An excellent adventure: Investigating the stories of Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardees

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Goode, Claire
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Doctorate of Professional Practice
Otago Polytechnic
Andrew, Martin
Gibbons, Megan
Doctoral Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
teaching quality
tertiary education
narrative inquiry
teaching awards
professional practice
New Zealand
Goode, C. (2021). An excellent adventure: Investigating the stories of Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardees. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate of Professional Practice). Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1, How does the concept of excellence unfurl in the narratives of Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardees? 2. How do these practitioners embody, convey, and foster that excellence in their practice? 3. What implications for Professional Development do these narratives of excellence have? ABSTRACT: Challenges exist with the discourse in higher education around terms such as ‘best practice’, ‘excellence’, and ‘impact’, as part of a culture of measuring and ranking performance, and this raises questions around who decides what ‘excellent’ teaching looks like. Similarly, the criteria for teaching excellence awards in different countries and contexts seem to be particularly vague. With a view to better understanding the facets that make up teaching excellence, this doctoral research project uses narrative inquiry to investigate the stories of twelve national Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardees in New Zealand. My research questions explore awardees’ respective trajectories and professional practice, including views on their identity, their practice, and on what they consider to be excellence in tertiary teaching. The research also reports on common themes in the personal qualities that awardees describe, and on what these nationally recognised educators would like to see in place around Tertiary Teacher Development. Through the stories of these twelve recognised educators, and an analysis of the themes which occur across the collection of narratives, I propose a model − ‘The Keys to Teaching Excellence’ − which captures the principal elements of excellence in practice, as one outcome of my analysis. Educators, mentors, trainers, and curriculum designers can gain a deeper understanding of what teaching excellence looks like, and of how teachers perceive their own practice and their impact on others. This may enable different interventions to develop best practice from staff, and to raise standards. It is hoped too that, by reflecting on the stories of teachers who have been recognised for ‘excellence’, educators will relate to and recognise elements of their own practice, and will feel motivated and inspired to share these with their peers and the wider academic community. The thesis also includes reflections on my framework of practice, underpinned by my constructivist ontology and the socially-situated importance of professional learning, with a thread of reflexivity woven throughout. I consider the impact this doctoral project and the research journey has had on my professional practice, and reflect on how it contributes to my potential future pathway.
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