Teaching awards and their impact on university teachers' sense of self-worth

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


School of Education


Originally published as Sparrow, H. (2008). Teaching awards and their impact on university teachers' sense of self-worth. Paper presented at Valuing Higher Education, SRHE Conference, Liverpool UK. Link to abstract available here.


Seminal work conducted by the Carnegie Foundation in the second half of the 20th Century noted an inconsistency between the importance that academics reported about their teaching, and the rewards and recognition it attracted compared to research (Boyer, 1990). Since this time a significant literature has developed reporting that university teachers in other countries also feel that their work is under- valued, and raising concerns about the impact of this on teaching quality (Coaldrake and Stedman, 1999). As one response to these concerns, the Australian government initiated an award scheme for university teachers. (Ramsden, Margetson, Martin & Clarke, 1995). An analysis of similar schemes in UK, NZ, and Canada demonstrates common goals of raising the status of teachers, and encouraging good teaching through recognising and rewarding excellent teachers. Although it might appear self-evident that such award schemes are worthwhile, there is limited evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness. This paper reports on the findings of a qualitative study of 9 award-winning teachers that investigated their experience of the Australian Teaching Excellence Award process and its outcomes. Participants describe their own journeys and provide insights into both the success and failure of their awards in rewarding their work in meaningful ways or improving their sense of value as teachers.

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