Understanding the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model (ORAM)

The Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model (Model) is based on social science research going back to 1955. This concept has been modified by different researchers and authors for various specific purposes, but the core concept is simple: anyone who adopts a new activity (such as hunting, but it could be anything), goes through a progression of reasonably discrete stages prior to the time they fully adopt the new activity or become completely proficient in it.

For educational programs, Byrne and Dunfee (2016) have modified and adapted work of previous researchers to create the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model (Figure 3) (also known as the Hunter Adoption Model).

Figure 3. Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model as modified by Byrne and Dunfee, 2016.

Precursors to this version of the Model can be found in the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Best Practices Workbook for Hunting and Shooting Recruitment and Retention and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Best Practices Workbook for Boating, Fishing and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education. The Model identifies five discrete stages a person goes through when adopting a new idea or activity. These stages are: awareness, interest, trial, continuation with support, and continuation without support. Two additional stages – “Lapse” and “Reactivate” are also identified to address participants who no longer participate.  

For program planning purposes, recruitment programs were identified as those that addressed participants within the first three stages (awareness, interest, and trial) and retention programs were identified as those that addressed participants within the last two stages (continuation with support and continuation without support). Reactivation programs were also added to accommodate people who have lapsed or have permanently deserted the activity.

Because hunting is a complex activity involving considerable knowledge and many different skills, it is not likely adopted based on a single exposure. Numerous exposures and trials involving hunting and hunting-related activities are almost always required before a person becomes an independent hunter in the “continuation without support” stage.

It is critical for program planners, as well as program implementers, to know where their program fits within the Model and to incorporate “next steps” into their programs so that participants can advance through the various stages. Each stage should include review activities to reinforce knowledge and skills learned in earlier stages, as well as new, more advanced knowledge, skills, and/or and hunting activities.

This Model is helpful for program developers to identify the various stages of their target audiences and to develop programs to help them advance to the next step.

Program developers should view their programs as “interventions” that act as bridges between the various stages. As such, your program should be a conduit to convey participants from one stage to the next. Do not attempt to connect too many stages within one program, or program session. Match program content to the corresponding stages and develop sessions/activities based on moving participants from one stage to the next. For more suggestions on teaching adults see: Key concepts of adult learning.