National Teaching Fellow 2012
Helen Bilton started her career qualifying as a teacher, becoming a deputy head before moving into higher education. Her interest in the teaching and learning environment has always been at the forefront of her teaching and research and this expertise has been transferred from working with young children to working with adults.
Her passion for student development and commitment to supporting each individual to achieve their potential are the attributes for which she is most renowned among her students and colleagues.
Impact of work
Helen’s first lecture when training to be a teacher was on the nursery school garden. She was inspired by the unique approach to education which this specialism cultivates and subsequently the outdoor learning environment became her love and research area.
Helen is a leading national and international educational expert and has written extensively on this subject, including seven books (the earliest being the first complete text on the subject since 1936), and many papers, articles and blogs. The impact of her work can be demonstrated by the centrality given to the outdoor teaching and learning environment here and abroad. Her first publication, now in its third edition, Outdoor Learning in the Early Years, is a complete compendium for all who work with young children. She is an invited speaker to conferences across the UK and acts as an adviser for schools and local authorities.
She has worked with colleagues in Portugal to share best practice and wrote a collaborative book on outdoor play for under threes. She has recently visited China to share her knowledge of early childhood education and in particular the outdoor teaching and learning environment.
Plans for the future
Helen wishes to continue her work with colleagues across the world to help develop the outdoor teaching and learning environment to enable children to access education. She also considers it vitally important to share the best practice she sees as she goes around visiting schools. She is at the moment writing a series of seven books about child development and the outdoor environment.
Professor of Outdoor Learning, Director of the PGT Programmes at the Institute of Education
University of Reading