Date of Completion

January 1981


Education, Higher




This phenomenological study reports on teaching role perceptions derived from in-depth interviews with 10 college and university professors in Connecticut four-year institutions of higher education who were identified for teaching excellence through an Outstanding Teaching Award. Recipients identified by faculty and/or administrator groups were contrasted with recipients identified by student groups on three research questions related to self-perception of teaching role, perception of students and perception of the teaching/learning dynamics in the college or university classroom.^ Analysis of the interview data revealed three distinct teaching role orientations: evocative, didactic, and affiliative. The teaching role orientations are based upon a synthesis of the professors' reflections related to the three research questions under investigation. The three orientations are described in detail.^ Analysis of the information supplied in the Professor Profile Questionnaire indicated that award recipients in both groups were approximately the same age at the time the Award was presented. Some minor differences, however, are noted between the two recipient groups. Professors who are recipients of faculty/administrator selected teaching awards have lighter semester teaching loads, teach more graduate students, hold a higher academic rank, are more tenured and are more productive publishers than professors who are recipients of student selected awards. These data support the research literature relative to criteria used in determining teaching effectiveness, that is, students use different criteria from faculty and administrators in evaluating teaching excellence. Furthermore, four of the five professors in the faculty/administrator selected recipient group fit the description of the academic "good man theory." The "good man theory" is descriptive of the academic professional who does everything--teach, research and perform service--and does it well.^ A further analysis of the data revealed that the teaching professors in this study possess the following common characteristics: (1) they are committed to scholarship; (2) they accept teaching as an important responsibility and are committed to fulfilling that responsibility with distinction; (3) they have a "conceptualized" understanding of the multiple parts of their academic work; (4) they have the ability to "personalize" classroom instruction; and, (5) they have the capacity to form and enter into good interpersonal relationships with students and colleagues.^ Other findings include: the professors demonstrate an "implicit but manifest" theoretical underpinning for their teaching; the professors have reached "maturity" in their teaching; the professors perceive scholarship and research as providing more resources from which to draw upon in their teaching; the professors have a clear understanding of the nature and needs of their students; early socialization to an academic career is teaching oriented; two professors made mid-life career changes into college and university teaching; the professors emulate the behaviors of their teachers whom they considered to be outstanding. Emulation, however, is a "subconscious" process.^ Five "essences" of teaching excellence were identified for the 10 professors. They are: intrinsic motivation, self-evaluation, natural teaching talent combined with "working" at teaching, congruence between "professor-as-person" and "professor-as-teacher," and "togetherness."^ Implications of the study for higher education are discussed and suggestions for future research are presented. Appended to the text are the schedule of interview questions, data on Teaching Award Programs in Connecticut four-year institutions of higher education and the professors' perceptions related to the significance of teaching awards. ^