Teacher Professionalism: What does it mean?
My uninformed definition: Teacher professionalism means upholding the teaching practice to the highest standard. It means there is a certifying or accrediting body to ensure quality of education and meet certain criteria like licensure examination for teachers.
When I hear the word professionalism, what comes to mind is the practice of a particular profession, having acquired the necessary degree and passing the board examination. So for me, teacher professionalism is having finished education degree (including alternate route like PTC), passed the licensure examination for teachers, and being inducted into the list of professional teachers.
However, as I read the resources in this module 2, I realized that professionalism is more than that. What more? The very definition, conception and perception of the word professionalism vary across time and space. What is professionalism in one part of the world may have different meaning at the other side of the globe.
If I may recall, as a student then, I think we have high regards of our teachers. In the place that I grew up, teachers were the first professionals. That was why they were given utmost respect and they were called Ma’am and Sir by the locals. In our tribe, my parents also set records as being pioneer of their respective professions, my mother as medical technologist and my father as a lawyer. Even before employment in their respective fields, both my parents taught in our local school. To be a teacher then was really something that the community give recognition to.
But as more natives were educated, preference shifted to pursuing medical courses, law, engineering, accounting, and yes the ever reliable choice which is nursing. Soon everyone wants to be a doctor, an attorney, an engineer, and other professions that are in demands abroad. Sadly, teaching profession was looked down because after all, teachers’ career path was no longer attractive. Now, teachers are seen as overworked and underpaid. Those who choose to stay in the teaching profession either do not have other options or they simply treat their profession as their vocation, a noble profession reserve for the patience and kind hearted.
Now that I am into my pre-service, I am honestly reconsidering why I made the decision to enrol in this program. What were my motivations and why did I think of entering the teaching profession? Reading about our current educational system, and the perennial problems that it faces, I am actually dismayed and the prospect of not continuing comes to mind. But then again, I am taking this challenge as one who can contribute in finding solutions to these problems. After all, I am a parent of three and that makes me a ‘valued’ stakeholder to the educational system. That was actually my number one reason for enrolling courses in education, so I can help teach my children more effectively (because I do not trust their teachers and yes even the system). Ooopppssss….Sorry!
So what is teacher professionalism?
Nihan Demirkasımog˘lu, on his article “Defining Teacher Professionalism from different Perspectives” concludes that “teacher professionalism could be interpreted as a professional work field with its sociological, ideological and educational dimensions aims at achieving the highest standards in teaching profession which is based upon the professional formation, knowledge, skill and values.” In addition, “teacher professionalism is associated with improving the quality and standards of teachers’ works and their public image. Multiple approaches are common in the sense that teacher professionalism means meeting certain standards in education and related to proficiency”(Demirkasimog˘lu, 2010).
David provides for definition of teacher professionalism which is accepted as synthesis of views. These are:
(a) Professions provide an important public service;
(b) They involve a theoretically as well as practically grounded expertise;
(c) They have a distinct ethical dimension which calls for expression in a code of practice;
(d) They require organization and regulation for purposes of recruitment and discipline; and
(e) Professional practitioners require a high degree of individual autonomy– independence of judgment- for effective practice. (David, 2000 as cited by Demirkasimog˘lu, 2010 and Quong, 2016).
In Asian Context, particularly in Hong Kong school system which is dominated by Chinese culture, teacher professionalism is associated with strict adherence to stated codes of conduct or the professional code of ethics. Hence, the community expect teachers to act accordingly since children’s education is entrusted to their care. Indeed, teachers are held to high standards (Quong, 2016.
The Four Notions of Teacher Professionalism (Whitty and Wisby, 2006):
- Traditional – marked by the ‘golden age of teacher’s autonomy’ where teacher is in control of their teaching practices without accountability outside the classroom. They develop their own curriculum and implement their own pedagogy. Parents trust the teacher to provide for the best learning opportunities to their children.
- Managerialist – characterized by a system where decisions about what to teach, how to teach and how to assess is made at school and national level rather than the teachers themselves (Furlong 2005). In addition, this prescriptive view tends to go for one-size-fits-all solutions to problems (Dainton 2005). However, managerialist played a powerful role in marginalising rather than amplifying teachers’ voice.
- Collaborative- this view of professionalism involve teachers working with other professionals, para-professionals and non-professionals from various disciplines. These include, among others, health visitors, general practitioners, social workers, education welfare officers, youth and community workers, education psychologists, speech and language therapists, learning mentors, the police and various local authority officers, as well as school support staff (see Reid 2005). In brief, collaborative professionalism equally applies to inter-professional agreements, where professions work with one another, but to the exclusion of other stakeholders.
- Democratic – includes a wider range of stakeholders, some of whose voices have traditionally been silent in education decision making (Apple 1996). It seeks to demystify professional work and build alliances between teachers and excluded constituencies of students, parents and members of the wider community.
So in essence, the definition of teacher professionalism is dynamic and cannot be confined to a place and time. It continually evolves depending on cultural perspective, political agenda, social and economic pressures. Relating to the Philippine educational setting, we have this Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994 (RA 7836) and the Code of Ethics for Professional teachers. RA 7836 state the professional mandate for teachers and the code of ethics state what is expected from teachers. In addition, teachers’ education curriculum has been overhauled as a move to improve teacher quality and presumably improved quality learning for all students. Then there is this National Competency-based Teachers Standard (NCBTS) as guide for teacher professional development. And just recently, the implementation of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) took effect for all professionals. All these factors affect how one views professionalism and how it is being perceived by others not in the profession.
After studying the resources, has your definition of teacher professionalism changed? Why or why not? If yes, how do you define teacher professionalism now and how is it different from your previous definition?
After studying the resources, my definition of teacher professionalism has changed a lot. From my uninformed definition, I can say that the basic theoretical criteria have been met. Only, I failed to consider the power struggle of how the teacher professionalism has been defined and redefined through the years. Now, I can say that I am more informed about how the old notion of professionalism compares with that new notion or otherwise known as transformative professionalism. Hence, this is how I define teacher professionalism as I attempt to incorporate my learning for this module: teacher professionalism is the practice of teaching, having the knowledge, skills and values, duly certified educational attainment (meet all standards), adherence to a code of conduct, and high degree of autonomy. Autonomy has to do with being a reflective teacher, not easily persuaded or to conform without having a personal stance or belief. Hence, teacher professionalism has to do with having personal agency, practice of profession that can withstand pressures, both from within the profession or outside teaching.
What kind of professional teacher/educator would you like to be in the future?
Given the opportunity to formally enter the teaching profession, I would like to be a critically reflective teacher. At this time, there are just so many theories, approaches and best practices but what is important is for me to always inquire for what is appropriate for the given situation. With that, I will commit to lifelong learning, to professional development, and to building a solid foundation of my knowledge bases. Most importantly, I will always strive to render quality service with learners at the heart of my actions, committed to good morals and socially just education.