A profession is a job, occupation or career that requires specialist training, expertise knowledge as well as ethical behaviour, Total Careers, (2010) Furthermore these professions are governed by law or even through membership of a professional body. These professional bodies are responsible for providing a code of conduct which guides their 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.
The term ‘Profession’ has various meanings albeit have general similar traits. The Australian Council of Professions (2004) defines ‘a profession’ as a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and uphold themselves to, and are accepted by, the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level. It is inherent in the definition of a profession that a code of ethics govern the activities of each profession[al]. Such codes require behaviour and practice beyond the personal, moral obligations of an individual. They define and demand high standards of behaviour in respect to the services provided to the public and in dealing with professional colleagues. Further, these codes are enforced by the profession and are acknowledged and accepted by the community. On the other hand, Pratte and Rury (1991), focus more on status and remuneration in their list of the characteristics of a profession.
“Teaching has been regarded as a secure profession allowing for a great range of personal involvement.” (Spackman. 1991:83) In order to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), teachers must demonstrate a range of evidence known as Standards; these are arranged in three inter-linked sections. “Professional standards are statements of a teacher’s professional attributes, professional knowledge and understanding, and professional skills.” (Teaching and Developing Agency, 2007) The standards are stringent criteria which the trainee have to meet to become an effective teacher.
A teacher is responsible for their own personal life, but this should not be at the expense of the school, nor should undertake any activity or behavioural act which will put the school into disrepute as a teacher is an obvious target for criticism if anything unsavoury occurs. “Teachers know that their reputations have a wider significance than the strictly personal and that their private lives therefore need to stay private.” (Spackman. 1991:88) A teachers’ own integrity and sense of priority is the best guide. “Teachers need to work by a set of common principles not only to safeguard their own professional identities, but in order to protect children.” (Cole. 2005:22)
Calderhead (1996) demonstrates that there are four main 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 the 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 which 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) Therefore a good intuition and ability to act immediately involves skillful action adapted to the context. Through the repeated training and developing of the teacher as a professional, the teacher has developed various specialist and knowledgeable skills. This may not be evident in other jobs which are not deemed to be professional.
However this is counteracted when comparisons are made to other professions such as medicine, law and architecture. Calderhead (1995) claims that in most countries teachers do not have their own professional association which oversees good practice, nor do they have high status and comparatively low salaries. This shows that even though teachers in this country have a high status, the wages are not reflective on the hard-work; knowledge and training they have had to endure. Nevertheless, there are similarities in the professional attributes acquired by teachers shown previously in comparison to doctors, lawyers and architects.
“Learning however should not be confined to the early years of a teacher’s career, and we support the proposed requirement for teachers to keep their skills up-to-date throughout their careers.” (The Royal Society. 1999:2) It is important that teachers are central players in the process of bringing about change within the profession, including the development of the curriculum and teaching methods. To be an effective teacher, they need to demonstrate all aspects of professionalism in their approach and in their classroom.
Zwozdiak-Myers, Whitehead & Capel (2004) believe that Physical Education may distance itself from other subjects, and the teachers also may distance themselves from integral involvement of whole school aims and policies. Although, a responsibility of a PE teacher extend beyond the PE lesson, they have the responsibility to contribute to wider educational aims, which will come from the innate professional attitude and behaviour they should display upon training & employment.
Every teacher has the responsibility to display themselves as a professional role model, with all aspects of school life. This includes the moment they walk into school to the moment they leave. Some may argue that as a teacher even when the teacher is away from the school professional behavior needs to be abided by at all times; in particular if the teacher lives near the school and may get seen by the pupils outside of school hours.
A teacher, no matter which subject they may specialise in, is a teacher of pupils and part of a teachers professional responsibility is to produce a steady supply of well-educated school leavers (Spackman. 1991: 94) Therefore, they are a role model to all the pupils they come into contact with and professional behaviour needs to be displayed at all times, these include occasions such as school trips, fixtures, parents evening, and covering other classes. “A teacher must observe punctuality and appropriate tidiness and dress: it is not possible to demand such behaviour from students if the teacher doesn’t set the standards.” (ESL, 2010) Professional behavior would include smart and suitable attire, the right attitude, using appropriate language to parents, colleagues and pupils and also punctuality all of which set an example to others.
