What makes a good university lecturer? Students’ perceptions of teaching excellence

Feng Su (Faculty of Education, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK)
Margaret Wood (Faculty of Education & Theology, York St John University, York, UK)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Publication date: 21 September 2012



The purpose of this paper is to argue that, in order to achieve teaching excellence, student engagement in dialogue on this important matter is needed. Students’ conceptualisations of good teaching are fundamental when building an understanding of what this is and how it can be developed.


This paper reports on findings of a qualitative study of undergraduate students’ perceptions of a good university lecturer. The paper draws on the secondary dataset collected by four subject centres of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).


The interpretive analysis of the data shows that, from students’ perspectives, a combination of the lecturer's subject knowledge, willingness to help and inspirational teaching methods makes a good university lecturer. Being humorous and able to provide speedy feedback were also perceived as important factors. These findings have some important implications for academic practice.


The key thesis advanced is that definitions of teaching excellence cannot be adequately obtained from typologies and descriptions of techniques and skills. The authors’ contention is that deeper understandings are built through engaging students in meaningful dialogue about pedagogy. This may uncover more profound layers of understanding of what makes good teaching at university and so probe the more elusive aspects which defy measurement via scales or performance indicators.



Su, F. and Wood, M. (2012), "What makes a good university lecturer? Students’ perceptions of teaching excellence", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 142-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/17581181211273110

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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