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Research methods and reporting practices in zoo and aquarium conservation‐education evaluation

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Zoos and aquariums are increasingly incorporating conservation education into their mission statements and visitor experiences to address global biodiversity loss. To advance knowledge and practice in the field, research is being conducted to evaluate the effect of zoo conservation‐education experiences on visitor psychosocial outcomes (e.g., knowledge, attitude, emotions, motivations, behavior). Following recent discussions among scholars and practitioners concerning logistical and methodological challenges that likely undermine the conclusions of such research, we identified and reviewed the methods and reporting practices in peer‐reviewed articles published in English from May 1998 to June 2016 that focused on adult visitor samples (47 articles, 48 studies). We examined elements of internal, external, construct, and statistical conclusion validity. Methodological quality of quantitative methods and reporting practices was determined using the Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment Tool. Each study was coded as either strong (no weak ratings), moderate (1 weak rating), or weak (≥2 weak ratings). The quantitative methods of 83.3% of studies were weak. The remaining 16.7% had methods of moderate quality. Using an existing checklist, we also assessed the quality and rigor of qualitative methods and reporting practices and found that some aspects of these methods were reported more comprehensively than others. For example, 69.6% of articles discussed methods for identifying key themes from the data, whereas only 34.8% reported how data verification was performed. We suggest increased application of intensive longitudinal methods (e.g., daily diary) to strengthen self‐reported data, experimental and repeated‐measures designs, and mixed‐methods approaches. Our findings and recommendations could strengthen and guide the research and evaluation agenda for the field and ultimately enhance the contribution zoos make to global biodiversity conservation.
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Keywords: , , ,; Aichi biodiversity; biodiversity conservation; conservación de la biodiversidad; conservation psychology; educación ambiental; environmental education; methodological review targets; objetivos de biodiversidad de Aichi; psicología de la conservación; revisión metodológica

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

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