By Tamzin Barber - Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort

By Tamzin Barber - Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort





By Tamzin Barber

(BA Honours - University of Queensland 1996)






















LS of tables

How ecotourism relates to the

components of eco-action education and

what participants can gain from this.





This manual has been put together to assist individuals, groups, organisations and

ecotourist attractions to develop environmental education programs that may have more

of an effect on people’s long-term attitudes and behaviours towards the environment.

It is a result of research conducted as an honours degree from the University of

Queensland within the Geographical Sciences and Planning department. This type of

research comes under the field of ‘environmental psychology’, a term developed by the

author to signify psychology based research which concentrates on human interaction

with the natural environment, and the effects this has on attitudes towards the

environment. It is undertaken in a hope to identify and produce the best ways of

developing more environmentally aware and responsible individuals.

An evaluation of a cetacean based ecotourist attraction at Tangalooma Moreton

Island Resort in Queensland, Australia, was part of the research undertaken to develop

the ideas within this manual. The results lead to the identification of eco-action

education and its components. A knowledge base for the assessment and implementation

of effective environmental education programs into ecotourism was formulated. A rigid

and specific environmental education program outline was not the intent or purpose of

this study. Rather, the intent

efficient eco-action education programs as part of ecotourist attractions, and to show the

value and purpose of these.

was to supply suggestions for the implementation of cost


Traditionally environmental education has been given through the schooling

system (Linke 1980). It has concentrated on education about and in the environment

only. This education, which aimed to change the way people treated the earth, has not

succeeded (Linke 1980; Ramsey, Hungerford and Volk 1989).

One place it has the potential to be very effective is within the ecotourist industry,

due to this industry’s underlying objectives of sustainability of natural environments and

access to a large number of people. Although education in ecotourism is becoming

widely recognised and increasingly incorporated, there has been very little research to



show the actual benefits of it (Crabtree and Weiler 1996; Orams 1995a; Uysal, Jurowski,

Noe and McDonald 1994).


Many environmental education programs are based on the assumption that

providing knowledge about environmental issues is enough to promote changes in an

individual’s environmental behaviour. This has found to be untrue (Swan 1974; Eyers

1978). Increasing knowledge is critical to the process but should not be the whole

process (Biek, Wood and Chaiken 1996).

Eco-action education is education given concerning the natural

environment, that impacts positively on an individual’s long-term

environmental attitudes and behaviours. It includes education about, in

and for the environment as well as addressing particular personality

factors and learning theories.

Environmental education programs which operate on this basis should include:

- Education about the environment

- This provides information on environmental issues and teaches facts about the

natural environment.

- Education in the environment

- This is any form of education concerning the environment not given in the

traditional classroom, but preferably out in a natural setting (Lit&e 1980; Lucas

1979). It should also concentrate on interaction that is ‘appreciative’ (e.g.

camping, photography) rather than ‘consumptive’ (e.g. fishing, hunting) (Hampel,

Bolder0 and Holdsworth 1996) to increase concern for the environment.



- Education for (preservation of) the environment

- This aims to increase awareness of environmental problems in order to increase

understanding, interest and preservation for the environment.

- Addressing of personality factors locus of control and sense of responsibility

- Locus of control refers to an individual’s perception of their ability to influence

changes in their lives (Hines, Hungerford and Tomer 1986/87). There are two

types of locus of control, internal and external, and individuals are predominately

motivated by one of these. People with an internal locus of control believe that

for the most part, they have control of what happens in their lives, and that by

adapting their behaviour they can change the direction of their lives (Hines et al

1986/87). People with external locus of control do not attempt to change their

lives through their actions, as they believe change occurs as a result of fate and is

therefore for the most part beyond their control (Hines et al 1986/87).

- Theories of learning -the affective and cognitive domains

- Cognitive theories deal with concepts of thinking and knowledge. They describe

how individuals organise external knowledge and experiences into pre-existing

cognitive structures called schemes and how this process may lead to behaviour

change via a psychologically uncomfortable state known as ‘cognitive

dissonance’ (Piaget 1970; Festinger 1957). People adapt their behaviour and

beliefs so that they are consistent. Eco-action education can change people’s

environmental beliefs, resulting in consequent changes of behaviour to avoid

‘cognitive dissonance’.

