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Motivate. Illuminate. Captivate.

Congratulations to Lydia Bleasdale of the University of Leeds who was named Law Teacher of the Year 2018, at this year’s Celebrating Excellence in Law Teaching conference, which took place on Wednesday 20th June 2018.

Lydia was thrilled, and admitted her desire to take home the accolade:

"I wanted to win the award for three reasons… to show my seven year old daughter the positive impact that working parents, in particular, working mums can have. I also wanted to win it because of my students and for the law school as a whole – I can’t emphasize enough the support the law school at Leeds gives those who want to excel at teaching."

Lydia also paid an emotional tribute to her colleague Nick Taylor, who was her personal tutor at university.

Images courtesy of Oxford University press and Natasha Ellis-Knight.

You can read more about all the candidates below.

Lana Ashby

 Lana Ashby

Lana Ashby
is Assistant Professor (Education) in Private Law at Durham University, with teaching and research interests in land, contract, company and insolvency law.


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‘When teaching ignites a fire, empowering and engaging students and encouraging fellow colleagues to enhance classroom practice, this is true success.’

Lana was nominated by a colleague and a student who emphasized her capacity to fire her students’ interest in the modules she teaches, encouraging them to take an active role in their learning.

Lana employs a wide range of pedagogical methods including extensive handouts (‘the stuff of legends’), ‘preparation pods’ (thinking points in preparation for lectures), in-class discussions, videos, an ‘Areas of Difficulty’ blog (where students can anonymously highlight areas that they’d like to go over), ‘My Journey podcasts’ (survival guides created by former students), in-class revision tests, guest lectures, and more.

Lana’s nomination additionally emphasized the care she takes, and mutual respect she promotes by ensuring no one is left behind during lectures, which often consist of over 300 students. She’ll pause and recap to bring the whole class along together; the same is true of seminars, where Lana tries to engage all her students and include them in the discussion. All of this contributes to Lana’s capacity to, in the words of one of her students, ‘transform complex law into something that is easily understood.’

Lana’s commitment has already been recognised by her winning the student-led award Durham Law Teacher 2017 and 2018, as well as the University’s highest award for excellence in learning and teaching in 2017.

Lana’s nomination also attests to her commitment to her students’ broader welfare and development. Whether that is helping to secure work experience, or just encouraging students to take advantage of her open office hours.

Lana has a broader goal than being a good teacher; her aim is to bring everyone along on her journey to improve teaching practice. She is the sole departmental writer for the Faculty’s magazine, ‘Pedagogically Speaking’ and is also currently developing a ‘Learning and Teaching toolbox’ designed to share theory and best practice across the department.

Lydia Bleasdale

 Lydia Bleasdale

Lydia Bleasdale is an Associate Professor at the University of Leeds. Her teaching and research interests are student resilience and wellbeing, clinical legal education, and criminal law.

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‘My approach to teaching is about inspiring students to embrace challenge and develop as people, not simply as ‘students’ in a traditional sense.’

Lydia’s Head of School and Director of Student Education put forward a nomination that emphasized her engaging teaching methods, as well as her investment in pastoral care and supporting and bolstering her students’ capacity for resilience.

Lydia employs a wide range of teaching methods, and her sponsors comment that ‘rather than viewing her lectures as a time for students to sit and listen, Lydia actively engages her audience through the use of quizzes, questions, and group discussions.’ She ‘uses resources such as music and spoken word to link her teaching to popular culture’ and also uses social media to create a sense of community and drive engagement in her cohort.

Lydia is invested in the welfare of her students, adopting a whole student approach and ‘viewing them not only as students but people who have a range of other identities during their time at university.’ Her sponsors observe that she ‘takes this into account when designing her teaching, ensuring that her content reflects the diversity of her student body.’ Her concern for student wellbeing is also evident in her research into student resilience, the findings of which have been widely applied across the university.

