Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Natural Resources

Major Professor

David Ostermeier

Committee Members

Virginia Dale, Donald Hodges, Joan Rentsch


This thesis responds to the need to quantify social learning and its outcomes as it relates to natural resource management. Social learning enables individuals engaging in collective action to understand each other’s perspectives, encourages integration of diverse knowledge bases, and the creation of new knowledge (Keen, Brown, & Dyball, 2005). However, the concept currently lacks a clear operational definition in natural resource management. The lack of an operational definition for social learning has stymied attempts to validate its espoused ability to improve civic discourse and, ultimately, resource governance (Pahl-Wostl & Hare, 2004). This report is composed of three papers that collectively offer a way forward for this area of research.

The first paper supplies an operational definition of social learning based on team cognition research in organizational psychology. One possible research framework for the assessment of social learning is provided. The second paper presents a case study using this framework. The case study takes place within the context of private forestlands management; a growing arena for collective action institutions. A pre-test and post-test quasi-experimental design is used to test for social learning resulting from a participatory research intervention. The third paper documents the results of the participatory research intervention, independent of the social learning framework.

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