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An investigation of moderators of change and the influence of the instructor on outdoor orientation program participants’ biophilic expressions

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Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education
DOI:
10.1007/s42322-020-00051-w
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Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education
https://doi.org/10.1007/s42322-020-00051-w
ORIGINAL PAPER

An investigation of moderators
of change and the influence of the instructor
on outdoor orientation program participants’
biophilic expressions
Nathan W. Meltzer 1 & Andrew J. Bobilya 2
W. Brad Faircloth 4 & Resa M. Chandler 2

& Denise

Mitten 3 &

# Outdoor Education Australia 2020

Abstract
The twofold purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate various moderators that
might influence the effect of participation in an outdoor orientation program on first-year
college students’ relationships with the natural world and to examine the potential influence
of instructors on participants’ biophilic expression. The theory of biophilia was used to
understand these human-nature relationships. Eighty-five first-year college students participating in a 21-day outdoor orientation program were assessed at the program’s start and end
using the Kellert-Shorb Biophilic Values Indicator (KSBVI). The KSBVI provides a
biophilic profile, a measure of how one relates to the natural world on each of nine separate
subscales that collectively articulate one’s expression of biophilic values: aesthetic,
dominionistic, humanistic, moralistic, naturalistic, negativistic, scientific, symbolic and
utilitarian. Moderators of change in biophilic expression were explored using ANCOVA
models, including pre-scores as a covariate in each model. The moderators were 1) prior
summer camp experience, 2) prior wilderness experience program (WEP) participation, and
3) preference for type of time in the outdoors (alone or with others). Prior WEP experience
moderated outcomes on the aesthetic, humanistic, moralistic and negativistic subscales, and
prior summer camp experience moderated outcomes on the aesthetic and moralistic subscales. Participants’ preference for time alone or with others in the natural world did not
moderate any biophilic outcome. Instructor influence, assessed using a repeated measures
MANOVA, was ; found to have an effect on the extent to which change occurred on the
humanistic, scientific, and utilitarian subscales. Replication studies are recommended.
Keywords Biophilia . Outdoor adventure program . Environmental education . Outdoor

orientation program . Kellert-Shorb Biophilic Values Indicator (KSBVI) . First-year
college students

* Andrew J. Bobilya
ajbobilya@email.wcu.edu
Extended author information available on the last page of the article

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

As higher education has embraced a more holistic perspective of student success,
campus programming designed to enhance student well-being has increased. Participation in Outdoor Orientation Programs (OOPs), formerly called Wilderness Orientation Programs, intended to assist in the student’s transition to the college environment is
a recent trend in the United States (Bell et al. 2014). These programs are “designed to
assist individuals in adapting to a new environment by using wilderness settings and
experiences to facilitate or enhance changes or adaptations to university life” (Galloway
2000, p. 75).
An example of an OOP is a first-year college program in which a small group of
students (less than 15) participate in outdoor adventure experiences that include at least
one overnight in an outdoor setting (Bell et al. 2014). O’Connell (2011) suggested that
these programs expose students to unfamiliar environments in which students can learn
skills that potentially are transferred back to the college environment. Additional typical
goals for OOPs include improving college retention, promoting friendships among new
students (Bell 2006), developing peer support networks and life skills (Bell et al. 2010;
Bobilya et al. 2011; Ribbe et al. 2016), as well as introducing students to their new
home (Davis-Berman and Berman 1996; Frauman and Wryold 2009). OOPs have been
shown to promote positive change in various outcomes associated with the transition to
college (Bell 2006; Bobilya et al. 2011; Gass 1987; Gass et al. 2003; Ribbe et al. 2016).
Additionally, Meltzer et al. (2018) found that the biophilic expression of students who
participate in an OOP change likely due to the time in nature. The current study
continues to explore how these programs affect participants’ relationships with the
natural world.
OOPs are one specific program type described in the broader field of adventure
education (AE). Ewert et al. (2014) reported that the benefits attributed to AE programming are likely due to a combination of immersion in the natural environment,
engaging in novel activities with other people, an openness to learning and change, and
reflecting about the experiences with a facilitator or individually. Participating in
outdoor activities allows people to feel and experience a place through physical activity,
and ultimately to feel connected to a place; creating the context for AE programs to be
an excellent tool for promoting environmental awareness (Ewert et al. 2014).
One of the primary outcomes of AE programs has been to promote positive
connections among participants and thus, increase future interpersonal skills (Hayllar
1990; McAvoy et al. 1996; Miles 1987; Priest 1986). However, in programs where the
relationship between participants and the natural world is given more attention, participants often develop more environmentally sustainable behaviors (Lee 2011; Litz and
Mitten 2013; Loynes 2002; Martin 2004). Some have contended that AE programs
should include teaching about human-nature relationships (Beringer 2004; Henderson
1999; Mitten et al. 2017), and that these programs either do or should deliver meaningful ecological content (Medrick and Mitten 2011; Mitten 2009). While participants’
appreciation and advocacy for the natural environment is a common outcome in some
programs (McKenzie 2003), Mitten (2009) indicated that the prominence of this
outcome diminished in the 1980s and 90s but may have strengthened in recent years.
When considered together, these perspectives indicate that room exists within the
context of an OOP to enhance healthy human-nature relationships.
The OOP leaders’ relationship to nature may have an impact on the quality of
relationships that the students develop with the natural environment, including their

