Miscellaneous / Is Teaching A Profession?
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Autor: anton 30 April 2011
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"All professions have an identifiable knowledge base. Teaching has no such knowledge base, therefore, it is not a profession" Discuss this statement.
There are different characteristics of what a profession entails of. Some characteristics, such as full graduate training are based on the more known professional modes such as law, medicine and engineering. The majority of critics have agreed on the similar aspects of an occupational group acquiring: a knowledge base, expertise in their field, a sense of autonomy and responsibility which makes them a profession. In regards to teaching, it has sufficient evidence to produce these requirements which enables them to be recognised as a profession in society.
Professions are known to have the power to maintain society and to be capable of providing the necessary services for people who are unqualified to evaluate situations. To provide service to society, it requires knowledge. With any occupational group known as a profession, they must be able to have a knowledge base which contains technical language and specialised knowledge that is above the norm of people in society. This knowledge base would enhance the power and status of any profession within a society. A knowledge base comprises of having higher education training preferably from a degree level. Through this training, it contributes to a student's knowledge base by building on a subject of a specified field which in turn, would be able to apply this subject content intelligently when he/she becomes Ð’â€˜professional' in their occupation. Different knowledge bases for different occupations depend on the content being taught in higher education and training. As the content and ideas of each subject are different according to the study being partaken, it shows that the knowledge is unique and is developed for a specific occupation.
Another approach towards an occupation becoming a profession consists of a knowledge base through experiences of practical work. Individuals would learn while working as they will consider research for their projects or observe the problems occurring in the workplace. The development and understanding of this research and observation leads to further creation of a knowledge base in their occupation. The individual will become an expert in their field, hence being professional.
With a profound knowledge base, an occupation who wishes to become a profession is then needed to use their knowledge to implement decisions, which is what's called autonomy.
Autonomy, another characteristic of what makes up a profession is the permission to exercise power based on their specialised knowledge in their field. Lieberman
(1956, p. 89) says that Ð’â€˜professional autonomy refers to the scope of independent judgement reserved to professional workers because of their expert skill and knowledge'. With this sense of autonomy, an occupation which has the required expertise can utilise this power over other individuals who aren't credited to have an opinion about a particular field. For a professional to implement their power, they would have come to realise the responsibilities in making a decision. Based on their knowledge through study and training of the field, they are able to apply it to an individual or society's problems. This knowledge can come in the forms of personal knowledge, which is experienced events during other working periods or public knowledge made from professional education. To have authority is to have power, which professions want to acquire. If there are no individual decisions being used or permissible, there is no autonomy which will lead to no profession. There may be difficulties in which autonomy is hard to determine. For example, the determination of the amount of expertise is needed in a situation is needed to solve the problem. Occupations regarded as a profession have obtained a code of ethics which is used to protect professionals from their clients. These codes of ethics are standards in which professions need to be accountable for when working in their practice. It considers the interactions between clients, the community, competence and qualifications of workers.
For an occupation to become a profession they need to be able to produce these characteristics of uniqueness which will lead to increasing their identity in society. From what makes up a profession, teachers are able to; under this criterion with other additional features become what is called a profession.
Teachers and education have gone through changes in which their identity of being a profession has either been deprofessionalised or improved to suit society's and the occupation's needs. It has been increasingly more evident that teaching is a profession.
Throughout the history of teaching, there has been progress, which gives reason to consider that teaching is a profession. The "old teaching profession" (Sachs, 2003, p. 8) includes teachers being given an exclusive membership. This notion of membership means that only people within this occupational group are permitted. Membership becomes restricted to individuals who meet their standards, just like other professions such as doctors. The disadvantage of this was that it was too slow to react to the changing demands of society of inclusion and exclusion of individuals. Although teaching does have the traditional feature of professions, it also has the negative effect which, in end, brought the fall of the old teaching profession and introduced several improvements to identify teaching as a profession.
An improvement of teaching has been identified within their knowledge base. Knowledge is essential for a professional group. The knowledge which is unique is obtained in various ways. One way is the preparation of teachers through higher education. In the long run this will provide teachers with different knowledge, skills and professional values entitled to become professionals. The amount of theory which comes into play for enough knowledge in a profession comes in 2 different forms: the subject content and theoretical models.
To compare a teacher's theory to the other known professions, there are specific subject content in education which includes psychology, sociology, philosophy and the history of education. This claims that teachers do have knowledge, based on theory. Gage (1978) (cited by Hoyle & John, 1995 p. 44) has supported this view by acknowledging that teaching is similarly based on scientific knowledge. When this knowledge is used it is relying on the predictability and the validity from this theory. On the other hand, Burrage & Torstendahl (1990, p. 148) implies that teacher professional knowledge does not require the high level theories that other professions are needed to obtain, such as the medical profession. It is also supported by the fact that Tom (1992) (cited by Hoyle and John, 1995, p. 49) believes that if you have this scientific theory, it does not help the teacher at all to make decisions within the classroom. Alternatively, the theoretical model, developed for the use of teachers to gain knowledge such as teaching techniques from other perspectives of individuals within the profession can prove to be a useful theory resource for teachers when in practice. This view is limited to the amount of resources due to the unwillingness of individuals to publish their experiences for teachers. These views of theory are extended to the point where there are other forms of knowledge also needed for teachers which makes it more unique compared to other professions.
