Understanding the decision-making process of individuals involved in a whitewater critical incident or accident
Dussler, Marcus Robert
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This grounded theory study examined the decision-making process of individuals involved in a whitewater critical incident or accident. The decision-making literature in the outdoor adventure education texts is incomplete and under-theorized. It is assumed that the texts include pertinent information that will ultimately guide students’ professional practice. Theories, models and related discussion need to mirror how people make decisions in practice and serve as a tangible resource for aspiring outdoor leaders. Participants in this study were purposefully sampled with nine individuals ultimately participating in the study. These participants engaged in in-depth conversations regarding their critical incident or accident experiences in whitewater boating. Eight cases involved recreational whitewater kayaking with once case involving commercial rafting. Grounded theory coding and analysis yielded three conclusions: (a) decision-making in whitewater critical incidents and accidents is a process that involves six distinct steps – anticipating and assessing, awareness of problem(s), active information gathering, option weighing, decision, and evaluation; (b) personal and contextual factors including training and education, intuiting and instincts, time, group dynamics, ethics, mentorship and responsibility, inform and influence all six stages of the process of decision-making in whitewater critical incidents and accidents; (c) challenges and inconsistencies in the decision-making process imply that whitewater training and educational programs need to be amended. Theoretically, this research builds upon existing decision-making theories and advances the knowledge and literature base of the outdoor adventure education field. Practically, this research provides recommendations for improving whitewater training and education programs. Pedagogically, this research informs how I will proceed in discussing and teaching decision-making with my students.