Lydia has encouraged and supported hundreds of students through her pro bono and community engagement roles. She was the founding director of the School’s Legal Advice Clinic, and now directs a wide range of Community Engagement activities. These activities have received several awards over the years, including the LawWorks Best New Student Pro Bono Project, and the Leeds for Life Citizenship (Community) Award (both for the Welfare Rights Project); and the Higher Education Academy Outstanding Student Project Award (for the original Clinic). All of these recognised the collaborative relationship between Lydia, the students and external supervisors in assisting the local community.

Kevin Brown

 Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown is LLB programme director and a lecturer in criminal law and criminal justice at Queen’s University Belfast. His teaching and research interests lie in socio-legal explorations of the regulation and governance of public space, victims' rights, and criminal law and criminal justice.

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‘Underpinning my teaching philosophy is the motivation to engage and inspire students regardless of background, level of study or cohort size… I enjoy lifting the law from the textbook and bringing it to life in dynamic and creative ways.’

Kevin was nominated by a colleague and a student in a nomination that emphasized his innovative methods – often incorporating technology – of teaching criminal law, as well as his work in mentoring and outreach.

In his time at QUB, Kevin has led the redevelopment of the criminal law and justice modules. He introduced the assessment of students’ understanding though bespoke simulated video witness testimony scenarios that he designed himself and produced in collaboration with colleagues in the drama department and with technical support staff. These methods ‘bring criminal law to life for students… helping them learn through a format more closely aligned to experience in practice.’

His sponsors report that Kevin consistently receives ‘exceptionally positive’ feedback from students; such praise contributed to him receiving the Queen’s University Sustained Excellence Award in 2017.

The theme of developing students comes through strongly in the nomination. He has a ‘record of providing excellent pastoral support’; and a ‘dedication to instilling practical and transferable skills that benefit his students in any future career’. Examples include incorporating client counselling into teaching and assessment, thereby enabling students to learn how to tailor communication, and challenge stereotypes and assumptions.

Kevin introduced an award-winning Mentoring Scheme with a local academy whilst at Newcastle Law School, and in his time at Queen’s has shown further zeal for outreach and recruitment with his involvement in initiatives to encourage students from diverse communities in Northern Ireland to join in the collaborative process of studying law. Through extensive international recruitment activities Kevin has helped make ‘QUB a destination of choice for students from an increasingly diverse range of countries.’

Amy Ludlow

 Amy Ludlow

Amy Ludlow
is a lecturer at the University of Cambridge with teaching and research interests in employment law, criminal law and justice, public service reform and socio-legal methodology. She is also co-director of a national higher education initiative, called Learning Together.



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‘I strive to position my students as active, equal collaborators and co-producers of knowledge – active citizens in a common collective intellectual journey that brings with it many enlivening unknowns.’

Two colleagues nominated Amy highlighting in particular her work on the Butler Law Course as part of the Learning Together initiative she co-created with a colleague at the Institute of Criminology. Learning Together builds communities of learning between students from universities and students in the criminal justice system. The Butler Law Course teaches legal research skills; bringing law students from Cambridge to study alongside students currently resident in HMP Warren Hill.

Not only does the initiative ‘bring legal learning off the page and engage [students] in real life’, the nominators emphasise the degree to which Amy’s ‘interpersonal relational teaching style’ is integral to ‘engaging, motivating and inspiring students’. One former student recalls Amy’s ‘way of being incredibly brilliant and but also incredibly approachable and relatable, which I think gives both students at Cambridge as well as students from the prison so much more confidence.’

Coming through strongly in her nomination is her approach to the law and teaching more broadly; how she implicitly and explicitly uses research about law in action to enhance students’ learning. ‘Her scholarship is always an example of a clear, cerebral understanding of black letter law with her feet firmly grounded in the social consequences of law in action.’

In addition, Amy’s nomination takes into account her commitment to her pastoral role, and the development of her students. Her sponsors cite how she understands that ‘meeting students relationally as individuals through believing in them is vital to fostering and encouraging a student’s desire to learn’, and this is echoed by one of her students who says ‘Amy has been so much more than a teacher - she is a role model and an inspiration.’

