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Profile of the Higher Education Teacher

Reflect on the following as you work through this Module


Article 1. Mission to educate, to learn and to undertake research

We affirm that the core missions and values of higher education, in particular the mission to contribute to the sustainable development and improvement of society as a whole, should be preserved, reinforced and further expanded, namely, to:

  • educate highly qualified graduates and responsible citizens able to meet the needs of all sectors of human activity, by offering relevant qualifications, including professional training, which combine high-level knowledge and skills, using courses and content continually tailored to the present and future needs of society;
  • advance, create and disseminate knowledge through research and provide, as part of its service to the community, relevant expertise to assist societies in cultural, social and economic development, promoting and developing scientific and technological research as well as research in the social sciences, the humanities and the creative arts;

    help understand, interpret, preserve, enhance, promote and disseminate national and regional, international and historic cultures, in a context of cultural pluralism and diversity;

    help protect and enhance societal values by training young people in the values which form the basis of democratic citizenship and by providing critical and detached perspectives to assist in the discussion of strategic options and the reinforcement of humanistic perspectives; and

    contribute to the development and improvement of education at all levels, including through the training of teachers.



    There are two main actors in the enterprise of teaching and learning – the teacher and the learner. In Module 1, our focus was on the learner. Starting with the learner is indicative of the centrality of learners to teaching. Without students, we will be out of job as teachers. Since we discussed actor No. 1 (the learner) in Module 1, we will take on actor No. 2 (the teacher) in this module. Our plan is for you to gain some understanding of the learner and the teacher before working through the processes involving the two actors in subsequent modules.

    Why do we need to gain understanding of the higher education teacher? Perhaps the straightforward answer can be found from a quote from Julius Nyerere "It is by gaining insight of our potentialities that we understand others better". When we know who we are as teachers, our strengths and weak points, we become well positioned to appreciate our students and to carry out our teaching tasks more meaningfully. Profiling the higher education teacher is the central goal of this module.

    As we work through this module, issues concerning training of higher education teachers begin to emerge. The argument that 'teacher training' is trivial and technical for teachers in higher educational institutions has been hard to sustain. Where once some saw learning to use an overhead projector as the pinnacle of professional development, such trivialisation is no longer the case. The mastery of technical skills now takes a back seat to the development of the teacher as a self-reflective, ethical and continuously developing, competent practitioner. Far from providing 'tips for teachers', professional programmes emphasise the value laden nature of teaching and the ethical position of the teacher.

    There is a sophisticated discourse concerning teaching and learning in higher education that many practitioners never appear to interact with. A likely reason is that academics see themselves as professionals in their own discipline-based research area, rather than as professionals in the area of university teaching. They qualify and are credentialed by research in a discipline area and they undertake continuing professional development in that research area by reading relevant journals and attending conferences. It is important that academics consider themselves to have a dual professional allegiance: to their professional (disciplinary) responsibility as a university researcher and to the profession of teaching. The latter role can be successfully accomplished with teacher training experience.

    The professionalisation of teaching is little more than a century old. During its development, teaching progressed from a primitive, relatively unskilled trade, to an occupation requiring vocational training, and finally to a profession demanding thorough, specialised preparation. The preparation of the teacher is viewed increasingly as a continuous process that extends throughout his or her tenure. This Guide is essentially to enhance your preparation for more effective teaching.

    At the end of this module, you should be able to:

    At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

    General Characteristics of the Higher Education Teacher

    Traditionally, the higher education teacher is expected to be an exemplar in:

    Advertisements for academic positions in a university, polytechnic, technikon, college of education, or other tertiary institutions generally reflect this tradition. On assumption of duty, the new employee is further expected to cling to these three strands of responsibilities for upward advancement. Thus, the higher education academic is expected to be an exemplar of good teaching, a productive researcher and someone who can provide good quality extension service to the institution and to the larger community. With a respectable record in these three areas of focus, the rise to the esteemed post of full professor that is much sought after by academics could be painless and short.

    Teaching, research and community service are the three, traditionally known clusters of duties of the higher education teacher. Think of the work you do and the work expected of you by your students, the community, and the administration of your institution. Is this work covered by the three traditional areas? If your answer is no, provide a list of those activities that are not so covered.

    Profile as a Teacher

    What teaching characteristics are we expecting of a teacher in a higher institution? A listing of some of these characteristics is provided below.

      1. An understanding of how students learn.
      2. A concern for students' development.
      3. A commitment to scholarship.
      4. A commitment to work with and learn from colleagues.
      5. Continuing reflection on professional practice.

