Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Susan Rauchwerk

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffry Perrin

Third Advisor

Dr. Ruth Kermish-Allen


The climate is in crisis. Many conservation organizations identify in their mission statements the priority of motivating constituents to engage with conservation action. This priority is typically implemented by educators who design and deliver educational activities and materials. This study, designed to develop a professional pathway for environmental educators to develop programs designed to motivate adult audiences toward engagement with conservation action, addressed the question: How can environmental educators more effectively promote conservation behavior change in adult learning audiences? Three guiding research questions were: 1) To what extent are environmental educators familiar with and utilizing theoretical frameworks and research-based tools and approaches for the design and delivery of educational programs? 2) How can Adult Learning Theory best practices be used in training adult educators to incorporate these best practices into their own teaching? 3) In what ways and to what degree did course experiences influence how participants develop and facilitate learning and engagement in their adult students toward increased individual conservation concern and action? This Action Research project used mixed methodology and co-inquiry. Quantitative data examined what study participants learned pre and post treatment. Qualitative data collected through discussions indicated how study participants were planning and piloting new teaching approaches. Case studies tracked the progress of a sample set of participants as well as the researcher. These are the key findings. When trained and supported, educators can change their practices and deliver programs designed to be more effective at moving people to action by incorporating Adult Learning Theory best practices and Conservation Psychology concepts, tools, and approaches. A training modelled on adult learning theory best practices can be effective in providing educators with the resources and motivation to develop and pilot changes in their teaching practices. Professional cohorts are a supportive learning environment for educators. Conservation organizations can build staff capacity to update program designs and teaching approaches to implement their “move people to action” mission priority. While much published Conservation Psychology research focuses on the audiences, this research uniquely focuses on the educators who are poised to teach adult audiences who voluntarily and enthusiastically attend popular natural history programs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



Number of Pages


Embargo Period





The author owns the copyright to this work.