However, as a Physical Education teacher the appropriate attire will differ to those of a classroom teacher and this may have an effect as to how professional they appear to others. Even though they may have the qualifications, expertise and specialist knowledge specifically for their subject, their professionalism may come into question due to their appearance. “Initially, the most obvious indication of your professionalism is your appearance.” (Spackman. 1991:84) Pupils, colleagues and parents are undoubtedly affected by dress. The way you present yourself communicates messages and by looking the part may help you increase confidence to put on an impressive performance. Kirk & Glaister (1992) have the belief that a professional is a combination, of one who holds an occupation and a status, with the latter being conferred by others’ viewpoint, the former being achieved by the individuals’ own achievement and efforts.
The Teacher Training Agency (TTA) demonstrates the exemplifications of professional behaviour and attitudes as examples of a teachers professional values and practice. These are to counteract the problems which can occur if student teachers get too focused on finding evidence for their Standards folder. “As a teacher you should model the sorts of courteous and polite conduct you expect from the pupils.” (Cole. 2002:25) positive behaviours should be demonstrated at all times by the teacher.
To ensure that exemplary behaviours remain in the teaching profession, The General Council for England (2003) have developed the ‘Teachers Professional Development Framework (TPDF)’ (GTC, 2003) See Appendix 2. These guidelines will support the teachers’ reflecting and enhancing their practice, discovering and ‘embedding’ new approaches to teaching and learning and many other developments to support the teachers throughout their career. The benefits of this is that some teachers may go abroad to teach in other cultures and traditions to experience other school systems which they can analyse and compare to their own teaching approach and philosophy. However comparisons to other teachers can be made through CPD training days, courses and do not necessarily have to involve going abroad. (GTC, 2003) As Day, (1999) believes, these experiences can be a natural occurrence with observations in the teachers’ school surroundings. The framework is an advisory guidance to support and develop a teacher to continually enhance and improve their knowledge and skills.
The health and safety legislation has impacted the professional responsibilities of teachers, Spackman (1991). As a professional duty, a teacher is expected to safeguard pupils’ health and safety whilst they are in school. This is also known as ‘locoparentus.’ “The essential point is the existence of the duty of care which binds all teachers.” (Spackman. 1991:9)This is a terminology to describe a teacher who takes the parental role with the absent of the pupils’ parents to look after the pupils’ welfare.
The ‘High Quality PE and Sport’ initiative (DfES, 2005) has set out clear expectations to improve the provision of sport and PE available to young people in schools. One of the Governments aims through this initiative is to increase the fitness and health of young people. The outcomes, (see Appendix 3) is to improve and sustain the quality of sport in schools. This guide is not only used alongside Ofsted and the National Curriculum to ensure the best possible opportunities are given to the pupils in the school, but to also check the quality of the teachers/coaches who are providing the sport to the pupil. Outcome 10, “enjoy PE, school and community sport” (DfES. 2005:3) is also closely linked to the Every Child Matters Agenda (ECM) (2005) outcomes ‘enjoy and achieve’ and ‘be healthy’. This demonstrates the importance that good quality PE has on the effect on the development of pupils in and out of school.
To improve the health and fitness of young people, there has also been the introduction of ‘Healthy Schools Programme’ (NHSP), (2009). This is a joint initiative between Department of Children, Schools & Families (DCSF) and Department of Health (DH) to promote a whole school approach to health. The main benefits which are hoped through this are; “improvement in health and reduced health inequalities; raised pupil achievement; more social inclusion and closer working between health promotion providers and education establishments.” (DSCF, 2009) Subsequently, the long-term benefits and aims are for all young people to be healthy and active at school, again closely linked to the ECM and High Quality PE agendas. The idea is to have raised achievement for all, improved health, reduced inequalities and increased social inclusion. (DCSF, 2009) Schools are pursuing for ‘Healthy Schools’ status by having healthy food available at break and lunch time, the removal of confectionary foods, sugary drinks, no salt available at lunch and water being free and available for the children to drink.
