The design and utility of institutional teaching awards: a literature review

Med Teach. 2012;34(11):907-19. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.731102. Epub 2012 Oct 30.


Background: Institutional teaching awards have been used widely in higher education since the 1970s. Nevertheless, a comprehensive review of the literature on such awards has not been published since 1997.

Aim: We conducted a literature review to learn as much as possible about the design (e.g., formats, selection processes) and utility (e.g., impact on individuals and institutions) of teaching awards in order to provide information for use in designing, implementing, or evaluating award programs.

Methods: We searched electronic databases for English-language publications on awards for exemplary teaching. Targeted publications included descriptions and/or investigations of award programs, their impact, and theoretical or conceptual models for awards programs. Screening was conducted by dual review; a third reviewer was assigned for disagreements. Data were analyzed qualitatively. Results were summarized descriptively.

Results: We identified 1302 publications for initial relevancy screening by title and abstract. We identified an additional 23 publications in a follow-up search. The full text of 126 publications was reviewed for further relevance. A total of 62 publications were identified as relevant, and of these 43 met our criteria for inclusion. Of the 43, 19 described the design features of 24 awards; 20 reports discussed award utility. Nomination and selection processes and benefits (e.g., plaques) varied as did perceived impact on individuals and institutions.

Conclusion: Limited evidence exists regarding design and utility of teaching awards. Awards are perceived as having potential for positive impact, including promotions, but may also have unintended negative consequences. Future research should investigate the impact of awards on personal and professional development, and how promotion and tenure committees perceive awards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Awards and Prizes*
  • Faculty*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Program Evaluation
  • Teaching*
  • Universities*