Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Robbie Nicol

Senior Lecturer


  • BA (Hons) Recreation Management (Moray House)

  • PG Diploma in Outdoor Education (Moray House)

  • PhD (Edinburgh)

Dr Robbie Nicol is a senior lecturer in outdoor and environmental education and currently Deputy Head of Moray House School of Education.  

My 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 I believe that the outdoors provide places where individuals can rediscover their direct dependence on the planet through embodied experiences. As such my 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.

I supervise PhD and MSc students in a range of topics including place-based education, child development, emotional intelligences, the use and application of learning models, and cross-cultural education. I have authored more than 50 articles, co-authored Learning Outside the Classroom, Routledge (2012) and most recently Canoeing Around the Cairngorms: a Circumnavigation of my Home (2016). I have delivered keynote conference addresses in Japan, Sweden, Canada, Slovenia, Denmark, UK, Finland and the Czech Republic.

In addition I am involved in Continuing Professional Development with a European Union funded Socrates programme titled 'Outdoor Education: Authentic Learning in the Context of Landscapes'. I am a co-opted board member of the European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning, a member of Cairngorms National Park Outdoor Access Forum, a member of the Advisory Panel for the Wilderness Foundation and a regular reviewer for various academic peer-reviewed journals.

I hold a wide range of national governing body awards in canoeing/kayaking, mountaineering and skiing and maintains an active participation in these activities through journeying.

Dr Robbie Nicol's profile on the Outdoor Education website

Current Research Interests

  • Outdoor Environmental Education (theory and practice)
  • Environmental Philosophy
  • Epistemological Diversity (different ways of knowing)
  • Experiential Learning
  • Sustainable Development Education
  • Cultural Perspectives on Environmental Education

Research Supervision

I will supervise research under the headings above and currently supervise doctoral students in the following areas:

  • Douglas Briton: How do people make decisions and act in high stress crisis?
  • Dave Clarke: Outdoor environmental education and the material turn: post-greening discourses in and research of outdoor experiences for environmental care
  • Jennifer Salfen: Extracurricular Activities and Success [The correlation between extracurricular activities, self-worth and success]

  • Sharifah Intan Sharina Syed Abdullah: Environmental Education Through Outdoor Learning Activities: Risk Assessment and Management.

Collaborative Activity

  • Higgins, P., Christie, B., Ross, H., Beames. S. and Nicol R. (current) National Curriculum Project Outdoor Learning.
  • Higgins, P., Nicol, R. & Ross, H., 2006, 'Teachers' Approaches and Attitudes to Engaging with the Natural Heritage Through the Curriculum'. Perth: Scottish Natural Heritage, (June 2006).
  • Nicol, R., Higgins, P. and Ross, H. (2006). 'Outdoor Education: the views of providers from different contexts in Scotland'. Dundee: Learning and Teaching Scotland.
  • Nicol, R., Higgins, P., Goodyear, M and Ross, H. (2006). 'Working with Local Authorities to deliver first-hand experience of the natural heritage through the formal education sector'. Perth: Scottish Natural Heritage.
  • Ross, H., Higgins, P. and Nicol, R. (2006). 'Recognition of Young People's Achievements in Outdoor Learning Activities: A Report for Learning and Teaching Scotland'. Dundee: Learning and Teaching Scotland.


MSc Programmes in 'Outdoor Education' and 'Outdoor Environmental and Sustaianbility Education'

  • Outdoor Environmental Education: Concept-Based Practice
  • Professional Practice and Experientail Learning
  • Practical programme - Canoeing (River Spey Descent), Winter Mountaineering, Environmental Education in Practice

MSc Learning for Sustainability

  • Environmental Philosopy and City-Based Outdoor Learning


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