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

knowledge of and attitudes and values towards it. Creating the conditions for future
leaders to care about the environment is extremely important. In westernized and
industrialized countries, estranged relationships with nature contribute to the socioecological crises facing humanity and the earth and, conversely, healthy relationships
with the natural world motivate people to become more engaged citizens who practice
environmentally responsible behavior or pro-environmental behavior (PEB) (Chawla
and Derr 2012; Zylstra et al. 2014). As scientists Balmford and Cowling (2006)
recognized, there is “a great need for interdisciplinary efforts to tackle perhaps the
most pervasive underlying threat of all by reconnecting people and nature,” for “even if
all the other building blocks of effective conservation are in place, we will not succeed
unless the general public cares, and they are unlikely to care enough if they no longer
experience nature directly” (p. 694).
Life experience research has suggested that an active and positive environmental
ethic is fostered by three primary experiences: 1) time spent directly enjoying nature,
especially during childhood; 2) the presence of close social supports for nature appreciation; and 3) participation in a nature- or environment-focused organization that
fosters learning (Chawla 2009; Chawla and Derr 2012). These life experiences help
people develop an emotional affinity towards nature where they feel a sense of oneness
and safety in it. They express a love of nature and indignation at its inadequate
protection, leading to a commitment to PEB (Kals et al. 1999). And while childhood
time in nature has been shown to be a strong predictor for spending time outside as an
adult, Chawla and Derr (2012) recognize that intense experiences in nature had during
adolescence are also significant.
If people fail to have outdoor experiences in nature in childhood, all is not lost.
Intense experiences of nature, inspiring mentors, supportive friends, and engaging organizations in adolescence not only reinforce early experiences, but also
appear to be able to compensate for missed experiences of early free play in
nature, for the purposes of PEB. What emerges are different paths into environmental action, although all involve direct experience of nature in some way, at
some time, as well as some form of social support. (p. 535).
Healthy human-nature relationships may encourage students to continue being active in
nature and thus continue to gain health benefits from contact with nature, which may
include participation in physical activity, restoration of mental and emotional health,
and social bonding (Mitten et al. 2018) as well as the development of a positive
environmental ethic.

Measuring humans’ relationships with the natural world
The theory of “biophilia” (Fromm 1964) provides a broad platform from which to
understand human relationships with the natural world. Biophilia suggests that
connecting with life and lifelike processes is evolutionarily ingrained in human life,
and its expression is enhanced or constrained as a result of individual experiences and
learning (Kellert 1997, 2002, 2018; Wilson 1993). Biophilic expression or “the innate
tendency to affiliate with life and lifelike processes,” (Wilson 1984, p. 1) is one

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

approach to studying human-nature relationships during AE programs. Better
understanding and quantifying how individuals relate to the natural environment
helps environmental planners, educators and others to manage their practice in the
midst of current global environmental pressures.
Cartwright and Mitten (2018) researched 34 various conservation psychology instruments, each with their own unique purpose or function including assessment of a
person’s environmental views and connection to nature. One of the instruments
assessed was the Kellert-Shorb Biophilic Values Indicator (KSBVI), which was designed to measure human-nature relationships through the theory of biophilia. The
(KSBVI) consists of 99 Likert statements used to measure nine values of affinity for
nature (see Table 1). While it is the lengthiest scale researched (Cartwright and Mitten
2018), the measures realized using this instrument offer a detailed indication of a
respondent’s self-reported relationship to the natural world (Shorb and SchnoekerShorb 2008; 2010). The KSBVI is focused on how individuals relate to the natural
world rather than if or to what degree they relate to the natural world. Meltzer et al.
(2018) found the KSBVI to be valuable in detecting change in biophilic expression of
students who participate in an OOP. The current study is an extension of the previous
work of Meltzer et al. (2018).
Kellert and Derr (1998) researched the effects on participant’s biophilic values in
programs conducted by Outward Bound, (OB), NOLS, and the Student Conservation
Association. Their analysis was conducted using the previously described framework
of biophilic expressions (Table 1) and their findings, similar to Meltzer et al. (2018),
showed associations between program outcomes and biophilic expressions after the
program immersion.

