Dr Pen Holland

Lecturer in Ecology

Teaching and scholarship

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My goal as a teacher is to encourage students to think critically, logically and creatively about the problems and solutions that they encounter. I promote active, independent learning using technology and games, and design formative work and open assessment that develop transferable skills that are key to success after graduation in a wide range of careers. My teaching portfolio covers the spectrum of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in the Department of Biology, from tutorials and taught modules to research project supervision. I collaborate on scholarship projects with colleagues across the faculties at York and internationally, and aim to provide funded positions for undergraduate ‘students as partners’ in teaching and learning projects each summer. I am a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, and won a Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Award in 2019.

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Effective teaching promotes learning, and people learn best by doing. In line with the University of York Pedagogy, I promote active learning wherever possible, in lectures, workshops and practicals, to encourage students to make the most of contact time. Student-led learning is a key tool for effective learning, and many of the courses on which I lead have a strong element of student independence and directed study. These lie primarily in the areas of ecology, and quantitative and computational skills. Specific examples include: (1) learning about experimental design, ecological sampling and statistical analysis using LEGO communities and citizen science tasks before applying theories and practice in the real world on a field course; (2) motivating programming skill development using environmental sensors and Raspberry Pi computers, and evaluating prototype equipment such as photospectrometers, colony counters and plant growth monitors; and (3) developing a card game to support core Biology learning during the transition to higher education.

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Small group teaching provides an opportunity for students to take the time to research and understand a problem, and reflect on the process of solving it, in close collaboration with academics. I use a wide range of topics including game-based learning, science education and communication, and mathematical modelling and programming, to facilitate student-led explorations of the connections between their biological interests and the world beyond university. We think about the process of finding, synthesising and applying knowledge, and writing about and presenting research, for a variety of audiences, and we make games and robots as well.

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My research interests range from ecological modelling and statistical analysis to science communication and education. My projects reflect this: students may work on mathematical or computational models, e.g. to simulate population growth and interactions, or invasive species spread and impacts; analyse existing datasets such as species’ presence/absence across the UK, climate-driven seedfall data or tree damage due to herbivore browse in New Zealand; game-based learning projects such as Catastrophic (catastrophic.york.ac.uk); or combine all three approaches, by building and programming a device to record and analyse data (e.g. terminal velocity of seeds), and developing and testing educational material to contextualise it for younger students.

Holland Pen

Contact details

Dr Pen Holland
Lecturer in Ecology
Department of Biology
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328734