Practical theory, which is an essential factor for teachers, is another form of acquiring knowledge. Teachers' knowledge through experiences in their practice becomes an intuitive, creative and highly personal in nature knowledge, which McNamara and Desforges (1978) and McIntyre (1992) (cited by Hoyle and John, 1995, pp 44) identifies this knowledge as Ð’â€˜craft knowledge'. The reason for this implementation is because the theory explained earlier was insufficient to rely on when in practice. This knowledge is highly an issue as to what work do teachers really do professionally, but teachers in this profession would disagree by arguing that most of their knowledge, based from classroom situations help them in order to survive and work professionally. Teachers are able to develop more of the theoretical knowledge ranging from teaching techniques to classroom management through past experiences. In support of this, Yinger (1987) (cited by Hoyle and John, 1995, p. 62) reinforces the idea of using past experiences by stating that teachers carry a collection of information from past experiences, and implement it in difficult situations.
This knowledge is a unique characteristic which is identifiable and defines teaching as a profession. Some have argued that this knowledge is Ð’â€˜common sense'. Bennett & Kockenstade (1973) (cited by Hoyle and John, 1995 p. 8) insist that the knowledge based on experiences of teachers that they've accumulated is not formalised knowledge. In contrast, Schon (1987) (cited by Diessner, 1997, p. 7) demonstrates that teachers in particular face unique problems regularly. The theoretical knowledge is not enough in this notion; hence common sense is a solution for these problems.
Overall, the subject content, theory models and practical theory are needed to be implemented alongside each other for teachers to become successful in the classroom and to become a strong and identifiable profession. To be able to use this knowledgeable power creates responsibility in what they do. This leads to the autonomy aspect of the teaching profession.
The autonomy of the teaching profession has gone through a large number of changes as McLaughlin (1997) (cited by Sachs, 2003, p. 14) suggests the shifting away from political constraints, giving teachers more control of their needs. The principles of autonomy still hold for the teaching profession. The theoretical, practical and case knowledge inform and direct teachers through practice to reduce the amount of ambiguity in making selections. (Schulman, 1998, p.17) Autonomy for teaching is becoming professionally responsible for the actions that teachers choose. If to exercise this responsibility wrongly it will lead to decreasing the reputation of teachers which weakens their status of being a profession.
Teaching to some extent, is a non routine profession where a situation can happen constantly. This clearly demonstrates that teachers have the special knowledge along with the responsibility to make judgements immediately.
By having a government body for teaching, it raises issues on how much autonomy do teachers individually have. Teachers under this government control will lack direct and personal responsibility to their clients, the community, as the quality of service of teaching is taken over. The people in the government are made up of what Lieberman (1956, p. 92) calls Ð’â€˜lay people'. These people are not members of the profession. By delegating a large amount of professional power to these individuals creates less autonomy for teachers in areas of entry and expulsion. When these individuals have too much power, this will in the long run turn to serious mistakes within the teaching profession which happens similarly to other professions. The teaching profession standards become lower due to the low levels of professional techniques being used. Despite all the control of the government of aspects of autonomy, the teacher still has decisions that can be made as a professional group, for example, the materials to be used in teaching. There are many factors that should be taken to account in selecting textbooks such as the reading level of text, style and format of the book and the way a particular book compares to others in the same category. This sense of judgement illustrates a great deal of specialised knowledge to determine how students use these books. This, in end, requires the teacher to have professional training and experience to be able to make such decisions.
Although there is a great number of power assigned to government bodies, teachers still have enough power to make decisions based on their expertise in the profession. When a professional decision is needed to be made by the government body, there should be an emphasis of encouraging suggestions from society and individuals within the profession to improve issues and control the profession.
In addition, the teaching profession has improved more recently due to the greater involvement of teachers collaborating with other educational stakeholders to put together professional development. The National Schools Network for example is a project which helps strengthen the knowledge base of the teaching profession between teachers and academics (Sachs 200, p. 23). On another note, there are also other ways of improving the teaching profession such as participation, collaboration, cooperation and activism. These initiatives should be able to renew and develop the teaching profession and become widely identified with other professions.
In conclusion, teachers have the necessary knowledge which is highly unique to other professions. With that said, teachers are able to apply this specialised knowledge to decisions in the classroom. Although there may not be as much reliable knowledge available compared to other professions, the skills and techniques of teachers can still be able to produce the service that is needed for the community. There are also considerations as to how much autonomy is given to the government, to the teachers, and the amount of input from individuals outside the profession is being taken account of. Therefore, under these principles of what is a profession, teachers have the required aspects, hence teaching is a profession.
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