This summer, I was exposed to a concept that seems like it should be the foundation for any experiential learning situation: challenge by choice. Basically, the learner is presented with an explanation of the activity. The learner then decides for himself or herself whether or not they feel able to take on the challenge. It puts the responsibility for accepting the challenge on the learner while at the same time creating a safe atmosphere in which the learner can refuse the challenge.
We had a number of activities this summer where the girls were informed that they could opt out of an activity with no repercussions. They were invited to sit and watch, though. In some cases, a girl who had decided to opt out of an activity decided to try it out after watching her friends go through the activity. It was so much fun to watch these girls making their own decisions, controlling their activities. It truly was empowering.
I think this technique should be employed wherever possible. It can help make someone relax and feel better about what they are doing. This summer, it appeared to help minimize a fear of failure among the girls. It helps the learner take charge of their own learning (something I’m whole-heartedly in support of).