Quiet conversations in small circles

the role of voluntary awards and distributive leadership in promoting teaching excellence in universities

Norman McCulla, Catherine Scott, Stephen Dinham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In universities throughout Australia, increased emphasis is being placed on the quality of teaching and learning as a pathway for demonstrating excellence and establishing the national and international credentials of the university. Demonstrations of quality teaching are also being linked more explicitly with strategic planning, performance management systems and the career path progression of individuals. Side by side with these developments a collegial approach to identifying and celebrating quality teaching has taken place through voluntary award schemes. This is exemplified in New South Wales, Australia through the NSW Quality Teaching Awards and, nationally, by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Teaching Awards. There is little by way of current research that investigates the impact of these awards on the individual or institutionally. This paper reports on a study of a limited sample of university-based recipients of the NSW Quality Teaching Award. The intention was to establish a picture of the impact of the award on individuals as well as the organizational cultures and contexts that influenced their work and which they in turn influenced. As such, both individual and institutional perspectives are explored. Key questions centred on how leadership was being demonstrated in pursuit of a quality teaching agenda, by whom, and the roles that both formal and informal structures within universities as well as award schemes played in that process. The study gives an exploratory perspective on teachers and universities at work in pursuit of quality teaching and highlights the importance of enabling "quiet conversations in small circles" through which long-term, sustainable change might take place.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalOnline Refereed Articles : Australian College of Educators
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Quiet conversations in small circles: the role of voluntary awards and distributive leadership in promoting teaching excellence in universities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this