Prof Leoni Schmidt, Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Excellence Award winner, with learnersCreative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license 4.0  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ by Otago Polytechnic

An excellent adventure

Claire Goode's doctoral research found common themes in the teaching practice of award-winning tertiary teachers.

What does it mean to be an excellent teacher? What is best practice in tertiary teaching? To help teaching staff who aspire to become excellent teachers, Learning & Teaching Specialist Claire Goode set out to better understand what makes up teaching excellence.

Claire's doctoral research project used narrative inquiry to investigate the stories of twelve national Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardees in New Zealand. The research explored 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.

Using thematic analysis, Claire developed a model − ‘The Keys to Teaching Excellence’ − which captures the principal elements of excellence in practice identified by the research participants. The five themes are:

  • Building relationships (e.g. relationships with learners, colleagues, industry and networks)
  • Focusing on learners (e.g. engaging, empowering and encouraging learners)
  • Facilitating learning (e.g. sharing stories, co-constructing knowledge, and crafting facilitation skills)
  • Creating the right environment (e.g. making learning enjoyable, enabling learners to feel valued and safe)
  • Reflecting on practice (e.g. taking risks, staying current, and being authentic)

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. 

Claire also hopes that educators will be encouraged to share their own examples of excellence with their peers and the wider academic community. To this end, Otago Polytechnic is hosting the inaugural Teaching Excellence symposium on 29-30 June with presentations on these five themes.