    In displaying these characteristics, the expectation is that the teacher should have:

      1. designed a teaching programme or scheme of work from a course outline, document or syllabus;
      2. used a wide and appropriate range of teaching and learning methods effectively and efficiently in order to work with large groups, small groups, and one-to-one;
      3. provided support to students on academic issues in a way which is acceptable to a wide range of students;
      4. used a wide and appropriate range of assessment techniques to support student learning and to record achievement;
      5. evaluated their own work with a range of self, peer and student monitoring and evaluation techniques;
      6. performed effectively their teaching support and academic administrative tasks;
      7. developed personal and professional strategies appropriate to the constraints and opportunities of their institutional setting

    Higher Education Teaching

    A list of the major goals of higher education teaching would include such objectives as changing students' factual knowledge and competence in the course material, strengthening various cognitive capacities (e.g., study skills, reasoning, writing and speaking skills), and fostering intellectual appreciation of the subject matter. For many, imparting knowledge and skills to students is the major objective of higher education teaching.

    Teaching offers singular opportunities for the realisation of many important, intrinsic values in life. It enables, indeed requires the teacher to engage in a never-ending pursuit of knowledge. The world of the teacher is a world of learning. The opportunity for self education and for satisfying intellectual curiosity is unmatched in any other profession. It is in the education of others that the teacher finds the secret of his/her own. The teacher’s role in educating others is becoming increasingly profound. We have traditionally thought of the teacher as a dispenser of information. Today he or she must be conceived as something far more than that. The knowledge explosion has forced upon us, fortunately, a new concept of the teacher. It is no longer possible to dispense during the school years all the knowledge that students will need in their lifetime, so we have come to stress "learning how to learn" as the essence of modern education. Thus the new role of the teacher becomes that of stimulating the learner’s curiosity, sharpening powers of independent intellectual discovery, and strengthening the ability to organise and use knowledge. In short, helping the learner acquire lifelong powers of self education.

    The teacher has often been spoken of as an exemplar of fine scholarship, a model scholar whom students may emulate, the very embodiment of his or her discipline. This new role of the teacher as exemplar, far more profound than a role as mere dispenser of information, extends the impact of the teacher on the modes of thought and methods of study of the student throughout life. Thus the teacher is sustained by the challenge of implanting this important intellectual vestige in others. To help in guiding another generation’s chance to grow is perhaps the noblest form of human expression. This is immortality beyond compare and is Obafemi Awolowo remarked, it is "as near to having a share in eternity as one can come in this earthly setting". This is indeed a difficult calling and a high calling. The teacher is blessed with the opportunity to answer this call each day.

    How well have you used this opportunity as a teacher? Table 2.1 gives a comparison between effective and ineffective behaviours of teachers that can used for self assessment of how well you are answering the call as a teacher.


    Table 2.1 Effective and Ineffective Behaviours of Teachers

    Effective behaviours Ineffective behaviours
    Is alert, appears enthusiastic Is apathetic, dull; appears bored
    Appears interested in students and classroom activities Appears uninterested in students and classroom activities
    Is cheerful, optimistic Is depressed, pessimistic; appears unhappy
    Is self controlled, not easily upset Loses temper easily, is easily upset.
    Likes fun, has a sense of humour Is overly serious, too occupied for humour
    Recognises and admits own mistakes Is unaware of, or fails to admit, own mistakes
    Is fair, impartial, and objective in treatment of students Is unfair or partial in dealing with students
    Is patient Is impatient
    Shows understanding and sympathy in working with students Is short with students, uses sarcastic remarks, or in other ways shows lack of sympathy with students
    Is friendly and courteous in relations with students Is aloof and removed in relations with students
    Helps students with personal as well as educational problems Seems unaware of students’ personal needs and problems
    Commends effort and gives praise for work well done Does not commend students; is disapproving, hyper-critical.
    Accepts students efforts as sincere Is suspicious of pupil motives
    Anticipates reactions of others in social situations Does not anticipate reactions of others in social situations
    Encourages students to try to do their best Makes no effort to encourage students to try to do their best
    Classroom procedure is planned and well organised Procedure is without plan, disorganised.
    Classroom procedure is flexible within overall plan Shows extreme rigidity of procedure, inability to depart from plan
    Anticipates individual needs Fails to provide for individual differences and needs of students
    Stimulates students through interesting and original materials and techniques Uninteresting materials and teaching techniques used
    Gives clear, practical demonstrations and explanations Demonstrations and explanations are not clear and are poorly conducted.
    Is clear and thorough in giving directions Directions are incomplete, vague
    Encourages students to work through their own problems and evaluate their accomplishments Fails to give students opportunity to work out their own problems or evaluate their own work
    Disciplines in quiet, dignified, and positive manner Reprimands at length, ridicules, resorts to cruel or meaningless forms of correction.
    Gives help willingly Fails to give help or gives it grudgingly
    Foresees and attempts to resolve potential difficulties Is unable to foresee and resolve potential difficulties

    Let us examine the qualities of the higher education teacher in a little for detail.

