This study explores the nature and extent of any possible relationship between reward and recognition and teaching excellence. The first step was to operationalise the concept of teaching excellence. This was achieved by conducting a meta-analysis of attributes of excellence in previous studies in the literature. Thematic analysis resulted in a Model of Teaching Excellence, which was comprised of three Qualities of Excellence, each of which included three Characteristics of Excellence.
Using a multiple case study approach, the model was compared with lived experience of excellent teachers, defined as those who had been awarded either a National Teaching Fellowship or a University Teaching Fellowship. The result was that excellent teachers agreed with the Qualities and Characteristics of Excellence but disagreed with the proportions awarded to them. The Model was also compared with student evaluations of teaching excellence derived from the NSS and student-led award nominations. However, while students do value high quality teaching, their primary focus is on consistently delivered, high quality personal and academic support, by highly motivated and enthusiastic lecturers.
The relationship between reward and recognition and teaching excellence was explored by enquiring about the impact of receiving such an award on the awardee, their colleagues, their managers, and their students. The primary impact on recipients was affirmation, but even that was short-lived. For the majority of recipients, however, the award had no effect.
While some colleagues and managers were supportive, others were visibly hostile. The majority of colleagues, however, displayed no reaction. Crucially, Fellows stated categorically that they had not changed their practice as a consequence of receiving their award, and that their students were unaware that they had received an award for teaching excellence. The primary use of Teaching Fellowships is by universities to bolster institutional statistics to gain an edge in a competitive student-recruiting market.