- The affective domain is that which deals with an individual’s emotions and value

system. Part of the process of eco-action education is to tap into the affective

domain to create an emotional response towards the environment, which will then

contribute to an individuals learning and eventual behaviour change (Smith and

Bell 1991).

Take for example cetacean based attractions. Dolphins have been seen to cause

strong emotional response in many people (Dobbs 1981; Smith 1987; Cochrane

and Callen 1992; Dobbs 1992). This results in positive influence of affective

domain. As most of Australia’s tourist industry is associated with the coastal

fringe and the wildlife which depend on these environments, people being

educated about cetaceans and the marine environment through eco-action

education programs, could contribute to long term positive effects for the whole

earth (Ding and Pigram 1996).









Participation Affective Direct experience


Interpretation and Cognitive Indirect experience

understanding domain

Conservation Affective and Encouragement



Table 1: How ecotourism relates to the components of eco-action education

and what participants can gain from this.


The components of eco-action education can be incorporated into an environmental

education program in the following ways:

- Clearly state your learning objectives and relevant issues, these should be identified

and passed on to participants (Gubbay 1989; Hungerford and Volk 1990;

Niedermeyer 1992; Wilson 1993).

- Focus on cognitive and affective domains (Gigliotti 1980; Gubbay 1989; Hungerford

and Volk 1990; Niedermeyer 1992; Orams 1995a). Provide good factual information

plus interaction which will emotionally affect participants.

- Have a relevant and holistic approach (Hodges 1990; Ladd 1994). Show participants

how the various ecosystems interrelate.



- Be local as well as global in nature (Gubbay 1989; Hungerford and Volk 1990;

Niedermeyer 1992). Show local environmental issues and world issues and how

these relate to each other.

- Create a sense of personal responsibility in participants (Gubbay 1989; Hodges 1990;

Wilson 1993). If an individual feels personally involved and interested they are more

likely to protect that which they believe in.

- Identify practical activities that make a difference. It has been discovered that

environmental actions which demand a lifestyle alteration too sever will not be

incorporated into an individual’s behaviour (Van Liere and Dunlap 1981). Therefore

relatively basic changes should be introduced and accepted before expecting extreme

changes to occur.

- Solutions and activities provided should be appropriate to the skill level of the

participants and should be adjusted as skills develop (Niedetmeyer 1992; Orams

1996b). If they are too difficult or easy they will not hold the participants interest.

- Get the whole family involved. Pass on information, skills and activities which can

be taken back and utilised within people’s homes (Armstrong 1993; Lennox 1995).

- Give feedback. Reinforce attitudes and build up participant’s confidence, especially

if they are learning new ideas or concepts (Gubbay 1989; Hungerford and Volk 1990;

Wilson 1993; Orams 1996b).

- Believe in the abilities of the participants, especially children. Belief along with task

oriented education leads to higher achievement and higher motivation (Midgley,

Anderman and Hicks 1995).

- Include commentaries, as these are very influential on participant’s knowledge. This

can be used as an advantage by passing on as many environmental friendly messages

as possible. Commentators can also be seen as positive role models concerning

environmental behaviours and attitudes.


It is very important to evaluate the impact that an education program has.

Evaluations should be undertaken to help development, and should also be part of the

regular operation of an eco-action education program. Evaluations help to keep the



program ‘on track’, to improve it and make it more efficient. There are different ways to

evaluate an eco-action education program. This manual concentrates on one, that of

checklists. Checklists are a good tool for assessment and evaluation but should not be

used as the only evaluative method (Norris 1994; Somekh, Davies and MacLure 1994).

Programs need constant monitoring and evaluation, therefore checklists should be

adapted and administered frequently (B.O.T.R.Q. 1993).

