Swansea University Dean and keen musician recognised for his outstanding teaching excellence

Swansea University Professor of French, Derek Connon, has been recognised by the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme for his teaching and joins a distinguished group of teachers across the UK who have been appointed as a National Teaching Fellow

This prestigious appointment recognises, rewards and celebrates individuals who are judged to have made an impact on the student learning experience. Each year up to 55 awards of £10,000 are made to recognise individual excellence. The award is intended for National Teaching Fellows' professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy. 

Derek Connon getting award ‌After graduating from the University of Liverpool with a BA in French, Professor Derek Connon began research for a PhD on the theatrical works of Diderot. This topic appealed not only because of his interests in the field of French literature, but because of the fact that Derek had always acted, and it was during this period that he began directing student productions in French. He completed his PhD in 1984, but in 1982 had already started a three-year lectureship at Queen’s University Belfast. This was followed by posts at the Universities of Exeter and St Andrews. This variety of experience gave Derek a broad outlook on university teaching, which served him well when he took up his current post at Swansea in 1989.

At Swansea Derek has taught on a number of modules devoted to French literature and culture; teaching texts from the 17th to the 20th centuries in all literary genres, but with particular emphasis on his specialism of drama. He has also contributed lectures on cinema, music and art. Like all modern language specialists, Derek has taught classes on the French language, with a particular interest in translation, and has contributed to the development of translation studies in the department.

As well as being a member of the University’s Learning and Teaching, and Regulations, Quality and Standards Committees, and chairing the Undergraduate Student Cases Committee, Derek was fortunate to be a member of the committee tasked with revising the University’s academic infrastructure; a move intended to promote equality of treatment between students and aid the sharing of good practice. As a result of the subsequent changes, Derek moved from being Dean of Arts and Humanities, to become the first Dean of undergraduate students, which is a role he finds hugely rewarding.

In addition to his academic interests, Derek is a keen musician, which sometimes finds its way into his teaching and research.

Speaking about his fellowship appointment Professor Connon said: “ It is a great honour to have my work recognized in this way. However, we all work as part of a team, and I feel that this award recognizes not just my efforts, but also those of my colleagues in Modern Languages and the members of the Academic Registry who support me in my role as Dean, as we all work together to give students the best possible experience at Swansea.'

Head of the College of Arts and Humanities Professor John Spurr said: ‘ We are all delighted on behalf of Derek, his students – past, present and future – and the whole College.  Having such a talented and popular teacher among us is an inspiration: this richly deserved award is an endorsement of excellent teaching in general and of the Modern Languages in particular.”

The successful National Teaching Fellows (NTFs) were chosen from over 180 nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Each will receive an award of £10,000 which will be used to support their professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy.

Successful nominees were nominated by their institutions and submissions had to show evidence of three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence.

This year’s NTFs include academics from a diverse discipline range including Chemistry, Engineering, the Arts, Languages, Maths, Nursing, Education and Psychology. They also include learning enhancement specialists who work across the disciplines to develop innovative approaches to learning and teaching.

Picture: Professor Derek Connon receiving the award from Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Canterbury Christ Church University.