Adaptive environmental assessment and management: course reading evaluation

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:

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.

and the pathology of resource management.

  • 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

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.

Other readings that got more than one vote were readings from Kai Lee’s book, Carl Walters’ book, my scenario planning paper, and the Fazey learning article.


The paper most recommended to be cut was:

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

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.
Reading Revisions 

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.

2 thoughts on “Adaptive environmental assessment and management: course reading evaluation”

  1. Thanks for the feedback.

    I am fascinated by your approach to the students’ work.

    It would be interesting to read the comments on the paper – or a sample of them. Do you have their permission tpo share them – anonymously. I wonder what those who found it useful have taken from it and equally what any who found it added nothing found in other papers that was useful. Your analysis may not allow that detail but in terms of a student’s experience of developing understanding there is real potential here.

    We are putting together some more pieces on ‘adaptive expertise’ which derive from a particular approach to what ‘knowing’ is. The concepts and processes are of value to learners who want to become more expert at learning and may be, therefore more attractive to more students.

  2. I think that it a wonderful concept to actually ask the students opinions on the course and the papers, content and materials used. One could only surmise that the course would then evolve and improve annually. Good luck and thanks for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *