A profession is a job, occupation or career that requires specialist training, expertise, knowledge as well as ethical behaviour. Professions are also normally governed by law or even through the membership of a professional body. These professional bodies are responsible for providing a code of conduct which guides professional behaviour. Within the teaching profession there are several teaching unions which teachers have to subscribe to, as part of that union they will represent the teachers if any issues arise. We also have the association of physical education (AfPE) and the Youth Sports Trust (YST) that guide and inform practice. Not to mention Ofsted who guide how schools are measured and assessed.
Characteristics of a Professional
Calderhead (1996) identify a range of characteristics which exemplify teachers to be a professional. Firstly, teachers possess a body of knowledge acquired through extensive training and experience. As with other professionals such as doctors and lawyers, teachers rely upon this breadth of specialist knowledge in their daily work. A second feature for professional activity is goal orientation, a teacher’s activity is orientated towards the education of pupils. A teacher, more than any other profession is answerable to many outside agencies and people which govern what a teacher does. There are high expectations for a teacher such as exam results which often pressures and influences the actual goal in what a teacher aims to achieve.
Calderhead (1995) further explains the issues that teachers have to face are often ambiguous and complex, and professionals must use their expert knowledge to analyse them, make judgements and formulate a course of action accordingly. Such knowledge would be attained from the extensive training which a teacher has had to experience prior to their career and also during their career with up to date training courses to keep their knowledge and understanding current. “Teachers must use their knowledge to cope with a constant barrage of complex situations.” (Calderhead. 1995:136). With these complex situations ever-changing as society, schools, staff and pupils change.
So professional development is key in ensuring teaching and teachers remain a profession and professionals by facilitating the necessary pedagogical, curriculum and assessment changes required to respond to societal needs.
“Learning however should not be confined to the early years of a teacher’s career, and teachers need to keep their skills up-to-date throughout their careers.” (The Royal Society. 1999:2). But this is often not the case with more experienced teachers undertaking less and less professional development as their careers progress with the exception of mandatory training and leadership courses perhaps.
Armour and Yelling (2007:177) also state that “teachers in their professional learning communities or networks [need to] play a leading role”. But formal professional development opportunities are not always designed and structured to be personalised and co-constructed. This has meant that blanked professional development is not really servicing the needs of teachers which can lead to teachers seeking out advice and guidance in relation to their needs in other means, such as twitter and other social media platforms.
Online Professional Development
Social media platforms are often the go to place to get timely advice and support, but they are unregulated and so it leaves the user to identify the credibility and applicability of advice and suggestions. Having said that, it is free with no cover costs and is responsive the personal challenges each teacher is experiencing utilising colleagues for support. However, Armour and Yelling (2004) and Connolly and James (1998) argue that one-day professional development courses are unlikely to have a lasting impact upon teachers’ practice. So, how could an online interaction have a lasting impact either?
One thing is clear professional development in the 21st century needs to be re-imagined. There is a place for all types of learning whether that be through social media, once day or twilight face to face professional development or longer more embedded approaches. But professional development needs to utilise these mediums to better effect, how can professional development reach more teachers and respond to the personalised developmental needs of teachers. What is delivered and how and over what medium needs to be considered more carefully. Education is continually changing and so to therefore should the professional development approaches we use and utilise.