Professor Pete Higgins
Chair in Outdoor and Environmental Education, Director of the United Nations Centre for ESD (Scotland), Dean of Students (CHSS)
Thomson's Land (Room 1.17)
- Moray House School of Education
- Post code
- EH8 8AQ
Professor Peter Higgins holds a Personal Chair in Outdoor and Environmental Education at Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. The department has an international reputation and is one of few in the world with both a practical and teaching orientation as well as substantial research interests in the field of 'learning outdoors'. The focus of the work of the Outdoor Education section is to prepare critically aware professionals to teach within and improve practice in Outdoor, Environmental and Sustainabilty Education, and also to make a significant contribution to research and knowledge in these fields. Peter's national and international contribution has been recognised by the University of Edinburgh through the award of a Personal Chair, the only one in the field in the UK and Europe.
He is currently Dean of Students in the University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and his significant contributions to teaching policy and practise in Higher Education have been recognised by the Higher Education Authority where he is a 'Principal Fellow'.
Peter's early career was as an environmental scientist and freshwater biologist. He holds a BSc in Environmental Physical Sciences, an MSc in Freshwater Ecology and a PhD in the biology of Atlantic Salmon, and has conducted freshater ecological work in England, Scotland, Honduras and Alaska, and was one of the ecologists responsible for the re-introduction of Atlantic Salmon into the River Thames. (See also academic publications listing).
Subsequently Peter retrained as a teacher of Outdoor Education and Biology and in addition to his formal teaching qualifications has gained a wide range of high-level UK and European governing body teaching awards notably in canoeing/kayaking, free-heel skiing and mountaineering, in all of which he retains a strong recreational interest. This training and qualifications were central to his work in several UK outdoor education centres and in New Zealand.
He teaches on a range of Outdoor Education and Environmental Education programmes. Of these, and notable for its 40-year history is the Postgraduate Diploma and Masters degree in Outdoor Education which is unique in Europe and one of the few in the world. It has a high national and international reputation, attracting students from many parts of the world. He teaches both academic and practical aspects of these and other sustainable development and education programmes in the university.
He has successfully supervised 15 PhD students in fields as diverse as residential outdoor provision, education in indigenous cultures, environmental education in Africa and Scandinavia, skill acquisition in kayaking, decision-making by mountain guides, and sustainability in early years education. He currently supervises ten Doctoral students in an equally wide range of areas.
He has recently been active in developing on-line approaches to ‘learning for sustainability’, including a University of Edinburgh Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) in the field (UofE LfS MOOC), which in 2015 was followed by over 12,000 individuals in 166 countries; and a similar joint venture with Cornell University (USA) (Environmental Education: A transdisciplinary approach to addressing wicked problems). He is currently (jointly) developing an on-line course in Sustainability that will be available to most students in the University from 2016-17.
He is the author of over 100 articles and books relating to these fields. Through individual and collaborative (with other UK and European universities) research grants and consultancy activities he has attracted income of over £1.5M. In addition to his academic work he is active in public disseminatiation of work in the field, through comment in the press and other media.
The policy impact of the work Peter and colleagues have carried out is significant, and was highlighted in a University of Edinburgh submission for the recent (2014) UK Research Excellence Framework. Research by Higgins, Beames, Nicol and Ross, their PhD students and collaborators since 2000, has led directly to national and international developments: 1. Scottish Government policy on local outdoor environmental and sustainability education; 2. Scottish Government and General Teaching Council for Scotland policy on sustainability education and outdoor learning; 3. specialist degree programmes, and continuing professional development for UK and overseas teachers. Related work has supported policy developments on recreational and educational countryside access.
To further increase the impact of this extensive policy work, Peter and colleagues have recently been awarded a major British Council 'Connecting Classrooms' 3-year award (2015-2018) to support the development of teachers' skills in Learning for Sustainability.
Responsibilities & affiliations
Peter is a member of a number of national and international panels and advisory groups on outdoor and environmental education and education for sustainable development. These include several European Union and UNESCO educational projects and the UK Commision for the UN. He jointly established and is currently Director of the United Nations 'Regional Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development' for Scotland (LfSScotland).
Peter has acted in advisory capacity to the UK and Scottish Governments on Outdoor and Environmental Education, access to the countryside and related environmental issues. He is currently Chair of the Scottish Government National Implementation Group on 'Learning for Sustainability' - integrating education for sustainabie development, global citizenship and outdoor education. He is also a member of the Boards of Trustees of the Field Studies Council and Venture Trust. He has held advisory roles with a wide range of other outdoor and environmental educational providers and agencies and has contributed to their continuing professional development.
Peter is a member of the UK Commission for UNESCO 'Expert Panel' and has recently jointly written their review of ESD in the UK. He co-wrote the chapters on ‘Outdoor Education’ and ‘Sustainable Development Education’ in the definitive text on education in Scotland (Scottish Education, Bryce et al., 2013) and co-authored ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ (Routledge).
- Contribution to extension course in outdoor learning
- Contribution to extension course in global learning
Sustainability, Society and Environment - University-wide Undergraduate Elective Course
- Contribution to taught part of the course and tutorial
MSc Programmes in 'Outdoor Education' and 'Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education'
- Interpreting the Landscape
- Professional Practice and Experiential Learning
- Ecology and Field Studies
- Practical programme - Canoeing (River Spey Descent), Winter Mountaineering etc.
