Understanding and governing learning in sustainability transitions: A review

Barbara van Mierlo*, Pieter J. Beers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Many transitions scholars underscore the importance of learning in sustainability transitions, but the associated learning processes have hardly been conceptualised. The diverse, well-established research fields related to learning are broadly ignored or loosely applied. In this paper, we systematically explore four interesting learning traditions in terms of their value for gaining an in-depth understanding of learning in sustainability transitions and their relevance for fostering learning, by connecting them to key features of transitions. The selected learning traditions from different disciplinary backgrounds provide valuable insights. None of them sufficiently addresses the complexity of transitions. They include, however, a diversity of relevant learning contexts. We conclude that they have value for investigating new areas such as learning in socio-technological regimes and in later phases of a transition, while enlightening forms of learning that have not yet been fully recognised in transition studies, such as superficial learning, unlearning, and learning to resist change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-269
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Early online date1 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Collaborative learning
  • Interactive learning
  • Organizational learning
  • Social learning
  • Sustainability transition


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