Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph P. Stoltman

Second Advisor

Dr. Dave Lemberg

Third Advisor

Dr. Marcia K. Fetters


Science education, geography, environmental education, physical geography, tourism, adult education


The scientific research and education communities have long had the goal of advancing the publics’ understanding of science. Informal science education is a powerful mechanism for shaping human conduct, enhancing quality of life, and advancing the publics’ understandings and values regarding science. Guided educational tours (that present science content) provide visitors with unique opportunities to observe and discuss scientific phenomena in the field. Available empirical research related to learning science from guided educational tours is, at best, limited. Research leading to the development of effective guided educational tours that present and interpret scientific information is of interest to both non-profit and commercial tourism and recreational activities with their increasing levels of participation. This research draws on prior research in the areas of informal education, public understanding of science, and cognitive psychology. The research was based on The Contextual Model of Learning, which is a framework that illustrates how learning can be conceptualized as a contextually driven effort in order to make meaning within the world. In this research, learning was considered within the context of a selected guided educational tour. The multiple methods phenomenological research generated data from two sources: 1) a distributed questionnaire (quantitative) and 2) in-depth interviews (qualitative). Analysis was guided by the research questions. In the research, questionnaire responses and in-depth interviews focused on revealing visitors’ understandings and values regarding the presented science content. Perspectives in the personal context, as well as the process of arriving at meaningful learning in the sociocultural and physical contexts were investigated. Results support the demand for structured interpretation programs when presenting science on guided educational tours. Results include an in-depth description of the personal, socio-cultural, and physical contexts of the visitors’ experience with the guided tour. The research and predictions of future growth suggest that educational tourism has a promising future as a major provider of experiential science learning through engaging participants in out-of-school informal science education. Conclusions provide a unique perspective on the role of the typical tour visitors’ prior understandings and the social construction of new understandings as a result of participation on the selected guided educational tour.

A major review of the literature revealed the way that guided educational tourism is a widely practiced form of informal science education.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access