[Reference as: Allen, W.J. (2001) Working together for environmental management: the role of information sharing and collaborative learning. PhD (Development Studies), Massey University. Available on-line ]

The terms used in this thesis are explained in context as they arise. However, because of the importance of the following terms to this study, a more concise definition is provided here along with a reference to their main use and description in the thesis.

Collaborative learning (also referred to as social learning)*

Collaborative learning (CL) is a problem solving approach where each learner functions as part of a community of practitioners helping to address real-world situations. It suggests a way of dealing with people which respects and highlights the abilities and contributions of all those involved. The underlying premise of collaborative learning is based upon consensus building through cooperation by a group of people working together, in contrast to competition in which some individuals best others (see also Ch 9: pp. 169-171).

Collaborative learning is one approach that makes its primary objective changing behaviour by improving the use of information by different groups. In general terms, this refers to the capacity of a group to assess the results of their efforts, rethink how they go about their tasks, and use new ideas to change established practices. Underpinning the concept is the recognition that people learn through active adaptation of their existing knowledge in response to their experiences with other people and their environment. The concept implies that those involved experience a change of mind, or develop new ways of looking at the world. This is a cognitive process in which the richer the media of communication (e.g. face-to-face rather than printed matter) the deeper the sharing, and the greater the potential for learning and behaviour change. Participants must develop a common language about core ideas or technologies to achieve this. Developing this understanding takes time, and needs to accommodate multiple viewpoints as the presence of varied interpretations of information encourages learning. (see Ch 11: p.197)*

Best management practices

Best Management Practices (BMPs) provide guidelines that are intended to provide common sense and cost effective suggestions for achieving a basic level of environmental protection. These recommendations need to be compiled with the benefit of stakeholder involvement using science and local knowledge. It remains the responsibility of individual managers to satisfy themselves that these guidelines should be acted upon in their specific situations. In some situations there may be legislation or some other form of protection afforded to the environment in addition to, or instead of, these BMPs. Any such legislation will take precedence over these recommendations (see also p. 174 )

Adaptive management

Adaptive management is based on principles of collaborative learning. It involves the rigorous combination of management, research, and monitoring so that credible information is gained and management activities can be modified by experience. It acknowledges institutional barriers to change and designs means to overcome them (see also pp.26-27).

Useful knowledge

The community dialogue step in ISKM is designed to produce useful knowledge. This highlights that the outcome of collaborative learning is knowledge that has been put into a meaningful context by those involved (see also pp. 83-84).

* Italicized references to thesis quotes added May 2011


Back to Learning for Sustainability research index
This site is compiled and maintained by Will Allen (PhD)