Richard Owen

 Richard Owen

Richard Owen is Director of the Swansea University’s Law Clinic, which provides initial advice and assistance to those in legal need, as well as running a prison law project, a legal aid exceptional case funding clinic, a litigant helpdesk, and a Miscarriage of Justice Project.



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‘Education should be uplifting. I bring my own passions, such as my work with Texan death row prisoners, to my teaching as a way of showing students the law’s possibilities.’

Richard was nominated by his Head of School, colleagues, and a former student. The nomination emphasized the extent to which he has ‘pioneered’ clinical legal education at Swansea, as well as running clinics in prison law, and establishing a miscarriages of justice project.

Such modules ‘provide real life insights into the workings of the legal system and his students are inspired when they see the impact of their work on the lives of their clients.’ To further emphasize the context Richard organises field trips including outings to crime scenes, police stations and Forensic Investigations Units. He uses technology both to teach and to inform: his students used big data and digital mapping techniques to determine whether the clinic would fulfil an unmet legal need.

Richard employs a variety of methods to assess his clinical legal modules including reflection pieces which prompt students to consider client care, as well as examine their values and those of the legal system. His sponsors acknowledge that clinical legal education is ‘well-known to be challenging and frustrating at times’ but go on to  explain how ‘Richard’s upbeat attitude and wealth of experience help students to place these challenging aspects in context, and to appreciate them as transformative learning moments.’

Richard’s nomination underlines his engagement with his students’ welfare and broader development. He actively encourages his students to ‘think about their role as individuals in the wider community’, as well as putting his professional network to good use as a source of work experience.
As well as motivating students, he is described as an ‘inspirational colleague’. By mentoring and helping staff develop practical aspects to their teaching, he is acknowledged as ‘unfailingly generous with his time’.

Verona Ni Drisceoil

 Verona ND

Verona Ní Drisceoil is a lecturer at the University of Sussex, teaching ELS, criminal and land law. She researches the relationship between criminal law and cultural diversity, as well as between law and language.




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‘My approach to teaching is underpinned by a desire to reach out, to make a connection, to inspire and to create an environment where the students can engage, learn, challenge, critique and question.’

Verona’s nominators, her Head of Department and a colleague, drew attention to her commitment to ‘developing confidence and self-belief, and emphasizing visual, interactive and transformative learning’.

An example of such innovation is the development of the Virtual Land Law Field Trip Project; enabled through a University Teaching Prize for Innovation (2016) where bespoke videos now run alongside the module. These represent different perspectives and voices on issues connected to, but pushing beyond and challenging, the curriculum. They engage social justice issues such as homelessness, the housing crisis and the Grenfell disaster.

Verona’s students attest to her skilful and caring teaching, one commenting how: ‘she goes beyond her call of duty when it comes to helping students achieve their goals… she aims to instil within them a sense of confidence in their personal capabilities which allows them to exceed their own expectations.’ As well as providing more traditional pastoral support, Verona also addresses student anxiety and barriers to student engagement through pioneering workshops on confidence building, and by bringing into the curriculum activities which might otherwise be extra-curricular and only taken up by more confident students. Together these initiatives represent her ‘absolute commitment to helping our students become who they are capable of becoming and to help them to develop skills, confidence and belief, especially in what can be a very difficult period of transition’.

Verona’s nomination details her significant undertakings in outreach and widening participation work. These include such pre-university programmes as: Making Choices, Harry Potter Taster Day, Sussex Study Experience, Stand up for Justice and the Aim Higher Summer School. ‘Through this work’, her sponsors observe, ‘Verona has been able to significantly enhance student learning and to help to break down barriers to social mobility.’


Key dates

• 20 October 2017 – Law Teacher of the Year 2018 launches
• 13 December 2017 – Deadline for receipt of entries
• End January 2018 – Shortlist is announced
• February and March 2018 – Campus visits and interviews from judges take place
• From April 2018 – Judges review all evidence and discuss outcomes
 20 June 2018 – Law Teacher of the Year 2018 is announced at the Celebrating Excellence in Law Teaching conference.