Moderators
The natural settings of OOPs, combined with the leaders’ influence as well as students’
previous experience in similar settings, may affect program outcomes. One’s development of the biophilic expressions has been theorized to arise from the interplay of direct
Table 1 A typology of values of nature: nine biophilic values or expressions
Value

Definition

Aesthetic

Physical attraction and appeal of nature

Dominionistic

Mastery and control of nature

Humanistic

Emotional bonding with nature

Moralistic

Ethical and spiritual relation to nature

Naturalistic

Exploration and discovery of nature

Negativistic

Fear and aversion of nature

Scientific

Knowledge and understanding of nature

Symbolic

Nature as a source of language and imagination

Utilitarian

Nature as a source of material and physical benefit

Adapted from Kellert 2002, p. 130

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

experience in the natural world, cultural conditioning, and social learning (Kellert 1997;
Shorb and Schnoeker-Shorb 2010). Furthermore, Kellert (1996) noted that the biophilic
expressions required “repeated reinforcement to become stable and salient aspects of
human personality” (p. 37). Two types of related programs that could reinforce
biophilic expression are summer camps and other wilderness experience programs
(WEP) such as OB. Prior participation in a summer camp or WEP contains all three
elements theorized to affect development of biophilic expression, and therefore, would
provide reinforcement in the development of specific biophilic expressions (Kellert
1997; Shorb and Schnoeker-Shorb 2008; 2010). It was hypothesized that participants’
biophilic expressions could have possibly been influenced by these prior experiences
and that these prior experiences could have had some potential effect on those changes
in biophilic expressions observed during participation on an OOP. Additionally, the
moderator of preference for spending time in nature alone or with others was chosen to
explore the possible effect of social learning, to investigate if one’s desire for time with
others or alone in the natural world affected change in any of the biophilic expressions.

Role of the instructor in adventure education programming
Instructors play a fundamental role in AE programs (Bobilya et al. 2005; Hardin 1979;
Kalisch 1999; Mitten 2003; Schumann et al. 2009) and have been identified as one of
the five OB course components that influence student learning (McKenzie 2003).
Instructor influence was also identified as one of the leading “critical areas for future
study” in AE programming (Hattie et al. 1997, p. 73). Furthermore, an “appreciation for
nature” was one of the top five reported lessons learned after completion of a NOLS
course, with instructors cited as one of the “specific mechanisms that helped participants learn these lessons” (Sibthorp et al. 2011, p. 116).
More recently, researchers have studied the impact of the instructor on various AE
outcomes (Bobilya et al. 2014; Oliver 2010; Paisley et al. 2008; Schumann et al. 2009).
Instructors have the potential to influence their participants’ ways of relating with the
natural world. Martin (1999) posited that an instructor’s beliefs about the natural world
could transfer to participants just as an instructor’s modeling of how to behave at a
given moment in time could convey specific, tacit lessons to students about how they
should behave. Martin also noted that “consciously and subconsciously as teachers and
leaders we give credibility to particular types of knowledge” (1999, p. 466). Such
lessons can include conveying an anthropocentric or biocentric worldview (Martin
1999), modeling respect or disrespect for other-than-human beings, interacting in an
exploitative or gracious manner, and conveying a sense of safety or fear in nature.
Instructors are crucial in helping to achieve the goals of OOPs, including building
healthy relationships with the environment.
Given the challenging environmental issues such as climate change and allocating
resource use in addition to an increased understanding about the health benefits of
being in nature, it would behoove OOP managers to understand ways that students’
relationships to natural environments may change through the course of an OOP.
Previous research exploring change in participants’ biophilic scores on the KellertShorb Biophilic Values Indicator (KSBVI) during an OOP (Meltzer et al. 2018)
revealed statistically significant change from pre to post in eight of the nine biophilic

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

expressions: aesthetic, humanistic, moralistic, naturalistic, negativistic, scientific, symbolic, and utilitarian (no change in dominionistic). However, no research has been
found that explored either moderators of change in participants’ biophilic expressions
or the possible influence of the instructor on change in participants’ biophilic expressions. Therefore, the twofold purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the
effects of various moderators of change in participants’ biophilic expressions over the
course of an OOP and also to examine the potential influence of instructors on change
in their participants’ KSBVI scores.

