Place Attachment Inventory (PAI)

Steven Semken, School of Earth and Space Exploration
Arizona State University

This is an experimental psychometric instrument that measures a respondent's place attachment (affective or emotional response to place) according to two dimensions: respondent's self-identification with a place (or place identity), and the capacity of the place to support that respondent's needs, goals, or activities (or place dependence). Place attachment is, in turn, one of the two dimensions of sense of place. The 12 items used in the PAI were initially created and validated by Williams and Vaske (2003) for use in land-use planning decisions. (Williams and Vaske did not use the name Place Attachment Inventory.) The instrument was later adapted for use in assessing place-based geoscience instruction by Semken and Butler Freeman (2008), who also named it the PAI.

What learning is this evaluation activity designed to assess?

The PAI is intended to measure place attachment, which in turn is one of the two dimensions of sense of place. Sense of place may influence geoscience learning (Semken, 2005). Therefore this instrument can be used to help measure changes in sense of place as a valid learning outcome of place-based instruction. Because place attachment may vary with factors such as ethnicity, culture, and experience, the appended items on the last page survey race, ethnicity, and gender (all self-identified) for purposes of correlation.

What is the nature of the teaching/learning situation for which your evaluation has been designed?

The 12 items from the original Williams and Vaske survey have proven to be quite generalizable (e.g., Semken and Butler Freeman, 2008; Ward et al., 2014), so this instrument is potentially adaptable to diverse learning settings (and different types of places or regions). Arizona State University instructors and researchers, and their colleagues, have thus far successfully used the instrument in:

  • large-enrollment intro-geology lecture courses
  • place-based upper-division geoscience and sustainability courses
  • professional-development courses and workshops for pre-service and in-service STEM teachers
  • educational workshops of other types, including workshops at several recent Earth Educators' Rendezvous.

What advice would you give others using this evaluation?

  • Most literature on sense of place theory and place attachment is in the fields of environmental psychology, rural sociology, and cultural geography. A recent review by Semken et al. (2017) may provide a useful gateway into the literature.
  • Be wary of potential issues of cultural conflict when administering this survey (see Semken, 2005 and Ward et al., 2014 for more detail). Consult all appropriate review boards and cultural experts before using it.
  • Make sure the items dealing with gender, race, and ethnicity are always placed at the end of the survey, and discourage subjects from flipping ahead to these items before responding to the place-attachment items.

Are there particular things about this evaluation that you would like to discuss with the workshop participants? Particular aspects on which you would like feedback?

I am always happy to hear from people who are interested in sense of place and place-based geoscience education, particularly those who wish to use or who have used the PAI in their teaching or research.

References Cited:

  • Semken, S. (2005). Sense of place and place-based introductory geoscience teaching for American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduates. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(2), 149-157.
  • Semken, S., & Butler Freeman, C. (2008). Sense of place in the practice and assessment of place-based science teaching. Science Education, 92(6), 1042-1057.
  • Semken, S., Ward, E. G., Moosavi, S., & Chinn, P. W. U. (2017). Place-based education in geoscience: Theory, research, practice, and assessment. Journal of Geoscience Education, 65(4), 542-562.
  • Ward, E. G., Semken, S., & Libarkin, J. (2014). The design of place-based, culturally informed geoscience assessment. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(1), 86-103.
  • Williams, D. R., & Vaske, J. J. (2003). The measurement of place attachment: Validity and generalizability of a psychometric approach. Forest Science, 49,830-840.

Evaluation Materials