From Little Acorns Mighty Oaks sometimes Grow: How Might we Nurture Them? – Dr Robbie Nicol, University of Edinburgh
My research does not fit neatly into any particular tradition or paradigm. What I am most curious about is whether my teaching makes a difference. It seemed natural therefore to develop a research approach that drew on auto/ethnography, action research and the emergent notion of practitioner enquiry. It is clear to me that experiences people have in the outdoors can be very powerful with rich opportunities for learning. At the same time such experiences can sometimes be ephemeral and thus elusive to capture by empirical means. I have therefore felt the need to also enquire as a philosopher might with due regard to the limitations of empirical enquiry.
My presentation will focus on how direct experiences in nature might help learners to develop a ‘virtue of attention’ whereby the moral significance of our relationships with nature are based on the attention we pay to them. I will talk about some of the teaching I have been engaged in that attempts to do this and present self-reported data from students studying on a masters’ programme. The data were derived from written and oral testimony where students reported deep thinking and/or deep feelings relating to one particular nature-based activity they were asked to do. By locating their experiences within theories of epistemological diversity I will explore how a value orientation can be developed that can influence moral action.
Dr Robbie Nicol is a senior lecturer in outdoor and environmental education and Deputy Head of Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh. His life motivation comes from the realisation that human activities are fundamentally altering the planet’s ability to sustain us in the long term. As an educator he believes that the outdoors provide places where individuals can rediscover their direct dependence on the planet through embodied experiences. As such his teaching and research interests are directed towards the theoretical development and practical implementation of environmental education, sustainability education and epistemological diversity (different ways of knowing) particularly in the outdoors. Dr Nicol’s latest book attempts to capture aspects of this in a first person account of an extended journey called Canoeing Around the Cairngorms: a Circumnavigation of my Home.
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