Checklists summarise focal points to allow analysis of them (Glesne and Peshkin

1992). Keep in mind that checklists may limit the detail of information recorded due to

the predetermined categories which determine the overall score. It is important to include

a comments section to combat this problem (Glesne and Peshkin 1992; Niedermeyer

1992; Norris 1994).

For example note the targeted audience, is the program specifically designed for a

specific audience, age, race gender etc. What about the staff, are they trained properly, is

there enough staff available for participants, are the staff good role models?

Also keep in mind that checklist results are prone to subjective bias, and

therefore should be completed by individuals who are not personally involved in the

programs under evaluation so as to be as objective and useful as possible. If possible

more than one evaluator should be utilised to ensure validity and reliability (Norris 1994;

Somekh et al 1994; Niedermeyer 1992).


The following is recommended to be included within a checklist for evaluation of

your environmental program.

Education in the environment (affective domain, experience, concern)

- Indicate the level of experience/interaction with nature (one point each). What type of

experiences are offered, interaction with captive animals, wild animals? The more

the better, so that the participants get an opportunity to experience a diverse range of


- captive

- semi-captive



- wild

- Is the experience interesting and fun (one point for each), ask the participants so as

not to be subjective in answering.

- Do the experiences triggers emotions (positive emotions one point, no emotion or

negative emotions minus one point), again the participants are the best indicators of


- Are the experiences ‘appreciative’ or ‘consumptive’ based (one point for

appreciative, minus one point for consumptive).

Education about the environment (knowledge, cognitive domain)

- What is the quantity and quality of information provided (point out of five for each).

- In what different contexts is information presented i.e. posters, books, videos,

pamphlets, audio, presentations etc (one point for each inclusion).

Education for the environment (skills, cognition)

- Is information on how to help the environment supplied (one point for each


- In what different contexts is this information provided (one point for each context

supplied in).

- Are examples of how to help the environment within the abilities of the participants?

Gauge this by how interested participants are, also ask them how well they

understand the information and how comfortable they would be undertaking it. (Rate

out of five.)

Locus of control (encouragement)

- Are participants encouraged to learn and think for themselves and see that their

actions to make a difference (rate out of five)?

- Is feedback provided for participants? Are they given the opportunity to give their

feedback? How well is this listened to and appreciated? (Rate out of five.)

- What form is the feedback given in (one point for each form), oral, written, group




Sense of responsibility

- What type of role models are given? Are any given? Do they include different age

groups, gender and race? (One point for each area covered, minus three points if no

role models.)

- Are tasks outlined for participants to undertake during and after their visit? What

contexts are they given in? (One point for each and one point for each context given


- Are participants encouraged to retain the knowledge, skills and attitudes they have

learned (rate out of five)? In what ways is this accomplished (one point for each)?

The more points the program accumulates the better. The program should include at

least 70% of the mentioned components to be of any benefit. Many programs are strong

in education about and in the environment, but fall down in their education for the

environment. They also seem to nearly completely overlook issues concerned with

personality factors and locus of control, and the strong influence of learning theories.

This should be kept in mind when assessing, implementing and improving current



As mentioned earlier, this manual is only a rough outline of suggestions for

implementation and assessment of eco-action education programs within ecotourism.

It is based on very limited research. Much more trial and error is needed within

this area to produce a fail-safe eco-action education program, if that is ever possible.

Long-term effects of these programs on individuals attitudes and behaviours

towards the environment need to be further assessed. Specific types of participants e.g.

children etc., need to be individually assessed to determine the differences needed within

programs to benefit these participants. Also cross-cultural assessments of these programs

are needed.



If you have any suggestions for improvement of eco-action education programs,

their evaluation or suggestions/comments concerning this manual, the author would be

more than happy to hear from you.

The authors aim is to determine the best ways of educating the peoples of the

earth to preserve it for the future. Eco-action education programs may or may not be one

of the best ways to accomplish this. There has just not been enough research to date to

determine this.

If you would like to contact the author her address is:

MS Tamzin Barber

PO Box 1153


Victoria 3 124


Thank you for taking the time to read this manual. It is the author’s wish that it

has been able to bring to you some information you previously did not know, and that it

could assist in environmental education programs you may be associated with.




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