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Q&A with Professor Jane Holder

1 July 2014

UCLU Student Choice Teaching Award winner Professor Jane Holder, UCL Laws, shares her views on teaching

Jane Holder interview

What advice would you give to someone looking to develop the way they teach?

I've found that giving students more control over the subject areas they research leads to far better results, since they are likely to devote more time and energy to the work.  

This approach takes time because students need individual feedback and supervision, but I've seen consistently better results since introducing a free choice on subject area.   

In brief - Professor Jane Holder

30 June 2014

Current roles

Professor in Environmental Law, UCL Laws

Lead Editor of the International Journal of Law in Context

Co-chair of the Executive Board of UCL’s Sustainable Cities Grand Challenge


PhD, University of Warwick


LLB Bachelor of Laws, University of Warwick

What are you working at the moment?

I'm working on designing and publishing a series of step-by-step guides for communities on aspects of environmental law with LLM students on the LARCS (Legal Action and Research for Communities and Sustainability) course. 

The guides arise from questions asked by community groups that the students then write up and turn into more general advice notes.  

So far, the students have published guides on topics such as growing food in allotments on a commercial basis, energy saving loans, environmental assessment of fracking and setting up community-based renewable energy schemes.  

What piece of technology do you find invaluable in your teaching?

I have found carbon footprint calculators useful as a device for discussing with environmental law students the effectiveness of reflexive styles of regulation.  

I ask students to fill out one of these (I tend to suggest the Resurgence/Ecologist quick calculator) and we discuss the results in a seminar, including trying to calculate the carbon footprint of their law degree – travel, accommodation, books and printing and so on.  

This really helps to open up debates about whether more direct forms of regulation are more effective – bans, quotas etc – in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

How do you expect higher education teaching to change in the next five years?

Courses may become more vocational as students understandably opt for courses that are more likely to lead to employment.   

I'd like to see a greater shift to sustainability teaching and learning, throughout the curriculum, not just in pockets of 'environmental' courses. 

What achievement are you most proud of?

I'm really pleased to have encouraged environmental law students to think critically about the way in which UCL and the university sector as a whole contributes to carbon emissions.  

We have made good links with Estates, and Richard Jackson, Director of Sustainability, has been very helpful in explaining exactly what action is being taken to reduce emissions.  

UCL offers a very good case study of how different options to reduce emissions may work on a larger scale. 

I'm also very proud of taking groups of students on field trips to sustainability centres and wetland areas, as it really helps the students get to know each other and to learn about how environmental law works in practice.

Anne Welsh, who featured in the previous Q&A, asked: For dissertations, do you favour a short wordcount to encourage concision, or a longer wordcount to expand the type of research questions students can cover?

Research essays for undergraduate students on the environmental law course are currently 5,000 words and make up half of the marks for the course.  

This seems about right, giving students enough space to offer both depth and breadth in their analysis.  I will ask next year's group what they think about this!

What question would you like to pose to the next subject?

The Moodle pages developed by Marie Fournier, UCL French, have been described as a 'work of art'.  I would like to work towards this.  How can we as lecturers make Moodle more appealing/visually attractive?

Further information

Page last modified on 30 jun 14 16:20

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