Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award

December 1998


The purpose of this study was to describe the moral purposes of successful teachers. Moral purpose was defined as the values and beliefs associated with serving society and serving individuals other than oneself Key informant interviews were conducted with the 18 finalists for Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Interviewees, were asked four basic questions: (1) Why did you choose teaching as a career? (2) How would you describe your moral purpose in teaching? (3) Has your moral purpose changed over time? (4) How would you describe the teacher's role in society? Data were analyzed qualitatively. Detailed profiles of each of the informants and reports of each interview are included. Conclusions were generally consistent with the literature. Teachers expressed several reasons for entering the profession: (1) working with people; (2) serving society; (3) continuing successful school experiences; and (4) desiring to emulate a significant teacher. Teachers described their moral purposes as related to caring, community awareness, lifelong learning, efficacy, and ethics. The teacher's role in society was described in similar terms. Several other important conclusions are described. First, these successful teachers had a sense of destiny with regard to entering the profession. This sense of destiny demonstrated the degree to which these successful teachers value the profession. Second, they described the importance of teachers serving others as role models. Third, most of the teachers suggested that their moral purposes have not changed very much over time even though students and methodologies have changed. Finally, they described community service as an important activity of the successful teacher. Again, these findings were consistent with the literature describing the dispositions of effective teachers. Recommendations for further research are included along with implications for teacher education and for in-service teachers. A model for devising a moral development plan for teacher education units is presented. Another model describes the process whereby in-service teachers can work to describe and develop their moral purposes. This study provides a detailed analysis of how successful teachers described their profession. The attitudes and beliefs underlying these descriptions are of significance to teachers and to teacher educators.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access