Methods
Program
This investigation was part of a larger study conducted with the Prescott College New
Student Orientation which is a first-year OOP where most new undergraduate students
participate in a 21-day backpacking course in the mountainous backcountry of Arizona.
Prescott College is a small liberal arts college located in Prescott, Arizona, known for
its emphases on experiential education, social justice, and environmental stewardship.
All incoming Prescott students during the fall 2012 semester participated in an orientation experience with 85–90% participating in the backcountry-based (backpacking)
program. Those who did not participate in the backcountry-based program were
exempt for reasons of health, physical ability, or a responsibility that precluded them
from being in the remote wilderness for the duration of the trip.
Participants
Criterion sampling was used to determine the participants in the study (Patton 2015).
The selection process included those participants who attended the August and September, 2012 New Student Orientation program. 85 of the 126 students who participated in the program completed both pre and post surveys. The ages of the participants
ranged from 16 to 50 (70% between the ages of 16–20) and included 46 females and 39
males. Participation in the study was voluntary, and participants could withdraw from
the study at any point. The Prescott College Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviewed
and approved the study prior to data collection.
Participants were divided into 13 groups with up to 12 students in each group.
Groups were created with an intention to balance experience, background, and age. Of
those groups, two groups had three instructors and 11 groups had two instructors.
Instructor teams were comprised of one experienced field instructor (n = 28, 13 females, 15 males), often a Prescott alumnus, and one additional instructor.
Data collection
The KSBVI is a 99-item questionnaire comprised of a series of statements on a four-point
Likert scale, ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 4 = strongly agree (Shorb and
Schnoeker-Shorb 2008; 2010). The KSBVI assesses nine biophilic expressions, with each
subscale consisting of 11 items, and shows a person’s biophilic profile, or a snapshot of

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

their relative expressions of each of the nine biophilic responses (aesthetic, dominionistic,
humanistic, moralistic, naturalistic, negativistic, scientific, symbolic and utilitarian). Participants’ responses on the KSBVI were used to provide nine subscale scores of biophilia,
with a score of 44 indicating the highest possible expression. The KSBVI was administered to the participants and instructors prior to the orientation experience and again to the
participants on the last evening of their trip. The internal reliability of the KSBVI in the
current study was acceptable, α = .75 (Meltzer et al. 2018). The survey responses were
used to generate an individual biophilic profile. Changes in participant biophilic expression could have been influenced by several factors or moderators (Meltzer et al. 2018),
including the participants’ preferences for time alone in nature, prior summer camp
experience, prior participation in a WEP, and their instructor. In order to further explore
the influence of instructors, participants were grouped according to their instructors and
differences in KSBVI scores between these groups were assessed.
Data analysis
Analysis of moderators This analysis explored the potential effects of demographic
moderators on change in biophilic expression. Three moderators were identified and
tested using ANCOVA (analysis of covariance) models, including pre-scores as a
covariate in each model (Rausch et al. 2003). The moderators were prior summer camp
experience, prior WEP experience, and preference for type of time spent in the outdoors
(alone or with others). The two moderators exploring prior camp and WEP experience
were chosen because biophilic expression is influenced by direct experience in the
natural world, social learning, and cultural context (Shorb and Schnoeker-Shorb 2010),
and organized camp or wilderness program experience would likely have all three of
these elements present. The moderator of preference for time spent in nature focused on
one’s desire to explore the natural world in solitude or with others. This moderator was
intended to explore the degree to which participants’ preferences for how they spent
time in nature may have affected change in biophilic expression. Finally, in order to
assess the potential influence of the instructor, a repeated measures MANOVA (multivariate analysis of variance) was used to assess change in eight of the KSBVI
subscales over time, using the instructors as a grouping variable for the participants.
This model examined the main effects of time in addition to the interaction effect of
instructor X time for each of the eight subscales previously shown to change over time
(Meltzer et al. 2018).

Results
Previous analysis of the current sample revealed significant changes in participants’
biophilic expressions in eight of the nine subscales measured by the KSBVI, following
participation in an OOP (Meltzer et al. 2018). Therefore, the analyses presented here
focused on the aesthetic, humanistic, moralistic, naturalistic, negativistic, scientific,
symbolic and utilitarian subscales and investigated potential moderators of change in
participants’ KSBVI scores and the potential effects of instructors on their participants’
changes in biophilic profiles.

