At the end of my adaptive management course at McGill I asked my students evaluate the course readings and suggest which three I should keep and which three I should cut. There was substantial agreement on what to keep, but more disagreement on what to cut.
A favourite reading for over half the class was:
- Westley, F. 2002. The devil in the dynamics: adaptive management on the front lines in Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems edited by L.H. Gunderson and C.S. Holling. Island Press, Washington, DC.
The students liked this chapter because it was a real world case from the point of view of an individual that was also well connected to theory.
Students also really liked the Holling readings. Both the summary of the book Panarchy
- CS Holling. 2001. Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological and social systems. Ecosystems 4: 390–405.
- CS Holling, and G. K. Meffe. 1996. Command and Control and the Pathology of Natural Resource Management. Conservation Biology 10(2): 328-37.
The next favourite was controversial
- P. Olsson, C. Folke, and T. Hahn. 2004. Social-ecological transformation for ecosystem management: the development of adaptive co-management of a wetland landscape in southern Sweden. Ecology and Society 9(4): 2.
This paper was popular with about a third of the class but an equal number thought it was one of the readings that should be cut.
The paper most recommended to be cut was:
- I. Fazey, J. A. Fazey, and D. M. A. Fazey. 2005. Learning more effectively from experience. Ecology and Society 10(2):4
Students thought it didn’t add a lot to the course. While some students thought it was one of the best papers, more than three times more thought it should be cut than kept.
The second recommendation for cutting was
- J. L. Anderson. 1998. Embracing uncertainty: The interface of Bayesian statistics and cognitive psychology. Conservation Ecology [online] 2(1): 2.
Students found this paper too technical (I don’t think it is). This rating probably indicates that I need to rework how I discuss about bayesian statistics, learning and experimental design in the class.
The third least popular paper was the Olsson et al paper . mentioned above.
The excerpts from Kai Lee’s book were the only other readings to have more than two recommendations for removal, however an equal number of students thought they were some of the best readings.
What I plan to do reduce the number of core readings, add some supplementary readings, and rethink the quantitative part of the course – I think I need some good in class excercises and homework assignments on bayesian stats and experimental design. But, I might change my mind after I read the reports from their adaptive management projects.