Professionalism in education [Archives:2008/1136/Education]

March 10 2008

Dr. Ramakanta Sahu
Professionalism literally means 'the behavior, skill, qualities special conventions, forms of politeness etc. associated with a certain profession or shown by a professional.' An important part of being professional is adopting an open, questioning approach to the field in which we work, including our own contribution to it. Half of the battle of becoming a professional is your perceptions, your self-esteem and what you desire from life. It depends on whether you want:

– to be a worker or a leader

– a job or a career.

Education is a complex human process. Excellence in education is achieved when the teacher becomes a reflective practitioner, possesses the academic and professional background necessary to perform at the highest level. Professional development is most effective when the teacher conducts himself through reflective practice and judges the value of training and development activity in terms of its impact on teaching and supporting learning. For this purpose the teaching practitioner must make professional development plans which should clearly articulate his needs, set measurable objectives that reflect the teaching context, fulfilling the needs of the employer.

Professional development is a continuous process that adds value throughout a teaching practitioner's career. It is most successful when undertaken as an integral element of the teacher's routine, rather than seen by him as an additional burden. The main element is a commitment to quality education based on sound pedagogic insight. The primary approach to the nature of professionalism includes

– the use of skills based on theoretical knowledge

– a code of professional conduct oriented towards the 'public good'

– a powerful professional organization.

Millerson (1964)

The teacher holds a position of professional status in the school because he has established himself as an authority in some aspects of the culture of the community. His job is to be a path finder and lead others into what is regarded as worthwhile. In order to fulfill this role, teachers need to be competent in their field and flexible in their outlook and approach. Being an effective teacher depends on the ability to integrate the people skills, teaching skills and subject knowledge as well as applying them imaginatively and creatively.

Danielson (1996) has proposed a framework for teachers' efficient handling of professional responsibilities.

A model teacher

1. Reflects on teaching. He makes accurate reflections and decides how to improve for the future. There are different levels of decision making in education. Even in the classroom, apart from the teacher, the active role of students themselves is increasingly recognized an important correlate in the development of appropriate learning ends.

2. Maintains accurate records: He maintains a record wherein he includes students' completion of work and different stages of progress of learning.

3. Communicates with families: He keeps the parents posted about the instructional program and the students' progress, positive or negative. He seeks active participation of parents in monitoring progress of their children.

4. Contributes to the school and community: He includes in his personal agenda activities related to volunteering, cooperating, supporting, contributing and leading-in relationships at the school and district, and activities within the surrounding community.

5. Grows and develops professionally: A teacher aiming at highest standards of professionalism seeks opportunities to develop professionally through improving content knowledge and pedagogical skills and contributes back to the profession through presenting responses to suggest positive ways forward.

[Danielson, C (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A Framework for Teaching. Alexandria: Association for Supervision of Curriculum Development.]

What a model teaching professional needs is

– to have higher expectations of himself and of all pupils

– to accept accountability

– to take personal and collective responsibility for improving their skill and subject knowledge

– to seek to base decisions on evidence what works in school internationally

– to theorize from classrooms

– to work in partnership with other staff in the school

– to have an open mind to constructive suggestions made by parents and others outside a school

– to welcome change and promote innovation.

Such professionalism can hardly be achieved by a teacher who is impatient to get quick results. Professionalism grows into a teacher in slow degrees. His aims eventually develop and his convictions crystallize through experience as he gives time to think about them. Appropriate teacher training capsules needs to be developed to meet the needs of teachers aiming at achieving quality in education which is its mainstay.