University of Leicester duo recognised among UK’s best teachers

Posted by pt91 at Sep 06, 2017 09:28 AM |
New National Teaching Fellows include two of the University of Leicester’s stars

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 30 August 2017

Download photographs of Dr Dawn Watkins and Dr Dylan Williams from:

Two outstanding academics at the University of Leicester are being recognised with national awards for teaching excellence.

Academics from Law and Chemistry at Leicester are recipients of National Teaching Fellowships from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – bringing the total number of Fellowships Leicester has received to 18.

Dawn Watkins of Leicester Law School and Dylan Williams of the Department of Chemistry are among 55 new National Teaching Fellows (NTFs) announced by the HEA, alongside the fifteen team finalists – including Leicester - for the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE).

Professor Paul Boyle, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “It is a great honour to be recognised at the highest national level for the excellence of your contributions to student learning. I congratulate Dawn and Dylan on their remarkable achievements – they are exemplars for how inspirational teaching at Leicester is helping to transform the student experience of higher education. This continues a very strong record of success in the National Teaching Fellowships for Leicester academics.”

Dr Watkins’s approach to teaching is interdisciplinary; exploring in particular the interrelationship between law and narratives. She has also embraced developing technology, most recently in a public legal education context. As her role has become more strategic, it has remained collaborative and she is dedicated to working with others to effect positive change.

She said: “I am delighted to have been nominated and selected for this award, and I am very grateful to both student and staff colleagues at the University of Leicester who have been willing to join me in testing out novel ideas and experimenting with unfamiliar technology. It’s been great fun and I’m sure we have many exciting things yet to discover.”

Dr Williams’s work on Context and Problem Based Learning has changed the way chemistry is taught at Leicester. An increasing number of institutions have started using his methods in order to enhance the student experience.

He said: “I am delighted and honoured by this award. I have greatly enjoyed my work on promoting active learning experiences for chemistry students, much of which wouldn’t have been possible without the inspirational and enthusiastic inputs of my own students. I am looking forward to building on these achievements by researching the impact of different teaching and learning approaches on the skills development of undergraduate students.”

The new NTFs are have been selected from the three participating nations - Wales, Northern Ireland and England - and come from across mission groups and from a broad range of subject areas. The NTFs were nominated by their institutions and submissions had to show evidence of three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence.

The CATE recognises outstanding contributions to teaching by teams at higher education providers. The criteria for the CATE award are: ‘excellent practice’, teamwork, and the team’s dissemination plan. Teams will need to have shown they are working in collaboration with direct student involvement in their work.

HEA Chief Executive, Professor Stephanie Marshall, said, “A National Teaching Fellowship is the most prestigious individual award for excellence in teaching in higher education. These awards represent a fantastic achievement by all 55 new NTFs. I am sure the whole sector joins me in applauding them in their success.

“I am also delighted that we have really high-calibre finalists for the Collaborative Award, and I congratulate each and every team.

“The new NTFs and CATE finalists represent some of the very best teaching in higher education and I am sure they will inspire others as we share their innovative practice and ideas across the sector. The UK is justifiably proud of its higher education sector and its reputation is enhanced by the examples of excellent teaching highlighted by these awards.”

Fifteen institutions have been shortlisted for the award. Six of these institutions will be awarded grants of £15,000 to disseminate their learning. The six teams will be announced at the formal celebration event for all these awards at Church House, Westminster, London, 1 November 2017.


Background info:


Dr Dylan Williams has worked in teaching focused roles since completing his PhD in 2007. He specialised in the development of student-centred learning experiences, mostly based on Context and Problem Based Learning (C/PBL) and since 2007 has overseen the development and integration of C/PBL activities throughout the programme. He has also developed a problem-solving strategy to help support students working on these problems.

His educational research focuses on the impact of the approaches he uses. He is currently researching the impact of C/PBL on student attitudes towards transferable skills development and comparing these attitudes with those of students taught using other approaches.

Impact of work

Dylan’s work has had a positive impact on the learning experience of students. As well as improving student performance, the C/PBL activities that I have developed improve the confidence of students when speaking in public, working in teams and solving complex problems.

His work has also facilitated in the adoption of active-learning approaches by colleagues at Leicester and beyond. His resources have been published as Open Educational Resources by the Royal Society of Chemistry and some have been adopted by other institutions. The C/PBL approach that has been developed is also used outside of the UK.

He is a regular speaker at major chemistry education conferences and has published his findings in peer-reviewed articles and recently wrote a book chapter.

He has also made significant contributions to major initiatives at the University of Leicester such as the review of the personal tutor system and the introduction of lecture capture. His contributions have been integrated into departmental policies on both of these matters.

Plans for the future

Dylan plans to use his experience of active learning approaches to work alongside others on researching the effectiveness of a number of different strategies. It is essential that an evidence base of the effectiveness of various active teaching approaches is developed so that institutions reviewing their teaching and learning can make informed choices.



Dr Dawn Watkins commenced her academic career after completing a PhD in Law and Literature. This interdisciplinary theme has characterised much of her teaching.  In particular, she has sought to both explore and utilise the interrelationship between law and narratives as a means to engage students with their learning - going so far as to arrange for ‘real life’ high-profile litigants to come in to talk to law students and share their stories.

