoor program is the situational context in which leadership competencies are learned.

The program takes place outdoors for the same reasons that Boy and Girl Scouts everywhere go camping:

We do not propose to teach outdoor (or "Scoutcraft") skills.

The skills of Scoutcraft and Woodcraft, being the skills of the hand, are of the kind which can be well—or even best—learned on an individual basis. One person can learn it from another who is competent in the skill.

On the other hand, competencies of leadership/membership are social skills and are of the nature which can be learned only in groups. In introducing these competencies in the Scout program by design, we provide a meaningful content for the operation of den, patrol, and committees, in that competencies of leadership and membership comprise a program area which cuts across the boundaries of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Exploring, and may constitute training common to all branches of Scouting.[10]

We assume, indeed, require candidate participants to have a minimum level of outdoor skills and knowledge prior to their attending the summer camp. Only in Patrol Member Development, Phase I, when many candidates are somewhat new to the outdoors, do we teach outdoor skills as a means for teaching membership skills

These skills are acquired in Phase I by the candidate for the purpose of exposing them to basic leadership concepts. In other Phases any outdoor skills a candidate may serendipitously learn usually originate within his patrol and are taught by his candidate peers.

Copyright © 1981— , Brian Phelps. All rights reserved. Short portions may be excerpted for review and quotes. For copyright purposes, only introductory portions of this book are available online. Order the newest edition today.