    Qualities of the higher education teacher

    A teacher must, of course, have those intellectual qualities associated with his or her role as exemplar of fine scholarship. These include

    1. Make a critical self-evaluation to determine your standing as a teacher using Table 2.1 and the list above as criteria.
    2. Summarise the laws of your state which deal with tenure, salaries, and retirement.
    3. Describe the best teacher you had in the university, stating the characteristics which stand him or her out.




    Send your answers for review by the Guide's Experts Team
    Guide's Expert Team


    At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

    The following suggestions, intended to help you get your class off to a good start, address the three important tasks of the first day: handling administrative matters, creating an open and friendly classroom environment, and setting course expectations and standards.

    Visit the classroom before the first meeting. Locate and figure out how to work the lights, the blinds, and the ventilation. Check any audiovisual equipment (microphone, slide or overhead projector) you will be using. Find out how to obtain help if a bulb burns out or a piece of equipment malfunctions. Try speaking in the room and see how well your voice carries. Make sure your handwriting on the chalkboard is legible from the back row.

    Build a sense of community in the classroom. In general, students learn more and work harder in classes that spark their intellectual curiosity and allow for active involvement and participation. For the first day, plan an activity that provides opportunities for students to speak to one another or solve problems. Students also tend to work harder and respond more positively if they believe the teacher views them as individuals rather than as anonymous faces in the crowd. From the start, then, make an effort to get to know your students and express your interest in working with them during the semester.

    Address students' concerns. Students enter a new class with several questions: Is this the right course for me? Does the teacher seem competent and fair? How much work will be required? How will I be evaluated? Use the first day to help your students understand how the class will serve their needs, and demonstrate your commitment to help them learn.

    Set the tone for the rest of the semester. Greet students when they enter the classroom. Start and finish class on time. Encourage questions, and give students the opportunity to talk. Stay after class to answer questions, or invite students to walk with you back to your office.

    Taking Care of Administrative Tasks

    Take attendance. Call the roll or ask students to sign in. Have a contingency plan if more students than you can accommodate want to enrol. Check with your department to see whether policies exist for preferential enrolment. If your course is an elective, plan on admitting a few more students than you can comfortably accommodate; a small number will end up dropping your course.

    Review any prerequisites for the course. Let students know what skills or knowledge they are expected to have and whether alternate experience or course work will be accepted. Is help available for those who do not have all the prerequisite skills? If computer work is part of the course, will training be provided?

    Define your expectations for student participation. Besides turning in all written assignments and taking exams, what do you expect of students during class?

    Hand out and discuss the course syllabus. Have students read the syllabus and then form groups to identify questions about the course or the teacher. Hearing these questions on the first day lets the teacher know immediately what concerns are uppermost in students' minds.

    Review safety precautions. If your course requires lab work or fieldwork, review safe practices for using equipment and supplies and discuss emergency procedures. Show students how to use equipment safely and appropriately.

    Review emergency procedures. Let students know what to do in case of fire, evacuation, or other emergency.

    Bring copies of the required texts to the first class meeting. Know which stores besides the campus bookstore stock the texts. Are used copies available? Is the textbook on reserve in the library?

    Creating a Positive Classroom Environment

    Introduce yourself to your class. In addition to telling students how you wish to be addressed, say something about your background: how you first became interested in the subject, how it has been important to you, and why you are teaching this course. Convey your enthusiasm for the field and the subject. For many students, the teacher’s enthusiasm about the course material is a key motivator for learning.

    Ask students to fill out an introduction card. Have students indicate their name, address, telephone number, electronic mail address, year in school, and major field. You might also ask them to list related courses they have taken, prerequisites they have completed, other courses they are taking this semester, their reasons for enrolling in your course, what they hope to learn in the course, tentative career plans, and something about their outside interests, hobbies, or current employment.

    Begin to learn student's names. By learning your student's names, you can create a comfortable classroom environment that will encourage student interaction. Knowing your students' names also tells them that you are interested in them as individuals. As you call roll, ask for the correct pronunciation and how the student prefers to be addressed. If your course enrols few students, call the roll for several class meetings to help you learn names. During the term, call students by name when you return homework or quizzes, and use names frequently in class.

