Professional knowledge in and about nature

Last changed: 26 January 2018

"Exploring processes of informal learning concerning biodiversity among local users of natural resources in Sweden" This project concerns informal learning processes concerning biodiversity among local users of natural resources in Sweden.

This project has two specific research questions:

  • How learning process concerning biodiversity is influenced by work practices, and relationship to nature?
  • Which are the learning conditions required for the generation of professional knowledge about biodiversity?
Research design and methodology

This educational research pays attention to the fundamental idea of education as a human practice. It addresses the investigation of educational aspects surrounding everyday work practices in nature. With the aim to contribute to knowledge on informal learning processes in different contexts, and understanding on the influence of nature as living and workplace on learning processes about biodiversity, this research answers to the specific research questions regarding the main dimensions of learning involved in the generation of work knowledge about biodiversity, and the influence of work practices in nature on learning process concerning biodiversity among a group of farmer. For this, case study are addressed as the method used in this qualitative research (Creswell et al., 2007; Gerring, 2007) – a common method in the social sciences.

Focusing on a case study of farmers allows this research to explore a variety of learning processes that have different sociocultural and physical contexts surrounding farmers' work practices.

Generalisations from case studies can be of two different types: 'analytical generalisation' and 'statistical or empirical generalisation' (Lundholm, 2004). Lundholm refers to analytical generalisation as a way of generalising results to a level of theory or theories. Statistical or empirical generalization concerns results from the selected cases can be generalised to a population. In the line with this distinction, the results from the case studies in this research are generalizable at the theoretical level. Furthermore, the results of this research could also be generalised at the empirical level, considering a population of professional users with similar backgrounds, in similar cultural and social contexts, and living in similar landscapes and biotopes.

The case was selected base on three specific criteria:

Landscape types and biotopes of relevance for biodiversity in Sweden (i.e. agricultural landscape and forest), due to species threats and conditions.The impact (positive or negative) of local users on these landscape types and biotopes through work practices.The cultural and historical value of these work practices for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

A total number of 10 professional users i.e. farmers will be asked to participate in this research. These individuals are selected according to certain criteria related to their geographical localisation, business size and high economic dependency to the natural resource (e.g. tourism, production of meat, milk or cereal).

This research is designed taking into consideration the two types of processes in learning, and the three dimensions of learning suggested by Illeris (2003; 2008). In line with this, the data is collected by individual and group in-depth semi-structured interviews with farmers, as well as participant observations at their workplaces (i.e. nature, land), stores and homes.

Furthermore, this research recognises the value of using participant observation and in-depth semi-structured interviews as complementary methods for data collection. By combining these methods important information being a part of farmers and reindeer herders' ways of living, working and self-defining will be captured.

This research is constituted by two phases. In Phase 1, a pilot study is carried on with the aim to try and improve research questions as well as the usefulness of data collection methods, and the number of interviews and participant observations required to collect the information needed. In phase 2 - parting from the experience with 'pilot study' - the research design is implemented and adapted across the two case studies with farmers and reindeer herders.

Read more about the research project here.


Diana Garavito-Bermúdez, post doc. Swedish Biodiversity Centre, (CBM) +46 18 67 27 07