Ecology and Society Ecology and Society
E&S Home > Vol. 10, Iss. 2 > Art. 4 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Learning More Effectively from Experience

Ioan Fazey, Australian National University
John A. Fazey, University of Wales, Bangor
Della M. A. Fazey, University of Wales, Bangor

Full Text: HTML   
Download Citation


Developing the capacity for individuals to learn effectively from their experiences is an important part of building the knowledge and skills in organizations to do good adaptive management. This paper reviews some of the research from cognitive psychology and phenomenography to present a way of thinking about learning to assist individuals to make better use of their personal experiences to develop understanding of environmental systems. We suggest that adaptive expertise (an individual’s ability to deal flexibly with new situations) is particularly relevant for environmental researchers and practitioners. To develop adaptive expertise, individuals need to: (1) vary and reflect on their experiences and become adept at seeking out and taking different perspectives; and (2) become proficient at making balanced judgements about how or if an experience will change their current perspective or working representation of a social, economic, and biophysical system by applying principles of “good thinking.” Such principles include those that assist individuals to be open to the possibility of changing their current way of thinking (e.g., the disposition to be adventurous) and those that reduce the likelihood of making erroneous interpretations (e.g., the disposition to be intellectually careful). An example of applying some of the principles to assist individuals develop their understanding of a dynamically complex wetland system (the Macquarie Marshes in Australia) is provided. The broader implications of individual learning are also discussed in relation to organizational learning, the role of experiential knowledge for conservation, and for achieving greater awareness of the need for ecologically sustainable activity.

Key words

adaptive management, adaptable practitioners, experience, expert, learning, Macquarie Marshes
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087