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Law Teacher of the Year Award

Law Teacher of the Year Award stays in the capital as Westminster Professor wins

lwebley_winProfessor Lisa Webley of the University of Westminster has been named Law Teacher of the Year 2016, fending off strong competition from lecturers from Bangor, Leicester, Nottingham Trent, Oxford, and Sheffield Hallam.

The prestigious national award, which is sponsored by Oxford University Press, was presented at the end of the inaugural Celebrating Excellence in Law Teaching conference held in Oxford on Friday 1 July 2016.

Lisa is Professor of Empirical Legal Studies at Westminster Law School, and particularly impressed the judges with the way she weaves skills education into her teaching.

Accepting the award, Lisa said “this has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on why we [teachers] do what we do, what we want to achieve, and what we stand for”. She also gave a special thanks to her colleagues and the Head at Westminster Law School for their openness to experimentation and creativity in teaching.

The six finalists shared a stage during a panel session at the conference attended by over 70 law academics, to explain their differing approaches to teaching and give delegates the chance to see exactly why they were nominated.

The announcement of the winner came after a lengthy and rigorous judging process which started in January. With nominations coming from about half of the eligible law schools in the UK, selecting a shortlist of just six proved a challenge for the judges.

After the selection of the six finalists, each candidate was visited by members of the judging panel, who conducted extensive interviews with students and colleagues as well as observing a typical teaching session.

The strength of the six finalists this year meant the judges’ decision was a difficult one. At the conference on Friday the judges paid tribute to all the candidates’ “commitment, dedication, passion, enthusiasm, and innovation”.

On presenting the Award to Lisa, outgoing Law Teacher of the Year, Professor Jane Holder of University College London, commented on how winning the Award herself has given her the confidence to test out new teaching methods she has been considering for years.

Expand the sections below to find out more about each of the candidates:

  • Jo Boylan-Kemp, Nottingham Trent University
  • Steve Evans, University of Leicester
  • Lucinda Ferguson, University of Oxford
  • Yvonne McDermott Rees, Bangor University
  • Jennifer Sloan, Sheffield Hallam University

 

Jo Boylan-Kemp

 

Steve Evans

 

Lucinda Ferguson

 

Yvonne McDermott Rees

 

Jennifer Sloan

 

Lisa Webley


ExpandCloseJo Boylan-Kemp

Jo Boylan-Kemp is a principal lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, with teaching and research interests in criminal law and evidence.


"Jo is an outstanding teacher and one of the best tutors I have had the privilege to work with over my twenty-year career in higher education."


Jo Boylan-KempJo was nominated by two of her colleagues, who focused their comments around Jo’s innovative SCALE-UP (Student-Centred Active Learning Environment with Upside-Down Pedagogies) approach. This method allows Jo to create a “rich, stimulating, transformative and constructively disruptive problem-based learning environment” for her students, with an emphasis on active engagement, collaborative working, and critical questioning.

As part of this approach, Jo creates a range of learning resources (including videos and audio podcasts) for students to use outside class, freeing up contact hours for a wider range of more hands-on and critical activities. Student feedback of Jo’s teaching style has been excellent, with one student commenting: “it’s been amazing and definitely a teaching method I’d love to continue.”

On top of this, Jo has developed a unique final year mooting module to enhance practical advocacy skills amongst her students, and founded the Nottingham Law School Mooting Club.

As well as being nominated for the Law Teacher of the Year Award, Jo was awarded the NTU Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award and was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Most Innovative Teacher of the Year Award, both in 2015. 


"I believe that student autonomy is in the attitude of the teacher; students need to be supported through the learning environment and be given the space to be autonomous. My approach, therefore, is to encourage more learning by teaching less."

ExpandCloseSteve Evans

Steve Evans is a lecturer at the University of Leicester, with teaching and research interests in trusts, equity, and property law, and legal issues arising out of the practice of law.


