Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Honors Teachers and Academic Identity: What to Look for When Recruiting Honors Faculty

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Honors Teachers and Academic Identity: What to Look for When Recruiting Honors Faculty

Article excerpt

The word "honors" naturally carries distinction. To be a collegiate honors student implies a higher level of academic achievement than other students as well as the more challenging academic experience that comes with smaller class sizes. Collegiate honors teachers have a distinction of their own. Being an honors teacher implies a high level of teaching achievement, and it requires special traits that honors directors need to look for in recruiting faculty. Guidance in determining what traits best characterize excellence in honors teaching is a useful tool for honors administrators who are trying to create an identity for their honors faculty.

Creating a productive balance between work and personal life for all college faculty--much less honors faculty--can be challenging, especially given the variety of institutional types and structures that constitute academic culture (Tolbert; Varia), but discovering a way to get teaching, professional, and personal identities to work together produces benefits not only for individuals but also for the professional organization in which they work, as Beauregard and Henry and also Rice, Frone, and McFarlin argue in their respective studies on "work-life balance" and "work-nonwork conflict" Academic identity can combine teaching and non-teaching activities into one identity, and honors teaching is a special subset where this combined identity is perhaps especially important in attracting the right students. Commonalities that exist among honors teachers are thus of special interest to honors administrators in recruiting faculty The purpose of this study is to help honors administrators recruit faculty by identifying traits they should look for.


Teaching Identity

The bulk of existing research on teaching identity is focused on K-12 teachers and on development through education and experience (Cooper & Olson; Johnson; Lortie; Miller). Day, Sammons, and Gu identify three components of teaching identity: life outside of school (personal), social and policy expectations of what a good educator is (professional), and direct working environment (situational); their research suggests that effective teachers are those who can balance these three components. Specific traits that other researchers describe as important to teacher behavior are job satisfaction, occupational commitment, self-efficacy, and level of motivation (Ashton & Webb; Firestone; Schwarzer & Jerusalem; Toh, Ho, Riley, & Hoh; Watt & Richardson).

Identity and the Academic

The basic identity of an academic typically includes at least the traditional triumvirate of teaching, research, and service. According to research by Freese, teachers develop their identity through (1) reflection on their professional role, mission, and self, (2) reflection on past experiences, and (3) reflection on how changes in work behavior and habits might affect future outcomes Agency, or the power to implement change, is a part of identity affected by the specific role an academic has within an institutional structure. Kelchtermans's work on the role of self-understanding, self-image, self-esteem, job motivation, task perception, and future prospects supports Freese's work on the role of reflection in identity formation.

Research on teacher identities by the British education scholar Skelton identifies three main roles of the academic: "teaching specialists," "blended professionals," and "researchers who teach" Teaching specialists typically do not take part in any professional activities outside of teaching. Blended professionals are the more typical academics, with responsibilities in teaching, advising, and scholarly work; these individuals spend the bulk of their time teaching and advising students, with scholarly research or creative activities making up 20-30% of their time. Researchers who teach have a reversed role, with scholarly activities taking up the highest percentage of their time and teaching limited to one or two classes a semester or academic year. …

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