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Resilience and Higher Order Thinking

Ioan Fazey, School of Geography and Geosciences


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To appreciate, understand, and tackle chronic global social and environmental problems, greater appreciation of the importance of higher order thinking is required. Such thinking includes personal epistemological beliefs (PEBs), i.e., the beliefs people hold about the nature of knowledge and how something is known. These beliefs have profound implications for the way individuals relate to each other and the world, such as how people understand complex social-ecological systems. Resilience thinking is an approach to environmental stewardship that includes a number of interrelated concepts and has strong foundations in systemic ways of thinking. This paper (1) summarizes a review of educational psychology literature on PEBs, (2) explains why resilience thinking has potential to facilitate development of more sophisticated PEBs, (3) describes an example of a module designed to teach resilience thinking to undergraduate students in ways conducive to influencing PEBs, and (4) discusses a pilot study that evaluates the module's impact. Theoretical and preliminary evidence from the pilot evaluation suggests that resilience thinking which is underpinned by systems thinking has considerable potential to influence the development of more sophisticated PEBs. To be effective, however, careful consideration of how resilience thinking is taught is required. Finding ways to encourage students to take greater responsibility for their own learning and ensuring close alignment between assessment and desired learning outcomes are particularly important.

Key words

education for sustainability; epistemology; higher order thinking; personal epistemological beliefs (PEBs); resilience; resilience thinking; systems thinking; teaching

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087