Exemplary teachers' perspectives on performance.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
This study investigated exemplary teachers' perspectives on performance in order to understand the complex human interactions that constituted teaching and learning of the highest order. Theories explaining the complex nature of teacher excellence remain limited. The purpose of this study was to shed some light on the notion of performance from the perspective of exemplary teachers and answer key research questions: what are exemplary teachers' perspectives on the notion of performance, and how do exemplary teachers enact these perspectives? The use of a case study research design allowed for a number of methods to be used to explore the topic. Five teachers that had received National Excellence in Teaching Awards were interviewed and observed. Two were videoed, and a group interview concluded the data generation phase. Qualitative methodology was used to allow the participants to describe, in their own context, how they perceived performance and to provide further insight into the richness, complexity and range of teacher attitudes and values. Perspectives revealed there was no single way of understanding performance; rather this was determined to some extent by participants' worldview. The phenomenological research approach used allowed participants to describe their perspectives on performance in an open and enlightened way, thus successfully gaining entry into their conceptual world. The perspectives of exemplary teachers in this study revealed four key conceptual themes as being relevant to the notion of performance: relationships and influences, self-concept, reflection and renewal, and performance expectations. Prominent amongst these findings was the conclusion that these teachers had an overwhelming passion for learning and excellence in terms of expectations for themselves and the students they taught, an ability to reflect in a self-critical and natural way, a genuine desire to interact and engage with people, and above all, a caring disposition towards people and their performance. These teachers saw themselves as learners, continuously developing, and through a strong self-belief, changing as their knowledge changed. How and why they made decisions was closely linked to their beliefs, assumptions and dispositions they held. Participants' perspectives indicated that high performance expectations relied on the relationship between these beliefs and attitudes, and students' achieving well, not only academically, but also first and foremost, in all aspects of being a person. Exemplary teachers in this study wanted to motivate students for life, to show their real talent and potential. In this study, exemplary teachers' perspectives on performance showed that they were emotionally committed to learn, motivated, and through thinking and accessing information in a variety of ways, were prepared to learn in a worldly way. They were passionate about choosing to use their ability and skills to make learning exciting and interesting for students in the context that they perceived students and society expected. These exemplary teachers saw it as their moral responsibility to serve society, to fulfil a need. What made a teaching activity so special for the exemplary teachers in this study was the feeling they got from the activity itself. They had taken charge of their conscious experiences and inner life.