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Analyzing stakeholders’ workshop dialogue for evidence of social learning

Amanda L. Bentley Brymer, Environmental Science Program, University of Idaho
J. D. Wulfhorst, Environmental Science Program, University of Idaho
Mark W. Brunson, Department of Environment & Society, Utah State University


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After much debate and synthesis, social learning scholarship is entering an era of empirical research. Given the range across individual-, network-, and systems-level perspectives and scales, clear documentation of social learning processes is critical for making claims about social learning outcomes and their impacts. Past studies have relied on participant recall and concept maps to document perceptions of social learning process and outcome. Using an individual-centric perspective and importing ideas from communication and psychology on question-answer learning through conversational agents, we contribute an expanded conceptual framework and qualitative analytical strategy for assessing stakeholder dialogue for evidence of social learning. We observed stakeholder dialogue across five workshops coordinated for the Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat Project (BOSH) in Owyhee County, Idaho, USA. Participants’ dialogue was audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for cross-case patterns. Deductive and inductive coding techniques were applied to illuminate cognitive, relational, and epistemic dimensions of learning and topics of learning. A key finding supports our inclusion of the epistemic dimension and highlights a need for future research: although some participants articulated epistemic positions, they did not challenge each other to share sources or justify factual claims. These findings align with previous research suggesting that, in addition to considering diversity and representation (who is at the table), we should pay more attention to how participants talk, perhaps prompting specific patterns of speech as we endeavor to draw causal connections between social learning processes and outcomes.

Key words

Bureau of Land Management; communication; decision making; dialogue; public lands; social learning

Copyright © 2018 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