Research Summary

An evaluation of the impact of river guide interpretation training on the client’s knowledge and interest regarding the environment

River Guides with Interpretation Training Pass Knowledge on to Clients

Journal of Interpretation Research

Typically, river guides receive extensive training on how to navigate guests safely down the river, with an emphasis on skills such as paddling technique, reading the river, and water safety. Interpretation training is secondary, if provided at all. But the organization Headwaters Institute has recognized that river trips represent a significant opportunity for interpretation about natural history and ecological issues of rivers. In an effort to provide more robust training to river guides, the Headwaters Institute holds seminars to educate river guides about natural history and ecosystem processes, as well as interpretive techniques. The seminars are designed to help guides better educate clients during river trips. This study aimed to assess the impact of those trainings.

The researchers surveyed 97 river guests on western North Carolina’s French Broad River. Of the guests surveyed, 39 went down the river with a guide who attended the training; 58 went with guides who had not attended the seminar. The guests completed a survey that measured interest and knowledge before and after their trip. All of the river guests demonstrated an increase in knowledge and interest after their trip. But while there was no significant difference in the pre-test results for the two groups, the guests who went down the river with a Headwaters Institute-trained guide scored significantly higher on both knowledge and interest than those who did not. So while the experience of going down the river with a guide seemed to help improve guests’ knowledge of and interest in the river environment, going with a guide trained in interpretation appeared to enhance the effect.

The researchers acknowledge that the study involved only a small number of participants and just one rafting company. In addition, the researchers note that the guides who attended the Headwaters Institute seminar may have self-selected for participation and may have already been more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about interpretation than guides who did not attend the training. teacher training

Nevertheless, the authors conclude that interpretive training for guides in a non-traditional setting such as a river trip can enhance affective and cognitive outcomes: “The results of this study suggest that other ecotourism and outdoor recreation providers should consider including specific area natural history, environmental information, and interpretive skills in their staff trainings, thus encouraging the embedding of interpretive messages within the recreational activity that they provide.”

The Bottom Line

River guides who receive training in interpretation appear to more effectively educate and excite their clients about the river environment than guides who don’t receive the training. Although more rigorous research is needed to better understand the specifics of how the training generates these effects, the study results suggest that interpretive training for outdoor leaders can lead to better outcomes for clients in terms of knowledge of and interest in the environment.