    Setting Course Expectations and Standards

    Discuss the objectives of the course. As specifically as possible, tell your students what you wish to accomplish and why, but also ask for what they want to learn from you and what sorts of problems they would like to tackle. Be sure to acknowledge all contributions–your attentiveness to students' ideas will encourage student participation throughout the semester.

    Ask students to list the goals they hope to achieve by taking the course. Have students, in small groups or individually, list three to five goals in the form of statements about knowledge, skills, appreciation, interests, or attitudes. Students can also rank their goals in terms of how difficult they may be to achieve. Use these lists to identify your class's interests and anticipated problem areas. (Source: Angelo and Cross, 1993)

    Describe how you propose to spend class time. How will sessions be structured? How will discussions be organised? Will a specific time be set aside for questions, or may students ask questions as they arise? Should questions requiring a lengthy response be saved for office hours?

    Give your students ideas about how to study and prepare for class. Study strategies are especially important in an introductory class. Give examples of questions students might wish to think about or strategies for approaching the material. Tell students how much time they will need to study for the course, and let them know about campus academic support services.

    If appropriate, give a brief diagnostic pretest. Explain that this "test" will not be graded but is designed to give you information on topics students have mastered and areas in which they need additional review. You could present a list of key concepts, facts and figures, or major ideas and ask students to indicate their familiarity with each. In a writing course you might assign a short essay that will allow you to identify students' strengths and weaknesses.

    Some Hints to Enhance the Profile of the Teacher

    Provided below are some suggestions to enhance your profile as a teacher.

    Giving Clear Explanations


    Making Clear Presentation

    Effective Nonverbal Presentations

    Promoting Student Interest

    Openness to Ideas

    Promoting Rapport

    Effective Communication



    Review the checklist below with some of your colleagues and students. Use it to assess yourself, and other teachers in your department.



    Sensitivity to, and Concern with, Class Level and Progress:

    Preparation; Organisation of the Course:

    Knowledge of the Subject:

    Enthusiasm (for Subject or for Teaching):


    Availability and Helpfulness:

    Impartial Evaluation of Students; Quality of Examinations:

    These phrases could be useful in putting together a mid-term course evaluation while there is still time to make improvements. Collecting feedback at the end of the course is useful as feedback and for evaluation, but mid-term evaluations often are more useful in improving instruction.



    Research and Community Service Profiles of the Higher Education Teacher

    We devoted the last unit to examining how we can discharge our duty as teachers. As you would have noticed, a great part of this module, profiling the higher education teacher, is devoted to discussing teaching functions. Noting that this guide is on teaching and learning, the time investment on discussing teaching would appear justifiable. Yet, research and community service are equally important. Indeed, research is underscored in employment and promotion of academic staff in higher institutions, much more so than teaching and community service in many cases. The ‘publish or perish’ or ‘publish or be damned’ entreaty to academic staff of higher educational institutions, rests largely on the plank of research activities. "Town meets gown" phrase projects community service. We turn attention in this Unit to the attributes of the higher education teacher in research and community service areas.

    At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

    Research Profile of the Higher Education Teacher


    Among the core goals of a higher institution is to extend the frontiers of knowledge through research. The academic staff of the institution are in most cases, given the mandate to pursue this goal. Thus, aside from teaching, the institution expects its academic staff to be actively engaged in research that is ground-breaking. We take research here to mean the process of inquiry leading to the solving of a problem. The problem may be in the sciences, engineering, environment, medicine, social sciences, education or other disciplines.

    Importance of Research to the Higher Education Teacher

    Research is important to the higher education teacher in three major ways. First, it enhances the quality of instruction. A teacher who does little or no research falls back on his or her old lecture notes year after year. Newness is brought about as a consequence of research. Research results generated by the teacher or others in the field form the basis for updating content of lectures and practical work.

    Secondly, engagement in research ensures that the teacher is able to supervise research by his students more effectively. We are called upon every year to supervise the research of our students for undergraduate and/or postgraduate studies in partial fulfilment of a degree or diploma. Changes in research methods, materials, analysis procedures and current literature can only be known by the teacher who is up-to-date in research. Thus, our work and those of the students we are supervising will benefit tremendously by our active engagement in research.

    The third point of note regarding the importance of research to the higher education teacher has to do with promotion. As stated earlier, we are expected to "publish or perish". Promotion is largely based on contribution to knowledge through research and publications. No ‘papers’ no promotion; no research, no ‘papers’. To move up the ladder, we have to be steep in productive research. Productive research here means that which result in articles in refereed journals, books and other scholarly documents.