"Steve succeeds better than any other lecturer I have come across in making the law come alive for his students, both as a practical tool for resolving real problems and a fascinating subject of study."


Steve EvansTwo students submitted Steve’s nomination, highlighting his “approachable and kind” nature and his practical approach to teaching. His nominators picked out, for instance, the time Steve brought in almost three feet of case documents to a lecture to demonstrate the work created by an incorrectly drafted will. In their words “such visual aids and practical tools are a rarity in lectures, and highlight important aspects of the subject matter in an academic and practical sense.”

Steve maintains a part-time involvement in legal practice, and is able to bring this real-world experience to bear on his teaching, as well as providing valuable work experience opportunities and industry contacts for his students. This is particularly true in his work with the Street Law project and Legal Advice Clinic at the university, which he helped to transform from a “struggling project to a thriving one” alongside his students.

Steve has further used his links to practice to benefit his students by setting up a mentoring system whereby Leicester law students are paired up with local legal practitioners: as his head of department notes “this would not exist without Steve’s initiative and commitment.”


"I genuinely find all of my contact time with students to be uplifting and fun. Although studying for a degree is a serious matter, if approached in a genial manner, that approach becomes infectious, and results in a happier and more positive experience for those being taught!"

ExpandCloseLucinda Ferguson

Lucinda Ferguson is an associate professor at the University of Oxford, with teaching and research interests in family and tort law.


"Lucinda inspires undergraduates to see themselves as young academics whose own arguments are as worthy of consideration as those of the scholars whom they study."


Lucinda FergusonOne of Lucinda’s colleagues, who is also a former student of hers, and a current law student put forward her nomination. Already recognized within the university as an outstanding lecturer, having won both the Students’ Union award for the Most Acclaimed Lecturer in the Social Sciences Division and a University Teaching Excellence Award, Lucinda takes a research-driven and experimental approach to her teaching. With her goal as improving the student experience, she tests new methods of delivery and responds to student feedback.

Previous successful experiments include increasing contact time for particular modules, while spreading the workload for students, and utilizing a range of media in lectures to draw out the importance of law in everyday life.

Lucinda’s nomination also highlights her focus on involving her students in debate and creating a “shared academic community” in which student opinions are just as valid as those under discussion. This feeds into her ethos of “individual potential rather than standardized attainment”. Students are encouraged and supported to think for themselves and develop their own ideas, both inside and outside the classroom.


"I find it important to emphasize the joy in debating difficult points, including how to decide which academic or judge is correct, if any! I consciously strive to strike a balance between preparing students for the exams and fostering a love of learning the law for its own sake."

ExpandCloseYvonne McDermott Rees

Yvonne McDermott Rees is a senior lecturer and director of teaching and learning at Bangor University, with teaching and research interests in international criminal law and human rights.


"Yvonne’s style of teaching is discursive, encouraging class debate and discussion throughout, so that students are truly engaged with the subject matter. She brings the law to life."


Yvonne McDermott ReesYvonne was nominated by multiple sponsors including her head of department, a colleague, and students from undergraduate through to PhD level. All highlighted Yvonne’s “interesting, exciting and stimulating” teaching style, with several picking out her innovative method for retaining student attention throughout lectures and her support of extra-curricular opportunities.

Yvonne holds students’ attention in class by constantly drawing links between theory and practice, using real life stories from the media to bring the law to life. She reinforces these links by organizing discussion groups for students to further explore concepts raised in class, as well as an International Law Movie Club, which provides a more informal setting to debate and discuss issues in the subject area.

As well as her lecturing responsibilities, Yvonne is also Bangor Law School’s director of teaching and learning, co-director of the Bangor Centre for International Law, and coach of several of Bangor’s successful mooting teams. Despite all this she continues to develop her students by encouraging them to get involved with her research projects, co-authoring chapters with them, and inspiring them to enter local and national competitions.  


"Because the areas I teach are so rapidly changing, my goal is not merely to transmit information, but to give students the tools to critically engage with concepts. Seeing my students succeed in their studies and progress in their careers, I feel privileged to play a small part in these individual successes."

