Date of Award

Fall 2013

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Jayson Seaman


This dissertation examined participants' expectations of the social climate on extended wilderness courses, how students' actually experienced the social climate during their course, and how these expectations, perceptions and the influence of environmental characteristics, impacted their goals for peer interactions. Pre and posttest surveys were used to assess students' expectations and perceptions of their experience and multi level modeling was used to better understand the relationship of social climate to peer interaction. The research was undertaken to improve the practical and theoretical understanding of organizations' and leaders' ability to facilitate a social climate that promotes adaptive forms of social motivation.

Changes in social development goal orientation were used as an indicator of adaptive changes in peer interaction. It was found that, on average, students' social development goals changed, but not in the predicted direction. These negative changes can be understood as a maladaptive shift that could have implications for participants' social goal orientation in other settings, making it important to understand why this shift is occurring and what significant on-course predictors are, because the results provide insights into social climates that facilitate youth goals shifting in an adaptive direction.

According to the model created with this data, courses in which students had (a) higher perceptions of group cohesion and task orientation combined with (b) lower perceptions of leader control were be more likely to have higher positive changes in their social development goal orientations. Additional analysis used instructor reports to understand other factors influencing youth. Findings show that when students are having fun, it related to their group cohesion, and when students perceive higher levels of cohesion within their course group it was shown to positively predict changes in social development goal orientation. For some organizations this implies growth areas in group facilitation to include more of an emphasis on the importance of fun and playfulness as a factor in building a cohesive and productively task oriented social climate, in order to promote developmental outcomes.