Recognition of professionalism

4th August 2006 at 01:00
Nigel Newton raises some interesting issues in his column (FE Focus, July 14). He is, however, somewhat harsh in his observation that the rich diversity of "other vocational backgrounds" is a significant factor, denying teachers in the post-compulsory sector recognition of their professionalism.

One suspects that even doctors, whose professional status he rightly highlights in direct comparison to the plight of teachers in our sector, are best trained and educated by teachers who have excelled in medicine before developing a second career in teaching. It is exactly this dual identity that is the hallmark of professionalism in post-compulsory education and training.

We need highly skilled and experienced individuals from business, commerce and industry who, having excelled in their vocational or academic specialism, choose to pass on their skills and expertise to learners. We need to invest heavily in these people, through high quality initial teacher training and career-long professional development linked to their individual needs as teachers.

The centrality of the teacher in the continuous professional development process is an important element of the Institute for Learning's model of professionalism. It places equal importance on the continuous development of subject expertise and teaching expertise and, through informed reflective practice, focuses on subject pedagogy and measuring the benefit of professional development in terms of the impact on teaching and learning. It presents significant challenges for employers in that traditional approaches to "staff development" may not mesh with the individual focus inherent in teacher-centred "professional development".

The point about professional status being in "lecturers' hands" is well made, if not a little narrow in terms of the teaching and learning environment extending well beyond the confines of college classrooms and workshops.

Teachers must grasp the importance of both aspects of their dual professional identity. How many of us, fresh from the release of completing teacher training, see ourselves as subject specialists who happen to have a teaching role? Only when we value ourselves as teachers and strive, through CPD and reflective practice, to be the best teacher we can, will we win the mantle of "professional".

Lee Davies Development manager Institute for Learning 18-20 St Andrew Street London EC4

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