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Moderators
For these analyses, ANCOVA models were run to explore the significance of certain
moderators, with pre-scores included as covariates. The moderators tested in this study
were the effects of prior summer camp experience, the effects of prior WEP participation, and preference for type of time spent in the natural world (alone or with others).
Participants’ preferences for time spent in the natural world (alone or with others) did
not moderate any outcome on the KSBVI. In other words, the Prescott OOP had the
same effect despite participants’ preference for solitude or companionship. Table 2
presents the results of ANCOVA models investigating the moderating effects of prior
camp and prior WEP experiences on eight of the KSBVI subscale scores. Prior camp
(yes, n = 56; no, n = 24) and prior WEP participation (yes, n = 36; no, n = 44) variables
were both treated as dichotomous.
Prior WEP experience moderated outcomes on the aesthetic, humanistic, moralistic
and negativistic subscales. Individuals with prior WEP experience reported lower post
KSBVI scores on the aesthetic, moralistic and humanistic indicators than did participants with no prior WEP experience, as indicated by the significant F-values denoted
differences in mean scores (see Table 2). Additionally, individuals with prior WEP
experience reported higher negativistic expressions for their post KSBVI scores than
did participants with no prior WEP experience. In other words, the negativistic scores
for those with prior WEP experience did not go down as much as they did for those
who had not had any prior WEP experience. Prior summer camp experience moderated
outcomes on the aesthetic and moralistic subscales in that individuals with prior camp
experience reported higher aesthetic and moralistic expressions than did participants
with no prior camp experience.
Instructor influence
A repeated measures MANOVA was conducted to assess change over time in eight of
the KSBVI subscales. The MANOVA model included Time (2) and the interaction of
Time and subscale factors. Analyses using repeated measures MANOVA revealed a
Table 2 Means, standard deviations, and F-values examining moderators of KSBVI post scores
Subscale

Camp

No Camp

F

WEP

No WEP

F

Aesthetic

33.36

33.33

3.23*

32.83

33.78

4.13*

Humanistic

33.52

32.63

.77

32.47

33.89

4.37*

Moralistic

40.06

39.17

3.39*

39.13

40.33

5.21**

Naturalistic

38.62

36.83

.64

38.44

37.78

.58

Negativistic

22.82

23.23

.03

23.58

22.43

4.15*

Scientific

32.49

31.39

.70

31.86

32.40

2.37†

Symbolic

20.45

20.25

.62

20.31

20.45

.62

Utilitarian

25.27

25.24

1.22

25.31

25.22

.78

†=

.10; * < .05; ** < .01

df for all F tests were (2,85)

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

significant main effect of time for eight of the nine KSBVI subscales (see Table 3),
confirming prior findings regarding change in biophilic expression over time (participants’ scores changed on 8 of 9 subscales, with dominionistic as non-significant;
Meltzer et al. 2018). There was also a time by instructor interaction effect for the
humanistic, scientific, and utilitarian subscales. In other words, the participants’ set of
instructors affected the extent to which change occurred on these three subscales.
The test of between subject effects revealed a significant difference between the
instructor group scores F(1, 48) = 17.22, p = .00, indicating that the profiles for the
groups were significantly different from one another. The test of within subjects effects
also revealed significant differences between subscale scores within each group F(3,
147) = 29.41, p = .00. In other words, there were clear differences between KSBVI
subscale scores within each small group of OOP students.

Discussion
The twofold purpose of this study was to examine the effects of three moderators of
change in first-year college students’ biophilic expressions over the course of an OOP
and to examine the influence of instructors on change in their participants’ KSBVI
scores.
Moderators of change in biophilic expression
The results of the moderational analyses show that both prior camp and prior WEP
experiences moderated some of the changes in the individual KSBVI scores. Participants with prior WEP experience exhibited smaller increases in the aesthetic, humanistic and moralistic expressions than those without prior WEP experience. Those with
prior WEP experience also showed a smaller decrease in the negativistic expression
than those without prior WEP experience. Overall, this indicates less change on these
Table 3 MANOVA examining time and time x instructor interaction effects
Biophilic Subscale

F

Sig.

F

Sig.

