Leisure Program Design and Evaluation: Using Leisure Experience Models as Diagnostic Tools

Article excerpt

As we move into the twenty-first century, justification for providing leisure opportunities based on attendance and generated revenue will no longer be sufficient for support by those using and/or needing leisure services. justification will depend on the value of services towards the general long-term improvement of society, rather than the short term which was prevalent in the '70s and '80s (Mobley & Toalson, 1992). This improvement will not necessarily occur because of economics related to material ownership or consumption. Rather, improvement will be made for general health and life satisfaction which comes through conscious choices concerning the social, psychological, and physical well-being of society.

Providing quality leisure experience is important for individuals involved in leisure education and environments. When people feel enjoyment, pleasure, and a positive sense of well-being, it is either solely by chance or influenced by forethought and conscious action. While many human experiences are spontaneous, a case can be made for understanding the role of conscious action in enhancing the quality of life. Conscious actions are taken by individuals seeking leisure experiences and by leisure programmers.

Understanding Leisure Experience

Leisure providers facilitate leisure experiences (not just offer programs) for clients they serve, whether it is for children or adults in public or private settings. As Rossman (1989) noted, "Programmers, better than any other professional group, should understand ... how humans engage in and experience leisure ... and how to facilitate an individual's leisure experience" (p. x). Thus, leisure programmers must go beyond having a general knowledge about leisure and use theories of human (leisure) experience in creating recreation programs.

That the understanding of leisure experience can be used for planning purposes is not a new idea. Concern for the influence of recreation activity on outdoor environments led to considerable study so that knowledge of experience could be used for planning and management (Van Doren, Riddle, & Lewis, 1979).

Explanations of leisure experience can aid programmers in design, implementation, adjustment, and redesign as verified in the study of programmers in three leisure settings (Little & Farrell, 1989; Edginton, Little, & DeGraaf, 1992; Stumbo & Little, 1991). The programmers indirectly (intuitively) and directly (consciously) used knowledge of leisure experience in program decision making. Figure 1 demonstrates how explanations of leisure by Clawson and Knetsch (1966), Driver and Tocher (1979), and Iso-Ahola (I 980) can be used for program design and evaluation. Iso-Ahola (1988) noted that the basis for explaining leisure experience has been primarily from a social psychological perspective. The models of leisure experience presented in this article were based on that view.

Explanations of Leisure Experience

Clawson and Knetsch (1966) suggested that recreation experience is not just the on-site activity (e.g., playing tennis), but part of a total experience. This total experience has five stages: anticipation; travel to; on-site engagement; travel from; and recollection. Likewise, Driver and Tocher (1979) identify an "experience continuum" which occurs over time. Components of this experience include pre-recreation engagement conditions leading to participants' choice to seek recreation (e.g., having previous experience with the activity); intervening conditions prior to/during the recreation engagement resulting in continuation or withdrawal from pursuit of recreation (e.g., presence of others who are perceived to help or hinder the recreation activity]; and post-recreation engagement conditions including recollection, memory, or reminiscence which can become part of pre-recreation engagement conditions for another experience.

Driver and Tocher 1979) identified four behavioral characteristics which are unique to recreation for participants. …