    1. Reflect on your life as staff in a higher institution. What role(s) did research play in your (a) teaching; and (b) promotion?
    2. Describe ways by which your teaching and promotion would have been enhanced if you had greater opportunity to undertake research.
    3. State other ways by which your service as a teacher has been influenced by your research activities.

    Characteristics of a Good Researcher

    The following are some of the characteristics of a good researcher:

    Ability to identify problems

    Research is about problem solving. Thus, the ability to identify, state and define the boundaries to problems is an important characteristic of a researcher. Premium is placed more on problems of concern to the immediate environment of the researcher. For example, an educational researcher will be applauded for seeking solutions to pressing educational problems within the local community or country. Same goes for agricultural scientists addressing problems faced by farmers in a region or country.

    Ability to design an efficient method of solving the problem

    Problem identification is one thing; the methodology for solving the problem is another. The researcher needs to have the ability to employ an efficient and parsimonious design for solving the problem.

    Resourcefulness in implementing research plan

    No research design or plan is foolproof. During implementation, some unforeseen events may occur demanding changes or modifications to the original plan. The good researcher should be resourceful in making such modifications or changes. Perhaps equipment needs to be improvised or techniques adjusted. It is the good researcher who is able to respond quickly to these challenges.


    Research is the pursuit of truth which comes about as a result of an objective quest. In his or her procedures, data collection and interpretation, the researcher must exercise objectivity, that is, no bias throughout the implementation of the research plan.


    Honesty has to do with reporting one’s observations as truthfully as possible. Data adjustments and fudging to suit pre-conceived theoretical positions are hallmarks of the crooked researcher.


    The researcher ought to keep going on the research plan in spite of delays and disappointments. Difficulties do arise. The researcher never gives up until all the evidence needed for decision making are in.

    Willingness to collaborate with others

    Solo efforts in conducting research are good. Joint and co-operative efforts are better, after all, ‘two heads are better than one’. A good attribute is for the researcher to be able to work as part of a team. He or she should be able to bring knowledge, experience and expertise to bear on a segment of the research project to complement knowledge and skills of the other members of the team. It has been observed that collaborate group research projects receive better evaluation than individual projects.

    Ability to supervise others

    A researcher should be able to effectively supervise the research work of students and junior colleagues.

    Skills in writing winning grant proposals

    Most high-quality research projects are funded by the institution or agencies external to it. Funding agencies receive several proposals for funding from which only a few are chosen. The competition generated by the process demands that researchers are able to write proposals that have high likelihood of winning grants.

    Skills in reporting for publication

    On concluding the research, a report results. For us in academia, the report is usually sent in form of an article to a publication outlet such as a refereed journal. The skill in writing good quality journal articles for publication consideration is an important hallmark of a researcher.

    Use the self-report inventory below to assess your ability as a researcher.

    VG= Very Good

    G= Good

    P= Poor

    VP= Very Poor

    S/No. Characteristic V.G. G. P VP.
    1. Ability to identify problems        
    2. Ability to design efficient research plan        
    3. Resourcefulness        
    4. Objectivity        
    5. Honesty        
    6. Perseverance        
    7. Willingness to collaborate with others        
    8. Skills of writing winning grant proposals        
    9. Ability to supervise research        
    10. Skills in writing acceptable research reports        

    Make note of the areas needing improvement. Make an effort to remedy deficient areas within a convenient time frame.

    Community Service

    It is not enough for the teacher in a higher institution to be concerned only with his or her teaching and research. There is the need to serve the community in other ways. By community we mean both the community within the institution and the community outside it.

    Service within the institutional community

    This includes committee work and membership of task forces, patron to student and staff societies, and office holder of staff societies.

    Service outside the institution

    Examples of service offered by higher education teachers to the community outside the university are:

    1. State the characteristics needed for successful participation in community service.
    2. Prepare a checklist like that developed for research.
    3. Assess yourself and a colleague using this checklist.
    4. How can you improve on your performance on these characteristics?



    In this module, we reviewed the major characteristics of the higher education teacher in the areas of teaching, research and community service. We identified attributes that will ensure success in the three areas. For teaching, we identified the following:

    For research we noted the following as attributes:

    For community service, we noted that committee work and membership of task forces, patron to student and staff societies, and office holder of staff societies are services that can be offered within the institution. Examples of service offered by higher education teachers to the community outside the university are:




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