Time

Time

Time x Instructor

Time x Instructor

Aesthetic

16.263

.00**

1.303

.24

Dominionistic

1.615

.21

1.108

.37

Humanistic

7.051

.01**

2.339

.01**

Moralistic

11.976

.00**

.659

.78

Naturalistic

17.229

.00**

1.811

.06†

Negativistic

5.680

.02*

.790

.66

Scientific

29.975

.00**

1.887

.05*

Symbolic

5.313

.02*

.849

.60

Utilitarian

4.653

.03*

1.979

.04*

†<

.10; * < .05; ** < .01

df for all F tests were (1,85)

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

four subscales. Participants with prior camp experience exhibited greater increases on
the aesthetic and moralistic expressions than those without prior camp experience. It is
unclear why prior WEP experience resulted in decreased change in expression, while
prior camp experience caused increased change. These results suggest that different
programming types, such as summer camp, affect participants’ relationships to the
natural world in different ways than other programs like a WEP. Additionally, these
results seem to support previous research clarifying the many ways that specific
programmatic components affect transfer of learning among participants (Sibthorp
et al. 2011).
These results indicated that prior summer camp or WEP program experiences also
seem to affect participants’ ongoing relationships with the natural world, indicating that
one’s prior programmatic experience has a continuing effect on one’s developing
biophilic expression. This suggests that, despite the differences in moderational effects
for prior camp and WEP experience, there might be some long-term programmatic
effects from these experiences. Furthermore, these findings support prior work identifying the overall lasting effects from participation in a WEP (Paxton and McAvoy
2000), the common lasting effect of WEP participation on participants’ relationships
with the natural world (Hattie et al. 1997; Kellert and Derr 1998), and the “long-term,
lasting influence” from participation in an OOP (Gass et al. 2003, p. 38). In addition,
these findings support the idea that the human-nature relationship may be a fundamental part of AE programs whether included expressly in the curriculum or not (Beringer
2004; Henderson 1999; Mitten et al. 2017) and is worthy of continued study.
The results of this study continue to raise questions about the influence of “repeated
reinforcement” (i.e., being in the natural environment) on one’s biophilic expressions
(Kellert 1996, p. 37) as some expressions were moderated by prior WEP or prior camp
experiences while others were not. It is possible that prior experience on a WEP
program influenced specific changes in biophilic expression. Yet, some of the biophilic
subscales showed moderational effects for prior WEP and prior camp experience while
others did not show any effect. There were differences in the ways that these prior
program experiences affected later change with some biophilic expressions decreasing
after programmatic experience and others increasing. This could further support the
idea that exposure to particular curricula affected one’s change in biophilic expression.
Two major differences between a typical WEP and a summer camp are the program’s
structure and educational aims, which could also be defined as the taught curriculum.
Additionally, an interesting finding from the moderational analyses was the larger
post negativistic response for those with prior WEP experience. In other words, those
who had prior experience on a WEP demonstrated higher post negativistic KSBVI
scores meaning they related to the natural world more through relationships based in
fear and aversion than those without prior WEP experience. The negativistic expression
can be considered a measure of one’s vigilance towards potentially harmful parts of the
natural world (Kellert 1996). This biophilic expression encompasses feelings of appreciation and respect for the power of the natural world. These findings may indicate that
those with prior experience on a wilderness program had stronger tendencies to avoid
what they considered dangerous elements of the natural world. This may be due to
possible increases in participant’s judgment and decision-making based on their prior
programmatic experience and supports prior research indicating higher levels of perceived judgment among WEP participants with prior experience (Sibthorp et al. 2007).

