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We Support Your Ambition: Tutor of the Year 2021 winner Derek Barham

ULaw’s recent Annual Student-Led Awards saw Dr Derek Barham win the coveted award of Tutor of the Year. Students that voted for him described his lectures as “constructive and fun” and being taught by him as an “absolute privilege”. We caught up with Derek to discuss his teaching style and how it felt to win.

By Cara Fielder. Published 26 July 2021. Last updated 14 September 2021.

It is a huge honour to have been chosen as Tutor of the Year 2021 and it was great to receive such recognition for my workshops and lectures. I was surprised and humbled.. Knowing that this award is driven directly by students and their assessment of tutor performance makes it even more special. 

I am fortunate enough to teach across numerous ULaw programmes – undergraduate, BPC, LPC, and AMIL, including dissertation supervision. In addition to black letter law subjects, I am interest in criminology, social psychology and policing studies which all featured in my doctoral thesis.

I have been involved in the delivery of professional legal education since 2014, and I transferred to ULaw’s Birmingham campus in October 2020. However, due to the pandemic and the migration to online delivery methods over recent months, it would be remiss of me not to mention that I have been lucky enough to tutor and lecture across the ULaw estate. Over the last six months, I have delivered lectures and workshops for Bristol, Chester, Guildford, Leeds, London, Reading, Manchester, Nottingham, and the Online campus.

I suspect that all my colleagues have stories about adapting to the ‘new normal’ online teaching environment. In one of my early online lectures on Collaborate, I had just concluded my introduction to the lesson on criminal advocacy and I had given some additional guidance on how to be an effective advocate. Frankly, Lord Denning would have been impressed. After a long pause, one of the students piped up to say, “That was very interesting Dr Barham, and we have all made notes but this is supposed to be a lesson on solicitors accounts.”  Awkward.

As a law tutor, the ability to guide and support students on their knowledge journey is a privilege. I enjoy interacting with the enquiring minds of our students. They constantly demonstrate their curiosity, thirst for learning, and dedication to the topic every time a lesson starts. I also really enjoy working with colleagues who are at the top of their game in terms of their knowledge and understanding of the law. 

I will admit, I am a fan of giving students advice through catchphrases. One of my favourites is - every contact leaves a trace. I find this phrase useful and powerful on so many levels. It’s influenced by Locard's exchange principle that states when there is contact between two items, there will be an exchange of microscopic material. However, ultimately, I am keen to make sure that my students recognise that, for good or ill, every time they contact another person, there will be an exchange of influence, ideas, knowledge, inspiration, or concepts. Understanding and recognising this is, in my opinion, a useful skill for their personal and professional development.

The impact of lectures and workshops delivered by subject experts and supported by superb learning materials gives ULaw students a great advantage when considering a career in the law. The University has an excellent team of tutors committed to the student experience. I think that the very interactive nature of the workshops ensures that students can focus on their learning, prepare well in advance, link their understanding to legal problems, and embeds learning through application. 

The social and professional support services for ULaw students, especially around employment skills and preparation, are also an invaluable resource for those looking to enter the professional pathways.

I have always found the law a truly exciting subject.  Aside from the intellectual challenges it represents to students and practitioners, the law is of fundamental importance to our society, influencing how we live our lives, how relationships are regulated, and how the state interacts with the citizen.  This fascinates me and drives my interest in working, studying and teaching in this field.  On a professional level, the law has enabled me to work in various interesting and fascinating areas of practice.

The starting point for my career inspiration was undoubtedly my parents. Their wisdom, guidance and encouragement were fundamental to my growth as a student, lawyer, and teacher.

Upon this strong foundation I built a fulfilling and interesting career thanks to the influence and support of superb teachers and outstanding professional colleagues in a variety of legal fields.

After winning this award, I’m going to reflect on the experience and the associated feedback to review and revisit my teaching style and methods to continue adding value to my classes.


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