ExpandCloseJennifer Sloan

Jennifer Sloan is a senior lecturer in law and criminology at Sheffield Hallam University, with teaching and research interests in penology and prisons, comparative criminal justice, and research methods.


"Jennifer regards university as a potentially life-changing experience and encourages students to think differently, engage in new experiences, take risks and develop themselves fully."


Jennifer SloanJennifer’s nomination came from one of her colleagues and her head of department. What shines through in her nomination is Jennifer’s passion for her subject, which she successfully transmits to her students through her “broad and diverse range of teaching strategies.” This excellence in teaching has already been recognized by the university: Jennifer was given a University Inspirational Teaching Award in her first year at Sheffield Hallam.

One of the ways Jennifer demonstrates her commitment to her students and their positive university experience is by taking the lead on international placements for students. This does not just include negotiating and securing new placements, but also developing a “unique support module” for those students completing placements abroad. Furthermore, Jennifer has secured extra funding for these programmes to widen accessibility for those students who might otherwise find it impossible to take advantage of such opportunities.

With her position sitting across both law and criminology, Jennifer is able to work aspects of both disciplines into her teaching, offering students a greater “depth of analysis and breadth of knowledge,” as well as a greater variety of teaching styles.  


"Most importantly, my role is to give students the faith and confidence to go and do whatever they want in life. My approach is to be a little bit mad, but truly passionate about the subject, and to be approachable enough for students to question and critique from the word go."

ExpandCloseLisa Webley

Lisa Webley is a professor at the University of Westminster, with teaching and research interests in public and family law, child protection, legal skills, and legal research.


"Lisa is a professor with a worldwide academic reputation but remains approachable and supportive of every student in the school, regardless of whether they are her tutees or in one of her classes."


Lisa WebleyNominated by a colleague and a student, Lisa’s nomination demonstrated her ability to engage students across all levels, from first year undergraduates through to PhD candidates. As her head of school notes, “Lisa could easily choose to spend her time on her own research projects but instead dedicates considerable time and effort to her teaching,” including on two large undergraduate modules.

A respected researcher and author in her own right, Lisa places a great emphasis on integrating theory and research alongside substantive content and real life applications of the law. In the words of her nominators: Lisa’s work “on equality and diversity informs her teaching on the Legal Profession and Services module, and she uses her understanding of the context in which the law ‘happens’ to engage and support student learning.”

Skills development is also a major component of Lisa’s teaching at all levels; one student described her book on legal writing as her “bible for the last three years!” She does all this with a thoroughly supportive and student-focused outlook:  “Lisa’s guidance and confidence in her students has raised their aspirations such that some have pursued higher study or career paths that they had previously considered unattainable.” 


"My approach is best described as providing structured yet playful and creative learning activities that demystify and address underlying skills embedded and intertwined with substantive content. I aim to maximize opportunities for learners to make linkages that assist them over thresholds of understanding, taking into account different learning styles.”

The process

Friday 8th January

Nominations close.

January

The judging panel carefully consider all the nominations individually before meeting to draw up a shortlist of six finalists.

February – April

Two members of the judging panel visit each of the six shortlisted candidates to:

  • Observe a teaching session;
  • Interview a group of students, including some who participated in the observed session;
  • Interview two of the candidate’s teaching colleagues;
  • Interview the candidate’s Head of Department;
  • Interview the candidate themselves.

Each of these sessions is either video or audio recorded so that it can be shared with the remaining members of the judging panel.

AND

Students past and present are invited to produce a short video in support of their teacher.

May

The judging panel are sent the recordings from each of the campus visits and the student videos for their consideration. All four members of the panel then meet to discuss each candidate and decide the winner.

July

The winner is announced at a day-long law teaching event in Oxford, which will give candidates and other lecturers the opportunity to share knowledge, build connections, and showcase their achievements. Click to find out more and register to attend.

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