Date of Award

Spring 6-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Jason Goulah

Second Advisor

Amira Proweller

Third Advisor

Gonzalo Obelleiro


Under the current neoliberal educational reform movement in the U.S., qualified or “good” teachers are increasingly considered in narrow terms of efficiently delivering content to raise students’ test scores. The primary and secondary literature in the field of Ikeda/Soka Studies in Education, however, considers the notion of a “good teacher” much more holistically, addressing both the “being” (e.g., attitude, disposition, etc.) and the “doing” (e.g., instructional methods, assessment practices, etc.). The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the perspectives among faculty at Soka University of America (SUA) about what constitutes a “good teacher” and “good teaching.” This qualitative, single-site instrumental case study was guided by the following research questions: 1) How do SUA faculty perceive the aim of education and what constitutes a “good teacher,” specifically in relation to their role as teachers, their relationship to students, the purpose of their subject matter, and the influence of institutional culture, policies, and curriculum?, 2) How has their experience at SUA changed/shaped their perspectives?, 3) In what ways do their perspectives converge with or diverge from the primary and secondary, theoretical and empirical explanations of Soka approaches to education?, and 4) What are the implications for teacher education? Data include classroom observations and semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of ten faculty (including one administrator) at SUA. Based on data analysis, three main themes emerged: 1) educating human beings and building character, 2) guiding students to co-create knowledge and meaning, and 3) critical self-reflection and continuous improvement. The institutional factors, such as small class size, low teaching load relative to other institutions, and faculty resources, were important in enabling participants to practice what they believed to be “good teaching” from a Soka perspective. This research has both theoretical significance to derive a more articulate and comprehensive explanation of Soka approaches to education and practical significance to rethink how we educate pre-service teachers in teacher education programs. Specifically, the results of this study suggest that it is important for teachers to critically reflect on their attitude toward their students and their role in guiding students’ learning. The results also indicate the importance of the relational aspect of education, which is often underemphasized in pre- and in-service teacher assessments. We should also reconsider the current overemphasis on teaching instructional strategies to transmit knowledge and adopt methods to help students apply their learning in personally and socially meaningful ways.