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

If this were the case, then those higher levels of negativistic post values for those with
prior WEP experience may have been adaptive enactments such as learning how to
better read the weather or better recognize potentially dangerous flora and fauna. The
OOP in this study took place in a desert environment, which may have been a more
extreme environment than the participant’s previous WEP experience.
Finally, there was no moderating effect based on preference for time spent in the
natural world (alone vs. with others). In other words, how participants spent their time
in the natural world did not affect the amount of change in biophilic expressions. This
seems to suggest that the factors of direct experience in the natural world and social
learning may have equally affected any change in the biophilic expressions during the
program regardless of preference for type of time spent in the natural environment.
The role of the instructor on change in KSBVI score
This study also explored the possibility that instructors may have influenced change in
participants’ KSBVI scores and helped to answer the call for continued investigation of
instructor influence (Bobilya et al. 2005, 2014; Hattie et al. 1997; Mitten 2003) and the
role of the natural world in AE programming (Mitten 2009). When the data were
organized by instructor group, a moderating effect was found for the three biophilic
subscales: (a) humanistic, (b) scientific, and (c) utilitarian expression. These results
suggest that the instructors influenced the extent to which change occurred for a
participant on these three subscales thus supporting prior research identifying the
powerful role of instructors on student learning in adventure education programming
(Bobilya et al. 2005; Hunt 1995; Kalisch 1999; McKenzie 2003; Mitten 2003;
Schumann et al. 2009; Sibthorp et al. 2011). These results also reinforce Hardin’s
(1979) research on participants’ expectations on outdoor courses where she found that
because participants look to the leader for direction and protection, a leader’s goals and
assumptions influence the experiences of the course participants including their outcomes, achievements, and learnings.
Finally, there may have been other factors embodied by the instructors that weren’t
measured by the KSBVI but influenced change in participants’ scores. Additional
variables that could have had an influence include group dynamics, program curriculum, weather, and terrain, among others. This study is limited in its ability to explore
some of these additional factors, however these findings indicate a need for continued
research into their possible influence on change in KSBVI scores.
OOPs can provide time in nature with inspiring mentors, leaders, and social support,
and can therefore help students gain knowledge and experience leading to improved
environmental awareness and attitudes, which may potentially change behavior
(Damerell et al. 2013). While environmental knowledge does not directly result in
PEB (Hungerford and Volk 1990), knowledge gained through direct experiences, such
as an OOP has been shown to have substantially more impact on PEB (Chawla and
Derr 2012) than the indirect experiences common to most forms of western education.
OOPs leaders may be those adults who model comfort with, enjoyment of, and respect
for the natural world, which ultimately helps develop a positive, protective relationship
with the environment (Chawla 2009; James et al. 2010). Therefore, with appropriate
leadership and curriculum, OOPs are positioned well to help students engage in healthy
relationships with the natural environment leading to healthy life styles and PEB.

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Recommendations
A number of recommendations for practice and future research emerged from this
study.
Recommendations for practice
AE program outcomes often include increasing participants’ positive regard for nature,
and thus increase participants’ PEB. Field instructors and program managers are
encouraged to consider:
&

&
&
&

&

Using the KSBVI as a self-assessment tool to explore their own biophilic expressions as a means of better understanding the theory of biophilia and to increase their
self-awareness about how they relate to the natural world through the framework of
biophilia.
Collecting participant’s KSBVI data as a way of better understanding their perspectives and behaviors, and to possibly improve instruction and program administration related to participants’ developing relationships with natural world.
Using the KSBVI as a tool to assess the influence of curricular components on
participants’ relationships with the natural world. This could include using the
KSBVI in a pre-and post- format, or in a retrospective design.
Incorporating the theory and language of biophilia into program components and
staff training in order to provide clarity about a program’s approach, treatment, and
goals pertaining to participants’ relationships with the natural world. In doing so, a
program could more-precisely articulate its mission and goals pertaining to the
human-nature relationship by utilizing the robust framework of the nine biophilic
subscales.
Finally, because increases in the scientific subscale appeared to be influenced by the
instructors, the efficacy of using fieldwork and direct experience in learning about
scientific aspects of the environment should be considered.

Recommendations for future research
There are a number of recommendations for future research based on the results of this
study. The authors suggest the following:
&

&
&

Conduct additional replication studies with the Prescott College New Student
Orientation Program and with other similar OOPs using the KSBVI in a pre-post
format to further explore the theory of biophilia and the programmatic effects on
KSBVI scores.
Explore how to best modify the KSBVI for improved reliability and wider use. This
could include increasing the reliability of the instrument for all of the subscales, and
especially for the aesthetic, symbolic, and utilitarian subscales.
Replicate this study with different programs in the field of AE to explore possible
differences in change in biophilic expression among programmatic factors, such as
course type, curriculum, duration, population, age, and course activity. Some such

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

&
&

&

programs that would prove beneficial for replication studies include other AE
programs like OB or NOLS, semester schools, therapy programs, summer camps,
environmental education centers, and other OOPs.
Explore the effects of other potential moderators on KSBVI scores, such as
additional demographic, curricular, or instructional factors.
Continue to investigate findings from this study that were unclear. These ambiguous findings include why those with prior camp experience reported higher aesthetic and moralistic expressions than their no camp counterparts, and why those
with prior WEP experience reported lower aesthetic, moralistic and humanistic
expressions than their no WEP counterparts. In addition, it would be worthwhile to
explore why those with prior WEP experience reported higher negativistic expressions than their no WEP counterparts, why some of the moderators showed change
but others did not, and why there was no change for the dominionistic expression.
Consider after the post-test of the KSVBI, using interviews with participants in
groups to better understand how they believe their biophilic expressions may have
changed.

