Assessing the Effectiveness of a Place-based Conservation Education Program by Applying Utilization-focused Evaluation

by Flowers, Alice B

Abstract (Summary)

Lack of personal connection to the natural world by most American youth builds reason for assessing effectiveness of conservation education programs. Place-based learning is important in helping youth understand how their personal and societal well-being are linked and dependent upon their local habitats. Across Montana 2277 students in grades 3 - 10 participate in an interactive year long fishing education program with their teachers called Hooked on Fishing (HOF).

The purpose of my study was to assess the effectiveness of HOF, a place-based conservation education program established in 1996, and modeled after the national Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs program. Using a quasi-experimental nonequivalent group study design, students received a pre-survey during the beginning of the program, a post-survey after the program, and an extended post-survey 12 to 14 weeks later. Teachers voluntarily participated in an Internet survey during May 2006, and program instructors voluntarily participated in a structured open-ended telephone interview in June 2006.

A key component of my study was the decision to conduct the evaluation process using an approach which included stakeholders in the development of the instruments to measure student outcomes. This approach is called utilization-focused evaluation and was developed by Michael Q. Patton. The motive of this approach is to promote the usability of the evaluation results. The results are considered to have a better chance to be applied by the program stakeholders to not only gauge program effectiveness, but to be used to improve the program.

Two research questions were: 1) does the frequency of outdoor experiences have significant affects on students' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and intended stewardship behaviors; and 2) does improved knowledge of local natural resources have significant affects on students' skills, attitudes and intended stewardship behavior.

Nonparametric statistical analyses calculated statistical significant results for most knowledge and skill outcomes in a positive direction of change with 2 - 3 HOF outdoor experiences. Attitudinal and intended behavior outcomes did not show similar results. Internet teacher survey and instructor interviews provided qualitative depth and insight to student self-reported responses.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Jack W. Thomas

School:The University of Montana

School Location:USA - Montana

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:college of forestry and conservation


Date of Publication:07/12/2007

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