Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Neil Moisey

Commitee Members

Stephen McCool, Michael Patterson, Stephen Yoshimura, Fletcher Brown


communication competence, scale development, tour guiding


University of Montana


Communication competence is a framework that has been used in many disciplines to understand communication events and their success or failure in achieving objectives. The model most often used to describe competence is the relational model proposed by Spitzberg & Cupach (1984) which includes three elements: knowledge, knowing what behavior is best suited for a given situation; skill, having the ability to apply that behavior in the given context; and motivation having the desire to communicate in a competent manner. This study used the model of relational competence to understand the communication process between guide and client in a nature-based tourism context where communication is critical for the achievement of objectives, such as, education and safety.

The model of relational competence has never been applied to this context. This research uses standard psychometric procedure to create scales to measure the components of the relational model of competence in a guided nature-based tourism context.

A two-page onsite questionnaire was used to measure white water rafting customers' perceptions of the levels of motivation, knowledge, and communicative skills exhibited by their guide as well as their overall communication competence. Two hundred and fifty two completed questionnaires were received from the 343 customers surveyed, for a response rate of 73 percent. A process of refining and purifying the scales with correlation analysis, Cronbach's alpha reliability analysis, and exploratory factor analysis led to valid and reliable measures of perceived knowledge, skills, and overall competence. The scale measuring communicative motivation was found to lack content validity. Perceived motivation, knowledge, and skills were all found to significantly predict a unidimensionsal construct of perceptions of competence in a regression model that explained 74 percent of variation in the data. This model is an appropriate framework to understand the communication process between guide and customer. The instrument developed and validated in this study provides further evidence of the relationships posed in the model of relational competence was also provided by this research. Future research needs focus on the content validity of the motivation scale and subsequently test the model again with confirmatory factor analysis. This study was the first step in having a valid and reliable measure of communicative motivation, knowledge, skills, and overall competence in the nature-based guided context.



© Copyright 2009 Christine Marie Oschell