With over 30 years’ experience of teaching in higher education, I have taught all undergraduate years from first year to final year, supervised final year research projects, taught on postgraduate courses and supervised 31 research Masters and 44 PhD students to date. Most of my teaching has been at University College Cork, however I have also lectured for one semester as a Visiting Professor of Biology at Colby College in the USA. I have lectured on biology, ecology, conservation, ornithology and ecotoxicology. I have developed new undergraduate courses and developed taught Masters programmes and generic modules for PhD courses and have led the development of a university-wide module on sustainability.

Research is deeply embedded in all aspects of my teaching and I continually evolved the content of courses and my style of lecturing to incorporate scientific advances, the changing expectations of students, and the developments in pedagogies and technological teaching aids. I use YouTube and other social media platforms in my teaching, and have produced short videos to explain certain topics, such as the one on field research at Fota Wildlfe Park which you can view here on the left. I encourage my students to be creative and to generate new knowledge and this has led to six research publications being derived from co-authoring undergraduate students’ final year projects. I received the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000, based on my reflective teaching portfolio and evidence from student feedback.


I am passionate about student-focussed learning and embrace opportunities for research-led teaching. As a teacher I am self-critical and take note of students’ feedback through questionnaires and direct feedback to improve my skills. I believe strongly in diversity of assessment methods to enable the range of student skills and expertise to be assessed in a comprehensive way. I have developed and refined my assessment methods as courses have evolved and matched them with learning outcomes. I have embraced the learning outcomes approach, which places the learner at the centre of our thinking about teaching, since its infancy. In 2004 I authored a book chapter on this approach as part of my self-development in teaching.

The integration of an international perspective into the curriculum also has an important role to play in modern, student-centred teaching and has been a strong feature of my teaching. From 1994 to 2013 I spent one week each year teaching third year students on a field course in the Algarve in collaboration with the University of Faro. These field trips provided students with an international perspective on their discipline, and contributed to their learning, competency and professional and life skills. I have also benefitted greatly from these opportunities to gain insight into the student’s perspective. I was awarded the Socrates Fellowship to Faro, Portugal Spring 2005 and 2006.

I have contributed to course and curriculum development and review throughout my career. As Head of the School of Biology, Earth & Environmental Science, I initiated a complete review of the curriculum offered by the departments in the School and developed for the first time a single entry stream for students via the CAO. I have also been involved in the assessment of curriculum developments and reviews both within UCC and in other Higher Education Institutes. I have been at the forefront of developments in teaching and learning at UCC as Vice-President for Teaching and Learning (2014 – 2018) and previously as Chair of the Academic Council Committee on Learning & Teaching (2011-2014). I have also been at the forefront of innovation in graduate development at UCC in my role as the first Chair of the Academic Council Graduate Studies Committee (2007-2011) and more recently as sponsor of the Graduate Attribues Programme. At university level, I have beenresponsible for leading a range of policies including those on progression, reviews, conferring and policy and processes on dispute resolution for students which has meant that the university has now a series of steps in place for dispute resolution and enhancement of staff-student relations through induction etc. In 2005 I was awarded Honorary Life time membership by the Students Union for this enhancement of staff-student relations.

With the winners of the 2017 UCC President’s Awards

I am a strong advocate of the recognition of excellence in teaching and during my time as Vice-President for Teaching & Learning at UCC (2014-2017) I led the Annual President’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. This Awards scheme recognises the outstanding efforts of teaching staff to ensure that UCC students receive the highest quality teaching and learning experience. I am delighted also that, during my time in that office, the quality of teaching at UCC was also recognised nationally, as a number of UCC staff members were awarded national teaching excellence awards by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning.

With the organisers of the EuroSoTL 2015 conference. Photo by Tomas Tyner, UCC

As Vice-President for Teaching & Learning I was responsible for guiding the creation of a high quality, 21st century teaching environment at UCC, both on campus and online. I lead the development of policies and best practices for the enhancement of teaching and learning space. I  led our participation in a number of important research collaborations to advance the scholarship of teaching and learning. A list of projects can be found at http://www.ucc.ie/en/teachlearn/projects. In 2017 we were selected as members of the inaugural European Universities Association Learning & Teaching Forum. In 2015 we were delighted to host the inaugural European conference on the scholarship of teaching and learning. This event brought hundreds of delegates from around the world to UCC to share their work. This was the first regional event of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Read a review of the EuroSoTL conference here.

In the video below Dr. Marian McCarthy interviews me about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning for one of the online courses in teaching and learning provided at UCC. ..