Gaining insight into teaching: A phenomenological exploration of the lived experience of Teachers of the Year

Robin Faith Amparo, Florida International University


What qualities, skills, and knowledge produce quality teachers? Many stake-holders in education argue that teacher quality should be measured by student achievement. This qualitative study shows that good teachers are multi-dimensional; their effectiveness cannot be represented by students' test scores alone. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain a deeper understanding of quality in teaching by examining the lived experiences of 10 winners or finalists of the Teacher of the Year (ToY) Award. Phenomenology describes individuals' daily experiences of phenomena, examines how these experiences are structured, and focuses analysis on the perspectives of the persons having the experience (Moustakas, 1994). This inquiry asked two questions: (a) How is teaching experienced by recognized as outstanding Teachers of the Year? and (b) How do ToYs feelings and perceptions about being good teachers provide insight, if any, about concepts such as pedagogical tact, teacher selfhood, and professional dispositions? Ten participants formed the purposive sample; the major data collection tool was semi-structured interviews (Patton, 1990; Seidman, 2006). Sixty to 90-minute interviews were conducted with each participant. Data also included the participants' ToY application essays. Data analysis included a three-phase process: description, reduction, interpretation. Findings revealed that the ToYs are dedicated, hard-working individuals. They exhibit behaviors, such as working beyond the school day, engaging in lifelong learning, and assisting colleagues to improve their practice. Working as teachers is their life's compass, guiding and wrapping them into meaningful and purposeful lives. Pedagogical tact, teacher selfhood, and professional dispositions were shown to be relevant, offering important insights into good teaching. Results indicate that for these ToYs, good teaching is experienced by getting through to students using effective and moral means; they are emotionally open, have a sense of the sacred, and they operate from a sense of intentionality. The essence of the ToYs teaching experience was their being properly engaged in their craft, embodying logical, psychological, and moral realms. Findings challenge current teacher effectiveness process-product orthodoxy which makes a causal connection between effective teaching and student test scores, and which assumes that effective teaching arises solely from and because of the actions of the teacher.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Amparo, Robin Faith, "Gaining insight into teaching: A phenomenological exploration of the lived experience of Teachers of the Year" (2013). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3567221.