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  Natural Resource Management Design Team

Design Team


Team and Contact
Online Access
Intellectual Property and Dissemination
Related Publications

Team and Contact


Lisa Lobry de Bruyn
School of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources Management
University of New England
Role: Designer, Author, and Intellectual Owner


Online Access

  Please contact Lisa Lobry de Bruyn to arrange online access.

Intellectual Property and Dissemination

  I would prefer the situation statements remained IP of the University of New England and myself as the originator of them. However the actual learning process could be implemented elsewhere with new situation statements.

Related Publications


Lobry de Bruyn, L. A. and Prior, J. C. (2001a). Changing Student Learning Focus in Natural Resource Management Education - Problems (and some Solutions) with using Problem Based Learning. In Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society Proceedings of ASET/HERDSA 2000 Joint International Conference, 2-5th July Toowoomba, L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds) (ASET/HERDSA, Queensland). Pp 441-451. ISBN: 0 908557 47 7.


To produce competent students who can support the rapid changes occurring in natural resource management you need to get them to do more than listen: students must read, write, discuss, analyse, synthesise, evaluate, solve problems and work together. There is a growing need to include other strategies and skills development in classroom teaching. Both authors have attempted to use problem based learning (PBL) to strengthen and develop student competencies in the areas of information literacy, communication and solving "real-world" problems. Our teaching approach is to integrate knowledge acquisition and teaching strategies to actively engage students in the learning process. The authors present class activities and student and lecturer evaluations of PBL in two units: Land Evaluation and Land Degradation (Lobry de Bruyn), and Rural Extension Science (Prior).

The use of PBL has identified some generic learning issues in a natural resource management context and they include:

  • Students often feel uncomfortable in being presented with "messy" ill-defined problems which is characteristic of the “fuzzy” nature of the PBL environment.
  • The nature of the problem solving skills required – a range of problem solving skills or tools (e.g. critical thinking, strategic planning) must also be taught (or developed) as part of PBL exercises.
  • The nature of the group/team skills required – most PBL exercises are conducted within student groups or teams. Thus students must develop team skills and perspectives in order to successfully undertake the PBL exercise.

To develop a successful PBL teaching framework requires frequent monitoring of student learning progress and perceptions, and a considerable degree of responsiveness on the part of the teacher. In conclusion PBL can provide effective strategies for strengthening and developing student competencies in a number of desired learning areas.

Lobry de Bruyn, L. A. and Prior, J. C. (2001b). Meeting of Minds – Clashing of Cultures: evolution of teaching practice to engage students as co-learners. In HERDSA 2001 Conference – Learning Partnerships – Newcastle University, Newcastle 8-11th July.


The authors present their own experiences, strategies and reflections in attempting to engage students as co-learners in two units - Land Evaluation and Land Degradation (Lobry de Bruyn), and Rural Extension Science (Prior) - over a period of several years. We have used several techniques within our units to involve students in the learning process in order to shift the emphasis from what we will do as lecturers towards what students can achieve in terms of their own learning outcomes. Many of our approaches have been adapted from adult learning principles such as those outlined below (adapted from Onsman 1991):

  • Adults learn by doing
  • Adults learn when they have a perceived need to learn
  • Adults learn by solving problems
  • Different adults learn in different ways ( e.g. three modalities of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learning)
  • Adults like variety in their learning activities
  • Adults want feedback in their performance
  • Adults want to apply what they learn
  • Adults learn when the learning fits their value systems
  • Adults already know a great deal (viz. “Prior Learning”, “Indigenous Technical Knowledge”)

We have found that each of these principles has enormous implications for student involvement within the learning process. To ignore them is to risk student indifference. Students who feel that their learning needs are being met are more likely to be involved in and enjoy the learning process. Students are essentially “voluntary learners” although not always self-directed in their learning. One of the important issues in adopting a content-focussed approach rather than a student-centred approach is that students are implicitly discouraged from being self-directed in their learning. For this reason students have not always been willing participants in the incremental evolution of our teaching practice towards more interactive, active learning approaches. We have both encountered varying degrees of student resistance to the “new approach” and varying student acknowledgment that learning is a “two-way” process that requires equivalent input from them. From class discussions we find that many of the students view the lecturer’s role as being transmissive and their role as being passive and reproductive. Nevertheless we conclude that engaging the student in the learning process has a number of benefits which include better preparation for the workplace, and that students may achieve a clearer understanding of their personal learning goals. Ultimately such approaches have the potential to produce students who are imbued with confidence in their ability to learn and adapt to a changing world.

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