Most recently, she has conducted a small-scale study into the role of narrative and metaphor in student feedback and will be applying the knowledge gained from this study to develop her own practice, as well as disseminating and discussing her findings with colleagues across the sector at relevant conferences.

Impact of work

Throughout her career Dawn has sought to embrace technology by constantly exploring ways in which it can be used to enhance and transform the student learning experience.  She has been at the forefront of adopting innovative techniques and encourages others to do so. Examples include initiating the podcasting of lectures in the law school, piloting and championing a University lecture capture system and using Participoll to facilitate interaction with students in a large lecture setting. She has also ventured outside of the academy by developing and using a digital game to explore children’s understanding of law in their everyday lives (see The findings of this study will contribute to the much-needed evidence base in public legal education (PLE).

Plans for the future

In recent years Dawn has been invited to contribute to the development of policies and systems that support and facilitate learning and she anticipates that in the future her work in higher education will become increasingly strategic; working collaboratively with academic, professional and student colleagues in order to effect positive change.  Within the field of law, Dawn intends to continue her work in both exploring and improving children’s understanding of law in their everyday lives.

National Teaching Fellows 2017

Dr Fabio Aricò, University of East Anglia

Ms Lerverne Barber University of Worcester

Mrs Sue Beckingham Sheffield Hallam University

Mrs Toni Bewley Edge Hill University

Professor Tim Birkhead University of Sheffield

Dr Victoria Bourne Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Kim Bower Sheffield Hallam University

Mr Dominic Bygate University of Hertfordshire

Mrs Caroline Coles De Montfort University

Mr David Comiskey Ulster University

Dr Elizabeth Dobson University of Huddersfield

Dr Sally Everett Anglia Ruskin University

Dr Suzanne Fergus University of Hertfordshire

Mrs Sarah George University of Bradford

Dr Philip Hanna Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Catherine Hayes University of Sunderland

Dr Ruth Healey University of Chester

Dr Joanna Hendy Cardiff Metropolitan University

Dr Judith Holloway University of Southampton

Professor Alison Honour Oxford Brookes University

Dr Annie Hughes Kingston University

Mrs Julie Irwin Buckinghamshire New University

Dr Ilona Johnson Cardiff University

Professor Hisham Khalil University of Plymouth

Professor Ania Korszun Queen Mary University of London

Professor Andrew Kulman Birmingham City University

Dr Megan Lawton University of Wolverhampton

Dr Jacqueline Leigh University of Salford

Dr Colin Lumsden University of Manchester

Dr Lindsay Marshall Newcastle University

Dr Elizabeth McCrum University of Reading

Dr Fiona McCullouch University of Nottingham

Mr Samuel Messam Bradford College University Centre

Dr Elizabeth Miles Coventry University

Ms Jayne Mothersdale Leeds Beckett University

Dr Matthew Nicholls University of Reading

Professor Mark O’Hara Birmingham City University

Ms Ros O'Leary University of Gloucestershire

Dr Angela O'Sullivan De Montfort University

Professor Pamela Parker City, University of London

Dr James Pickering University of Leeds

Dr Samantha Pugh University of Leeds

Professor David Read University of Southampton

Dr Alex Ryan University of Gloucestershire

Dr Henrik Schoenefeldt University of Kent

Dr Michael Scott University of Warwick

Dr Gill Seyfang University of East Anglia

Dr M Hasan Shaheed Queen Mary University of London

Dr David Smith Sheffield Hallam University

Mrs Hilary Wason Kingston University

Dr Dawn Watkins University of Leicester

Professor Renate Weller Royal Veterinary College

Professor Judith Williams University of Manchester

Dr Dylan Williams University of Leicester

Mr James Wilson University of Southampton


Finalist for the CATE awards

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Kingston University

Staffordshire University

The Open University

Ulster University

University College London

University of Bath

University of Bedfordshire

University of Bradford

University of Cumbria

University of Huddersfield

University of Kent

University of Leicester

University of Sheffield

University of South Wales

The NTF and CATE schemes are run by the HEA on behalf of the award funders: the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland (DfE). (The Scottish Funding Council does not take part in NTFS)

There are now over 800 NTFs. Institutions can nominate up to three individuals per annum.  The schemes are open to staff whose teaching or support roles enhance the student learning experience. The NTF and CATE Schemes will run again in 2018; details will follow in due course.

For further information visit

About the HEA

The HEA works to raise the impact of teaching in higher education. An independent non-profit organisation, we work to make teaching better, raising its impact, for the benefit of society as a whole. We work with governments, ministries, universities and individual academics worldwide.

The HEA reveals what works best to make teaching more effective. We focus entirely on improving approaches to teaching and teaching practice, bringing the sector together through a hub of best practice. We help to raise the profile of teaching so that staff are recognised for their work.

We enable over 92,000 HEA Fellows and many of the world’s leading learning and teaching professionals to exchange knowledge and best practice insights.

The HEA manages and operates the UK Professional Standards Framework (PSF), a set of professional standards for everyone in teaching and supporting learning in higher education. We accredit professional development courses against this standard.

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