Learning is gaining attention in relation to governance processes for contemporary environmental challenges; however, scholarship at the nexus of learning and environmental governance lacks clarity and understanding about how to define and measure learning, and the linkages between learning, social interactions, and environment. In response, this study aimed to advance and operationalize a typology of learning in an environmental governance context, and examined if a participatory decision-making process (adaptive co-management) for climate change adaptation fostered learning. Three types of learning were identified: cognitive learning, related to the acquisition of new or the structuring of existing knowledge normative learning, which concerns a shift in viewpoints, values or paradigms, and relational learning, referring to an improved understanding of others' mindsets, enhanced trust and ability to cooperate. A robust mixed methods approach with a focus on quantitative measures including concept map analysis, social network analysis, and self-reflective questions, was designed to gauge indicators for each learning type. A participatory decision-making process for climate change adaptation was initiated with stakeholders in the Niagara region, Canada. A pseudo-control group was used to minimize external contextual influences on results. Clear empirical evidence of cognitive and relational learning was gained; however, the results from normative learning measures were inconclusive. The learning typology and measurement method operationalized in this research advances previous treatments of learning in relation to participatory decision-making processes, and supports adaptive co-management as a governance strategy that fosters learning and adaptive capacity. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.