Demonstrate a critical awareness of the concept of professionalism as it relates to the current role of the teacher working in the PCET sector
As alluded to in the previous section, professionalism and what it is that technically constitutes a ‘profession’ as opposed to merely an occupation, and what it means to be ‘professional’ has long been in debate. Millerson (1964) compiled a list of characteristics that members of a ‘profession’ should have – these included skills based on theoretical knowledge, education and training, a code of professional conduct and a powerful professional organisation. On this basis, Avis (2006) contends that teachers have never been professionals, merely paid workers. He compares teaching with the professions of medicine and dentistry, who he says can claim autonomy within their profession, have their own professional bodies and are bound by their own rules. Although it has been said that autonomy has traditionally been a key feature of professionalism (Dennison and Shenton, 1990), Elliott (1996) suggests that degrees of autonomy and status of other professions, such as doctors, cannot usefully be compared.
Education is Government influenced rather than wholly autonomous, although there was a period after the Second World War when Le Grand (1997) suggests that there was de facto autonomy (Whitty, 2005), which suggests that teachers had an assumed professional status that was unchallenged. It could be argued though that up until the economic crisis of the 1970’s it suited the Government to adopt a laissez-faire attitude to teaching and allow teachers a form of licensed professionalism (Dale, 1989). If teaching does not possess the core features that technically qualify it to be called a ‘profession’, this raises the question of what it is that affords teachers an assumed status? Hanlon (1998) argues though that “professionalism is a shifting rather than a concrete phenomenon” (1998, p45) and states that teaching is one of a group of occupations that are now commonly thought of as professions, a view shared by Whitty (2005) who purports that “the fact that we normally talk about the teaching profession means that teaching is a profession, even when we cannot tick off those core characteristics listed earlier (by Millerson)” (Whitty, 2005, p65). For Hoyle and John (1995), however, the term ‘profession’ has no common agreement despite its everyday usage and in the instance of teaching Belcher (1999) suggests that “there would probably be disagreements as to status” (Tight, 2002, p88). From the perspective of accepted professions, such as medicine and dentistry, this would be understandable, since they have earned their status rather than assuming it. In the past it has been possible to teach in Further education without having first earned a teaching qualification. Compare this with a doctor or dentist, neither of whom would be permitted to practice without first obtaining the qualification laid down by their professional bodies. It is no surprise therefore that there has been debate around professionalism, what constitutes a profession and what it is to be ‘professional’. To be ‘professional’ as opposed to ‘a professional’ has different connotations altogether. Being professional in this sense refers to a certain expectation of conduct, dress and integrity, behaving ‘professionally’ (Wright and Bottery, 1997). Perhaps it could be said that teaching has been a professional occupation with notions of professionalism, rather than a true profession?
In relation to the current role of the teacher in the PCET sector, there appears to be a sense of an erosion of professionalism that can be tracked alongside the changing political climate from First Way acceptance of teachers as autonomous professionals, through Second Way regulation and management of education and the deprofessionalisation of teachers, to Third Way and ‘reprofessionalisation’ of teaching under a managerialist...
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