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

Author: Claire Goode

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

Claire Goode
2 November 2021

Goode, C. (2021). An excellent adventure: Investigating the stories of Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardees. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic).


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.

Keywords: teaching quality, excellence in tertiary education, narrative inquiry, professional practice, teaching awards

Claire Goode's supervisors were Martin Andrew and Megan Gibbons.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. International.

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