A key characteristic of being a teacher is to reflect and continuously strive to improve practice. This is embedded from the very first year of training and is a predominant feature of a teachers’ daily life. The evaluation of episodes, lessons and even units of work are aimed at improving where no lesson can ever be deemed as perfect. This skill is another key feature of what is deemed to be ‘professional’
Graham (2001) states that teachers need to rely on their own ability to observe the children to determine what is appropriate thereafter. As a teacher it is essential to be flexible throughout their research study so that modifications can be made if deemed necessary. Lockwood & Newton (2004) claim that central to a teachers’ development, it is important to observe and analyse what is happening in their lessons. Even if they are not undertaking a research project, it is vital teachers continually analyse and adapt their practice. Observations are critical to inform the development of each lesson. “What you observe increases the knowledge which you apply your teaching.” (Lockward & Newton, 2004:59) From this, the evaluation/analysis which is written will need to be critical and flexible to facilitate improvements, as the aim of the research is to improve the teaching and learning.
Research undertaken by a teacher can be part of many programmes facilitating and supporting teaching and learning, for example the GTC Scotland have a supported programme to improve the standards of teacher professionalism and teaching & learning. The purpose of facilitating such projects is to encourage “teachers to be collaborators in revising curriculum, improving their work environment, professionalizing teaching, and developing policy.” (Johnson, 1993) Teacher research has its roots in action research.” (Johnson, 1993) This further concludes the necessity of teachers documenting and evaluating their efforts, which action research suitably does. “Teachers engaging in action research attend more carefully to their methods, their perceptions and understandings, and their whole approach to the teaching process.” (Johnson, 1993) The benefit of such is that it will force the re evaluation of current theories and also significantly influence what is known about schooling, teaching and learning.
The professional development of a teacher should be viewed as a lifelong learning process, Katene (2004). This process begins as a student teacher and is continued throughout a teaching career, which is also known as Continued Professional Development (CPD). To be effective at teaching and learning, the CPD needs to be ongoing . Day (1999) argues this by concluding that the learning undertaking by the teacher is a constant renewel of information whether that be from a natural experience of that of a formal occurrence.
“The exact stage at which further professional development is required will vary from individual to individual.” (Spackman. 1991:73) Towards the end of university, areas are identified for further development and others have “received further suggestions” (Spackman. 1991:74), using the TDA transition points. “Teachers’ performance should be viewed in relation to their current career stage and the career stage they are approaching. There are 3 Transition Points which are set at the end of the Initial Teacher Training, the beginning of Induction Period and final transition point is set at the end of the induction period. The relevant standards should be looked at as a whole in order to help teachers identify areas of strength and areas for further professional development.” (TDA, 2007)
The General Teaching Council (GTC, 2003) believe that teachers have the responsibility to continue to develop their teaching from their induction phase even through to the end of their career, with the belief that learning never stops, even as a teacher. ‘Professional Development should be seen as a life-long process, Katene (2004). This is seemingly allured to Kyriacou (1998) who describes Professional Development as a means to develop a persons’ own learning. It is of the utmost importance that as any professional new knowledge and training is gained to maintain the level of expertise which is required in professional careers.
To expand on Day (1999) who believes there is an informal and formal approach to CPD, with informal approaches being those experienced by a teacher in everyday circumstances, which are the natural learning experiences his quote demonstrates. “Learning runs right through a teaching career. It takes place every day, formally and informally, through a wide range of learning experiences, deepening and revitalising teachers’ skills, abilities, values and knowledge.” (GTC. 2002:2) Consequently, formal approaches are required to adhere to new initiatives, requirements and any changes which occur throughout the curriculum. It is of particular interest to Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) to attend many training days throughout their induction year to collaborate with other NQT’’s and share information, experiences and enhance their own teaching practices.
“Evidence demonstrates that teachers who collaborate, learn together, share ideas and model best practice are more likely to remain in teaching. They feel valued and supported in their development and in their work.” (GTC, 2003)
Looking at the previous research, it has to be concluded that to be a professional, and an effective one at that, takes time, dedication and hard-work. To gain the expertise knowledge required to gain a professional status, requires the ability to research, gain knew and build on existing knowledge gained through natural experiences which have personally happened through life and/or through getting a good quality education. It has to be presumed that those who have good quality experiences through school become successful later on in life, through the new initiatives which are powered through school in this generation; these pupils have an even better opportunity “to achieve economic well-being.” (ECM, 2005) Going through extensive training however may make a person become a professional by job status; however it is what a person does once they have left higher education/training to build on the successes they have previously made. Day (1999) has made a powering statement which all those teachers who wish to become an even better teacher/educator to keep renewing, building on and extending their learning, because “learning runs right through a teaching career.” (GTC. 2002:2)