Chichester University lecturer Dr Duncan Reavey has been nominated for one of the country’s highest teaching accolades for his pioneering modules in outdoor education.
Dr Reavey was shortlisted by the Times Higher Education awards in recognition of his woodland lessons, where students learn through storytelling, bushcraft, and science investigations.
His teaching is partly based on ideas from the forest school concept which gives young children a new perspective on learning.
The principal lecturer, of the university’s institute of education, was shortlisted for the category of most innovative teacher of the year.
He said: “Forest schools in primary schools have many documented benefits, it is a very new approach for undergraduate learning but the same principles apply.
“At Chichester we have developed it more than anywhere in the country, informed in part by literature on pedagogy of place, emotional geography, mindfulness and child-centred learning.
“For some courses, all the learning takes place in the same small piece of Sussex woodland, students are there for a day every week, whatever the weather.
“Leading a forest school has an impact on university teachers too: I talk less, listen better, trust my students more, and dare to be creative.”
The innovative concept, which originated in Scandinavia, has been adopted by schools throughout the UK to help young children develop motivational, emotional, and social skills.
Dr Reavey, a National Teaching Fellow who specialises in environmental education, developed the approach to give his Chichester students an opportunity to be creative in their university learning and in the workplace after they graduate.
University pro vice-chancellor Dr Mark Mason said: “Duncan is a well-known and highly respected colleague at Chichester.
“This is, in part, because of his passionate and consistent commitment to sharing good ideas, innovations and enhancements in relation to learning and teaching with colleagues.
“Duncan shares these ideas in an immensely encouraging and collegial way which has been highly successful in terms of the significant number of colleagues who have deployed them in their own practice.”
The annual Times Higher Education awards, now in its thirteenth year, recognises the outstanding academic achievement at universities throughout the UK.
Dr Reavey will find out if he has won the prize at the black-tie ceremony in London alongside thousands of academic and professional university staff on Thursday 30 November.
Times Higher Education editor John Gill said: “We received hundreds of entries from all corners of the UK so to be shortlisted for the awards is in itself a significant achievement.
“These awards have attracted hundreds of entries from the length and breadth of the nation, and from institutions of every hue.
“All those shortlisted can be immensely proud to have made it through this first phase, and we at Times Higher Education look forward to honouring the winners for their talent, creativity and commitment at a time when these qualities are increasingly essential.”