Critical Analysis of the Concept of Professionalism in Teaching

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Introduction

The word professionalism has been a topic of research for many years. It has many angles and multiple definitions. In many areas like sports, music, etc. a professional would be a person whose skills and talent would be higher than an amateur. Moreover, professionals in the “classic” fields of law, medicine, and theology have codified rules and expectations for behavior developed over many centuries (Hart & Marshall, 1992).

While teachers may sometimes not consider professionals by society. However, their roles in enhancing society cannot be underestimated. In fact, the classroom teacher is arguably the single most important individual in directing student success. Although authors such as Stronge and Tucker (2000) agree that the teacher is the most important school-based factor in student achievement, there remains uncertainty about what comprises “effective” or “professional” teaching.

Considering the larger picture in literature, Hargreaves has presented the development of professionalism as passing through four historical ages in many countries—the ‘pre-professional’ (managerially demanding but technically simple in terms of pedagogy); the ‘autonomous’ (marked by a challenge to the uniform view of pedagogy, teacher individualism in and wide areas for discretionary decision making); ‘collegial’ (the building of strong collaborative cultures alongside role expansion, diffusion, and intensification); and the ‘post-professional’ (where teachers struggle to counter centralized curricula, testing regimes and external surveillance, and the economic imperatives of marketization) (Hargreaves, 2000a, p. 153).

In this essay, I would be analysis professionalism as an important aspect of education. I will also be considering the challenges and opportunities to exhibit professionalism in the field of education.

What is professionalism

In 1975 Hoyle explained professionalism as 'those strategies and rhetorics employed by members of an occupation in seeking to improve status, salary and conditions' (p. 315)

Professionalism is a multidimensional concept (Evans, 2008). The concept of professionalism has had a metamorphosis throughout history through the interpretations created from social and political contexts (Hilferty, 2008). Critical analyses of professionalism do not stress the qualities inherent in an occupation but explore the value of the service offered by the members of that occupation to those in power.' Troman (1996, p. 476). Professionalism is not an absolute or an ideal but is an 'a socially constructed, contextually variable and contested concept ... defined by management and expressed in its expectations of workers and the stipulation of tasks they will perform. Congruent with this are Gleeson et al.'s (2005, pp. 445-446) highlighting of contextual relevance to conceptualization, and Holroyd's (2000, p. 39)

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As I interpret this is that professionalism is not a social-scientific requirement, however, it has undergone a major change depending on the need and requirements of the times. Professionalism in modern society refers to ideas, aspirations, moral duties, rules of conduct, and practice. Professional individual holds a prestigious position in society as the service they provide is vital to those who receive it. Professionals not only provide the service but also make profound decisions that affect a vast variety of people without their consent or knowledge. They make these decisions based on their vision and expertise for creating a better society. The service provided by the professionals is highly appreciated and valued and hence they receive respect and status in society.

Is it appropriate to regard teachers as professionals?

As mentioned earlier and from some of the definitions in the literature about professionalism suggests that professionalism is the improvement of status, salary, and conditions (Evans, 2008). This is true in the teaching profession career. There is a progression in salary and status from trainee teachers, newly qualified teachers to experienced teachers. There is a great amount of mentoring support for trainee teachers or newly qualified teachers so they to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Sachs (2003) identifies two contrasting forms of professional identity: (1) Entrepreneurial, which she identifies with efficient, responsible, accountable teachers who demonstrate compliance to externally imposed policy imperatives with consistently high-quality teaching as measured by externally set performance indicators. This identity may be characterized as being individualistic, competitive, controlling and regulative, externally defined and standards-led: and (2) Activist, which she sees as driven by a belief in the importance of mobilizing teachers in the best interests of student learning and improving the conditions in which this can occur. In this identity, teachers will be primarily concerned with creating and putting into place standards and processes that give students democratic experiences.

The former, she argues, is the desired product of the performativity, and managerialism agendas while the latter suggests inquiry-oriented, collaborative classrooms and schools in which teaching is related to broad societal ideals and values and in which the purposes of teaching and learning transcend the narrow instrumentalism of current reform agendas.

As a result of analysis and critiquing of different discourses of professionalism and professionalization in a post-modern age, Hargreaves and Goodson propose seven principles that provide an alternative to current reform agendas: (1) Increased opportunity and responsibility to exercise discretionary judgment over the issues of teaching, curriculum, and care that affect one's students. (2) Opportunities and expectations to engage with the moral and social purposes and value of what teachers teach, along with major curriculum and assessment matters in which these purposes are embedded. (3) Commitment to working with colleagues in collaborative cultures of help and support as a way of using shared expertise to solve ongoing problems of professional practice, rather than engaging in joint work as a motivational device to implement the external mandates of others. (4) Occupational heteronomy rather than self-protective autonomy, where teachers work authoritatively yet openly and collaboratively with other partners in the wider community (especially parents and students themselves), who have a significant stake in students’ learning. (5) A commitment to active care and not just anodyne service for students. Professionalism must in this sense acknowledge and embrace the emotional as well as the cognitive dimensions of teaching and also recognize the skills and dispositions that are essential to commit and effective caring. (6) A self-directed search and struggle for continuous learning related to one's own expertise and standards of practice, rather than compliance with the enervating obligations of endless change demanded by others (often under the guise of continuing learning or improvement). (7) The creation and recognition of high task complexity with levels of status and reward appropriate to such complexity (Hargreaves & Goodson, 1996, pp. 20–21).

In addition to a system that involves a series of rewards and achievements. By Barber’s

definition, teachers would also be considered professionals. Teachers provide an essential service to the community by educating children (Demirkasımoğlu, 2010). They follow a set standard known as the Teaching Standards (TS) (see appendix 1), which set rules and regulations that teachers are upheld against.

- Reflective Practitioner

  • Develop students’ ability to analyze their own values, beliefs, and ideologies and the influences that have shaped these;
  • Enhance students’ understanding of a range of general professional issues connected with schools and their communities, the curriculum, and teaching and learning;
  • Define the concepts of professionalism, reflection, and reflective practice using existing literature in this field and develop informed personal philosophies on what constitutes professionalism and reflective practice in education;
  • Articulate the values beliefs and ideologies that have shaped their own conceptualization of professionalism and reflection in professional practice;
  • Critically evaluate these values, beliefs, and ideologies and those of others and demonstrate an understanding of how they might have shaped past and present policy and practice in education and go on to shape future policy and practice;
  • Review existing research on education, schools, and their wider communities, the curriculum and teaching and learning, and use evidence-based practice to review their own perspectives on education;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of Continuing Professional Development and articulate personal aspirations for their future career.
  • Review a range of recent and relevant literature, using correct referencing procedures i.e. the Harvard system, and use this developing body of knowledge to inform personal practice;

Reference:

  1. Andy Hargreaves (2000) Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning, Teachers and Teaching, 6:2, 151-182, DOI: 10.1080/713698714
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Critical Analysis of the Concept of Professionalism in Teaching. (2023, July 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-the-concept-of-professionalism-in-teaching/
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