Professionalism in Further Education: International Perspectives

Liz Atkins, Jonathan Tummons

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Notions of professionalism, and what makes a professional, are problematic in the context of further education teachers, and this is the case both in the UK and across international boundaries. Despite arguments that the FE teacher is, in fact, a ‘dual professional’ (e.g. see Orr, 2008), the ‘Professionalisation’ agenda in England and Wales (Standards Unit, 2004) implied that FE teachers lacked professionalism, and this made them ‘poor’ teachers, something which could be addressed through more rigorous, ‘professional’ standards and training. Similar arguments are now emerging in Australia, where the mandatory ITT qualification for the TAFE (FE) sector is a Certificate IV Training and Assessment, broadly equivalent in level and content to the now defunct PTLLS qualification in England and Wales. This paper explores notions of professionalism UK and Australian contexts with contrasts drawn between voluntarism/regulatory frameworks and professional body frameworks. It is located within a broad range of literature exploring contemporary concepts of professionalism amongst further education teachers, including work by, for example, Gleeson and James (2007), Lucas (2004), Lucas and Nasta (2010), and Tummons (2014a, 2014b). In terms of empirical evidence, the paper reports on data drawn from a documentary analysis of government policy documents, standards for the education of teachers, and regulatory frameworks in both England and Australia. It contrasts the understandings implied through voluntary and professional frameworks, and those published by professional bodies. The paper finds strong similarities between the conception and training for FE teachers in both countries. Documentary analysis implies that whilst there is an expectation and assumption that FE teachers are, and should be, professional, this is not necessarily translated through Initial Teacher Training requirements, some of which fail to address concepts of professionalism at all. Further, it offers evidence to suggest that where notions of professionalism are addressed, the concept is described in largely reductive and utilitarian terms. The paper moves on to consider the implications of this for teachers, students, and wider practice within the sector. It argues that meaningful understandings of the notion of professional, which are effectively applied in practice, are fundamental to broader understandings of key issues in further education, such as those associated with in/equalities and in/exclusion in education contexts. The paper concludes that such understandings are unlikely to be drawn from utilitarian, CBT based teacher-training programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015
EventBERA Annual Conference 2015 - Belfast
Duration: 1 Sept 2015 → …


ConferenceBERA Annual Conference 2015
Period1/09/15 → …
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