Michaeleen Golay, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Natural Science Department at Silver Lake College, co-authored a paper that appeared in the July 2014 volume of the Journal of Forestry, an international scholarly journal for foresters and forest management professionals.
The paper is titled “Collaborative Learning about Forest Understory Restoration and Management: Identifying Goals and Sharing Knowledge.” It details the methods that Golay, along with Philip M. Bice and Jan R. Thompson, used to provide collaborative learning experiences for landowners and forestry professionals centered around restoring the forest understory.
The co-authors conducted workshops that shared information on the important role of the understory plants in the function of a healthy forest ecosystem. They engaged landowners and foresters in discussions and activities to identify their goals for forest management, discussed obstacles to restoration, and shared information with each other.
Previous research by Golay and others has shown that understory plants are important for nutrient cycling and water quality, but can be negatively impacted by human land uses. Most outreach education to landowners is a one-way presentation from a professional or a researcher, which doesn’t always encourage people to apply what they learn. Collaborative learning techniques work in traditional classrooms to help students understand and retain information, and to build community with their peers, strengthening their connection to the course material. Golay and her colleagues wanted to know if they could adapt those techniques to encourage adult audiences and enhance learning. By using a collaborative approach, they wanted to empower landowners and foresters to ask questions, seek answers, and be more invested in actively working to restore their forests.