Overall, both practitioners and researchers should continue to explore how curriculum
elements, instructor characteristics, or teaching methods may affect change in participants’ biophilic expression and other program outcomes.

Conclusion
Interpreting results from the KSBVI to understand a person’s biophilic expression or to
assess an outdoor program’s ability to enact change in participants’ biophilic expressions should be approached with an understanding of all the variables that could
influence the outcomes. Here, an exploration was undertaken to begin to understand
four variables that could have influenced how participants’ biophilic profiles changed
after participation in an OOP. These findings indicate that prior camp experience
significantly affected two of the nine subscales, the aesthetic and moralistic, while
prior WEP participation also affected these two, along with the negativistic and
humanistic subscales. Preference for time alone in nature was not a moderator of
biophilic expression. The humanistic, scientific, and utilitarian subscales appeared to
be influenced by the instructors.
A secondary purpose of the current investigation was to continue to explore how the
KSBVI and the theory of biophilia can be used educationally to promote positive and
healthy relationships with the natural world through adaptive enactments of the
biophilic expressions. The KSBVI and the theory of biophilia may help to foster
understanding about the ways in which people connect to various aspects of the natural
world and could help to promote positive healthy relationships between people and the
natural world. More specifically, OOPs may create an atmosphere that encourages a
sense of place and PEB. Leaders working in OOPs have the potential to help people
have healthier relationships with nature, which can lead to students enjoying life-long
benefits of being more active in nature as well as increasing their PEB.
This study indicates that field courses like the Prescott OOP and direct experience
continue to support that teaching about the environment may encourage students to

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

have more of a scientific lens. In addition, this study shows that OOPs appear to have
the potential for changing one’s biophilic expressions, making it all the more important
for AE programs to intentionally design curriculum and carefully select and train
instructors. Because the instructor’s profile or behavior may influence change in
participants, AE programs may want to train instructors to be intentional about the
sorts of relationships with the natural environment they model and reinforce. In
conclusion, as well as an indicator of change, the KSBVI instrument may be a useful
training tool by providing a means of self-reflection for administrators and instructors.

Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
interest.

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of

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Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education
Nathan W. Meltzer completed this study in partial fulfillment of his degree requirements for an MA in
Adventure Education and Experiential Education from Prescott College, in Prescott, AZ. Nate is currently a
Spanish Instructor at the Brentwood School, in Los Angeles, CA. His research interests include the human
relationship with the natural world, the roots of transformative educational experiences, the integration of
environmental studies into outdoor programming, and the interplay between pedagogy and programmatic
outcomes.
Andrew J. Bobilya currently serves as Professor and Program Director in the Parks and Recreation
Management program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. He continues to serve
as a wilderness program field instructor, trainer and course director and provides training and education
through 2nd Nature TREC. His research interests include wilderness program outcomes, wilderness solitude,
experiential education and spirituality, autonomous student experiences, and first-year college student
programming.
Denise Mitten , committed to the integration of theory and practice, serves on the graduate faculty in
Adventure Education MA and Sustainability Education PhD at Prescott College. An author of Natural
environments and human health, Denise advocates for healthy contact with nature for positive human
development and health and supports this assertion through research examining spiritual connections to
outdoor spaces, body image in outdoor activities, and spending time in nature to help women with eating
disorders.
W. Brad Faircloth currently serves as Interim Co-Academic Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, an
Associate Professor of Psychology and Human Services, and Director of Assessment at Montreat College in
Montreat, North Carolina and as the Director of Research at 2nd Nature TREC. Previously he worked for
North Carolina Early Intervention and Early Head Start supporting families with children with disabilities. His
research interests include wilderness program outcomes, marital conflict prevention programming, visual
perception, and neurological effects of outdoor experiences.
Resa M. Chandler is a current faculty member in the Health and Physical Education program at Western
Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Her research interests include the physiological responses
to exercise including wilderness adventure-based exercise, endocrine responses to weight lifting, and ergogenic nutrition.

Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Affiliations
Nathan W. Meltzer 1 & Andrew J. Bobilya 2 & Denise Mitten 3 & W. Brad Faircloth 4 &
Resa M. Chandler 2
Nathan W. Meltzer
natemeltzer@gmail.com
Denise Mitten
dmitten@prescott.edu
W. Brad Faircloth
bfaircloth@montreat.edu
Resa M. Chandler
tmchandler@email.wcu.edu

1

Brentwood School, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2

Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, USA

3

Prescott College, Prescott, AZ, USA

4

Montreat College, Montreat, NC, USA