Key Elements of Professionalism and Ethics in Teaching

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Key Elements of Professionalism and Ethics

There exists much literature that discusses whether teaching could be classed as a profession, as opposed to being compared to a technical trade. According to Barbara Preston, professional practice “ requires the exercise of complex, high level judgements… various mixes of specialised knowledge; high level cognitive skills; sensitive and sophisticated personal skills; broad and relevant background and tacit knowledge…it is this professional judgement that distinguishes professional work from technical work.” (1993, p. 8)

In addition to these attributes, it is important to note that the term professionalism inherently contains within it, the requirement to maintain professional standards and codes of ethics. Professional practice requires the constant updating of knowledge and skills through; collegiate collaboration, and meeting clear and concise high-level competencies as defined by relevant associations and recognised academic institutions. This, however, does not constitute representative organisations’ monopolising of the responsibility for and the control over the determination of the criteria for practice, policy decisions regarding the nature and direction of practice, and curriculum development for professional education. (Preston, 1993, p. 10).

Teaching today is largely an autonomous affair, requiring teachers to demonstrate a high level of ethical behaviour. Ethics or ethical behaviour embraces “values relating to morality and what is considered to be ‘the right thing to do’.” (Groundwater-Smith et al. 2007, p. 332). Professional ethics in teaching may be shaped by the philosophy and ethos of a school (Whitton et al. 2010), and the general community at large. Like many other professions, teachers’ organisations and associations have developed a written code of ethics that forms the basis of ethical behaviour. The code is based upon; respect, caring, integrity, diligence and open communication...
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