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During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the term 'profession' was used in relation to religion, law and medicine but not to teaching. Teacher professionalism began to emerge after the 1902 Education Act, with the growth of the number of training colleges, and recognition of the changing character of education during the early part of the twentieth century, which led to demands for more advanced teacher training. (Gillard, 2005)
Gillard's thoughts on the historical aspects of professionalism are similar to Hargreaves' four ages of professionalism:
The pre-professional age:
Schooling developed as a factory-like system segregated by age, where the basic methods of teaching included lecturing and note-taking.
Teachers worked with large groups and few resources, trying to maintain attention, cover content, motivate students, and control classes.
Teachers received no feedback on their practice and only changed and improved through trial and error.
The age of the autonomous professional
Teacher status improved from 1960, and teacher education became embedded in universities; teaching became an all-graduate profession.
Some teachers attended workshops and courses but were unable to share what they had learned in unsupportive workplaces, they became Isolated and separate from colleagues. Interaction was based on materials, discipline and student problems, rather than curriculum goals, teaching behaviour or classroom learning.
The age of the collegial professional
During this age teachers were encouraged to work with colleagues to improve their knowledge and expertise. Teachers were starting to turn to each other for professional learning, although learning new skills needed more time and effort.
The education system was changing, which required increased efforts to build strong cultures of professional collaboration to respond to rapid change, leading to a stronger sense of teacher efficacy.
The fourth age - post-professional or postmodern
With the fourth age came the centralized curricula, paper trailing, and strict testing regimes, which teachers are now reluctant to carry out. Tests such as the SATs in England have recently been boycotted.
"The number of schools backing the boycott ranged from 30 per cent to 75 per cent". (Garner, 2010)
Competitive salaries for all teachers and Performance reward initiatives were introduced.
There is now more collaboration within schools, with other schools, parents and the wider community, but time is needed for collaboration, planning and marking, and this needs to be built into teachers' directed time.
Professionalism means different things to different people, however, professionalism is more complex than the traditional view which centres on the classification, organization and occupational role; in that, there are particular significant features which are frequently referred to. These usually include specialist knowledge, autonomy and responsibility. Therefore, professionalism suggests that such characteristics are evident in a person's work. (Kennedy, 2007)
With the concept of professionalism in education comes professional identity, and how teachers identify themselves as teachers.
Forde et al, (2006) suggest that teacher identity is not always closely connected to the role of being a teacher; a person's values, beliefs, attitudes, feelings and understandings also play a major role in forming professional identity, as does personal history, ethnicity and culture, therefore, personal identity also plays a part.
Student teachers in Forde's study identified factors contributing to the development of professional identity as:
Individual concepts about the role
Location: identification with the school
Professional relationships with pupils and parents
Relationships with other staff
Being responsible for pupils' learning
Interacting with like-minded people
The influence of individual personality
Sense of professional community
Feedback from pupils, teachers, principle teachers and others. (Forde et al. 2006, p35)
If teachers and student teachers feel that relationships with pupils, parents and other staff and professionals are an important factor in forming one's professional identity, and that teachers should be listening and learning from others, subsequently there is a greater need for collaboration and participation, not just among teachers and professionals, but also within schools and classrooms to promote effective learning, and a sense of identity, and belonging.
It is suggested by Kennedy (2007), that teachers should try to learn from parents as well as having parents learn from them - shared homework assignments, focus groups for parents to share their concerns; teachers need to listen and learn, not argue and defend.
According to Gillard, (2005), a third of all teachers contemplated leaving the profession because of the amount of work, too many initiatives, rigid testing, and a curriculum imposed be the government.
Authors such as Story and Hutchinson (2001), Gillard (2005), and Wong, (2006), suggest that teachers have been losing their status over the years and need to reclaim their professionalism.
The burden of a Curriculum imposed and defined by the government, such as the National Curriculum in England, and the 5 - 14 curriculum in Scotland, has resulted in the further reduction of teachers' individual freedom in curriculum matters. Teachers can decide how to teach, but not what to teach.
'Teachers at the front line, who better understand the needs and limitations of their students, are being excluded from curriculum development'. (Wong, 2006, p29)
Gillard (2005) says that children deserve a better deal, and only well-trained, professional teachers have the knowledge, understanding and expertise to supply this, by way of innovation, imagination, continuous research, CPD and lifelong learning.
CPD plays an important role in shaping professional identity, along with collegiality and collaboration; however, some award-bearing courses such as the Chartered Teacher (CT) can cause conflict and resentment, with some colleagues unwilling to cooperate. (Forde et al. 2006)
In Scotland, teachers have a professional obligation to develop their skills and expertise through an agreed programme of continuing professional development (CPD) by way of an additional contractual 35 hours of CPD per year. (SEED, 2001) Therefore, it is a teacher's duty to take part in meaningful CPD, to further their development and professionalism, and improve their own, and their pupils' learning.
Teachers of the 21st Century, who engage in meaningful collaboration to build a system, who are continuously designing, implementing and evaluating new teaching strategies to improve teaching and learning, have the potential to re-professionalise the teaching profession, however, it will not be an easy task for teachers to 'reclaim the radical agenda because power is a narcotic and politicians have become addicted to it'. (Gillard, 2005 p179)
It is time for teachers to demand their freedom. 'You cannot have it both ways - the right to interfere, and the right to expect initiative and imaginative leadership' (Lester Smith, 1957). (Gillard, 2005 p179-180)