MSc Programme in 'Learning for Sustainability'
- Ecosystems for Educators
- Contribution to extension course in outdoor learning
MSc Carbon Management
- Contribution to taught part of the course
MSc Nursing Studies
- Contribution to taught part of the course
Areas of interest for supervision
Peter currently supervises 11 doctoral students (from the UK, Europe, South-East Asia and North America) who are studying a wide range of topics in Outdoor, Environmental and Sustainability Education in the context of the UK, Europe and other parts of the world.
He has supervised doctoral students now working in the UK, Europe, Japan, Canada and Austraila.
He also works with an Honorary Research Fellow and an EU funded Marie Curie Fellow.
Current PhD students supervised
- Abdul Kahlid- The nature and scope of outdoor education in the city-state of Singapore
- Clare Nugent- Nature kindergartens as pedagogical environment for early childhood: a multi-case study
- Jamie Hamilton- A systems-based evaluation of the feasibility of a national outdoor education programme and the long-term socio-economic and developmental dynamics of implementation. (Heriot Watt University).
- Shang Zhan Lee- Impact of outdoor learning continuing professional development and policy change on teachers in Taiwan
- Rebekah Tauritz- Developing Uncertainty Competences through Outdoor Education for Sustainability
- John Pierce- A Longitudinal Case Study into the Practices and Processes of Outdoor Centres in Ireland
- Stephen Porter- The climate change mitigation potential of tackling global food waste
- Jerry Tracey- An investigation into the cultural interaction between slalom and play-boating with white-water canoeing and kayaking
- Louise Hawxwell- An exploration into the impact of outdoor experiences on the perceptions and practices of trainee teachers over the course of their undergraduate study and into their NQT year - a longitudinal study
- Hannah Ritchie- Greenhouse gas emissions from aquaculture: Improved estimation, projection and potential for mitigation. (PhD currently advertised - supervision with Prof Dave Reay, Geosciences)
Past PhD students supervised
- Steve Banks- Distal and proximal attentional focus effects on the performanceof closed and open continuous motor skills.
- John Crosbie- The value of outdoor education for people with disabilities: An in-depth case study of the Calvert Trust
- Justine Geyer- Developing an Understanding of Greenspace as a Resource for Physical Activity in Adolescents in Scotland
- Rachel Howell- Promoting Lower-Carbon Lifestyles: The role of personal values, climate change communications and carbon allowances in processes of change
- Roger Scrutton- The effectiveness of residential outdoor education programmes
- Iain Stewart-Patterson- The Role of Intuition in the Decision Process of Expert Ski Guides
- Ralf Westphal- Understanding Personal and Social Development (PSD) within the discourses of Outdoor Education in the UK and Friluftsliv in Norway
- Jane Spiteri- Young Children’s Perceptions of Environmental Sustainability: A Maltese Perspective
- Theory, philosophy and practice of outdoor education / outdoor learning
- Theory, philosophy and practice of environmental and sustainability education
- International comparative approaches to outdoor, environmental and sustainability education
- Coaching and skill acquisition in outdoor activities
- Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. A Natural Curriculum: Improving the quality and availability of outdoor learning experiences in schools. (with Christie, B., Beames, S., Nicol, R. and Ross, H.)
- A review of WWF-UK’s approach to formal education. World Wide Fund for Nature (UK). (with Lavery, A.)
- Scottish Universities Insight Institute Walking for Wellbeing: Developing Sustainable Engagement between Research, Policy and Practice. (with PHARC, MHSE.
- A review of Ecoschools in Scotland. Commissioned Report for Keep Scotland Beautiful. (with Birley, T., King, B., & Watson, M.)
- Learning for Sustainabilty: Connecting Classrooms. For the British Council. (with Christie, B., King, B. & Murray, R.)
- A half-century of production-phase greenhouse gas emissions from food loss & waste in the global food supply chain 15 Nov 2016 In: Science of the Total Environment DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.041 Contribution To journal › Article (Published)
- Emotional intelligence, personality and leadership in outdoor adventure education facilitators : A three dimensional model (4 pages) 27 Oct 2016 Contribution to conference types › Paper (Published)
- Culture, context and critical thinking : Scottish secondary school teachers' and pupils' experiences of outdoor learning Jun 2016 In: British Educational Research Journal, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 417- 437 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/berj.3213 Contribution To journal › Article (Published)
- Curricular outdoor learning in Scotland : From practice to policy (8 pages) 2015 Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed) (Published)
- Reflections on ESD in UK Schools (25 pages) 30 Aug 2014 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09549-3_19 Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (peer-reviewed) (Published)
- The student experience : Campus, curriculum, communities and transition at the University of Edinburgh. 30 May 2014 Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter (Published)
- Outdoor Learning Provision in Scottish schools 1 May 2014 In: Scottish Educational Review, vol. 46, pp. 48-64 Contribution To journal › Article (Published)
- Space, place and sustainability and the role of outdoor education 2014 In: Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 191-197 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2014.960684 Contribution To journal › Special issue (Published)
- A review of ecoschools in Scotland 2014 Book/Report types › Commissioned report (Published)
- The water of life : creative non-fiction and lived experience on an interdisciplinary canoe journey on Scotland's River Spey (18 pages) 1 Mar 2013 In: Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 18-35 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2012.702526 Contribution To journal › Article (Published)