Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Better learning

Bond, A. and Morrison-Saunders, A. (2013) Better learning. In: Bond, A., Morrison-Saunders, A. and Howitt, R., (eds.) Sustainability Assessment Pluralism, Practice and Progress. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Oxon, UK, pp. 216-230.

PDF - Authors' Version
Download (107kB)


Learning lies at the heart of sustainability assessment. Gibson et al. (2005, p.187) note that: "with the notion of sustainability itself, there is … no state to be reached", in other words, sustainability is a goal rather than an end state meaning it is always a case of being on a journey towards sustainability. To be aware of progress on that journey and to know or understand how to improve practices that will continue to make positive contributions to sustainability requires awareness and learning by all stakeholders in sustainability assessment.

Drawing on chapters 4 and 5, where issues of temporal and spatial scales were considered, one of the key issues that emerges is that the learning involved (through the practice of sustainability assessment) must be renewed and revisited at several scales: spatially, from the individual and household scale, to neighbourhood and locality, institutional and national scales and across international settings and relationships; temporally, from the intergenerational to intragenerational, from decades to years, and from the future problems to the immediate issues. This requires conscious effort to recognise the validity and importance of scales which might otherwise be ignored.

It has been suggested that the existence of legal requirement for public participation within environmental assessment has led to “state-sanctioned, deliberative spaces for civic interactions” (Sinclair et al., 2008, p.415) which has learning potential. This is important for a number of reasons, but a key consideration in any ex ante assessment process is the level of uncertainty that remains in the predictions (de Jongh, 1988), which suggests not only that some level of experiential learning would be beneficial, but also some flexibility to adapt to unforeseen impacts (Sinclair et al., 2008). Better engagement has been considered in chapter 13 by O’Faircheallaigh and Howitt and this chapter will not seek to repeat what they have said, but it is clear that some elements of learning are dependent on the engagement process, and so when considering better engagement and better learning, one is not possible without the other. Practitioners, communities and institutional stakeholders are all able to be drawn into the learning that effective sustainability assessment nurtures.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group
Publisher's Website:
Notes: Chapter 14
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year