This paper examines the interrelationships between teaching beliefs and approaches, instructional design, relationships with students, and academics’ and students’ perceptions of effective teaching and learning. Mixed methodology was utilised and included interviews with academics and students, and questionnaires, inventories, and learning journals. As anticipated educationally optimal instructional design was appreciated by academics and students, however, it was not the most significant aspect in influencing students’ perceptions of ‘good’ or effective teaching. Differences were found between two teaching academics’ beliefs about students and these translated into varied approaches to teaching, interactions with students, and different capacities to establish positive classroom environments and relationships. Academics’ ethic of care and relational acumen were the pivotal components in students’ criteria for effective teaching, which may present a quandary to academic developers. Findings indicate the importance of relational acumen and an ethic of care and may also have significance for university leaders in matching academic teaching activities to faculty strengths and potentially explaining negative student feedback in well-designed units.