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Title:Wildlife-inspired awe in leisure-based learning
Author(s):Hicks, Jonathan Robert
Director of Research:Stewart, William
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Stewart, William
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McDonald, Cary; Miler, Craig A; Vining, Joanne
Department / Program:Recreation, Sport and Tourism
Discipline:Recreation, Sport, and Tourism
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
human-wildlife interaction
Abstract:The purpose of this dissertation is to illuminate that awe is a part of wildlife experiences and that people learn from those experiences. Previously noted in literature, these notions were evidenced in this study through quantitative and qualitative measures spanning three stages of data collection. Data collection was guided by a theoretical framework, which integrated the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) (Kolb 2000, 1984) and the Theory of Emotional Memory (TEM) (LeDoux 2000, 1996) into what was referred to throughout this manuscript as the Wildlife Experiential Emotion Model (WEEM; see chapter two). Guided by the important work of Human Dimensions of Wildlife scholars, this model was successfully utilized to demonstrate the processes by which people experience wildlife-inspired awe. Specifically, stage one intercept interviews documented the ways in which people come to make meaning of significant experiences with wildlife. Personal reflections allowed participants to appraise or make sense of their emotional wildlife encounters, beginning a learning process evidenced through memory recall and storytelling. The stage two survey sought to identify factors that contribute to reflective understandings of wildlife-inspire awe. The resulting Wildlife Awe Scale (WAS) includes surprise, excitement, wonder, awe, and astonishment, and serves as a potential starting point for future quantitative consideration of wildlife-inspired awe in leisure settings. The stage three follow up interviews brought into focus the resultant learning stemming from experiences of wildlife-inspired awe. Learning manifested through behaviors related to wildlife, leisure preferences, professional pursuits, and social behaviors that ultimately depict that learning has occurred as a result of emotionally significant wildlife experiences. In the process of chronicling participants’ stories, we developed a better understanding of the ways in which wildlife-inspired awe has the potential to influence one’s self-awareness, as well as their beliefs about environmental advocacy. Developed for this study, the Wildlife Awe Scale proved to be a valuable data collection tool and will contribute to future efforts to understand how people experience awe while in the presence of wildlife. Findings from this study also have implications for environmental educators and recreation managers, as further understanding of how people experience awe will allow for more effective program design and policy development.
Issue Date:2016-03-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Jonathan R. Hicks
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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