Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 1/1.3.2

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Professionalism Vs. Teaching[edit]

By: Beverly Bryan bbrya001

Learning Objectives

- Students Should Be Able To Determine What Makes A Professional

- Students Should Be Able To Clearly Understand Why There Is A Debate About The Professional Status Of Teachers

- Students Should Be Able To Decide For Themselves If A Teacher Should Be Considered A Professional


Though at first it may seem surprising, the debate of whether or not teaching should be given the status of professional career exists. Through this article, we will explore what qualities constitute being a professional. Why wouldn’t someone who has dedicated his life to instructing students be given the status of professional? Hasn’t he received years of training prior to obtaining a college degree and qualification for this occupation? However, historically, teacher education has been criticized for a lack of “intellectual content” and “inferior intelligence of teachers,” thus negating (or seriously diminishing) any claims to being a profession (Soder, pg. 71.). Teachers naturally disagree with this argument, setting forth their own reasons why they deserve the title.

What Is A "Professional"?[edit]

Clearly from the fact that this debate exists, different definitions of professionalism exist and vary between individuals. For instance, a “business professional” is one who holds a position ordered by things such as ethics, standards of behavior, and performance, as required of everyone within the workforce(Saringer,2009). The explanation found in the dictionary defines “professional” as “following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder (professional).” Yet it also describes it as “a person who belongs to one of the professions, esp. one of the learned professions (professional).” Thus it appears that a professional occupation could be within a select category of occupations, or basically any job that can supports one's livelihood (Kelley, pg.2).

Why Might A Teacher Not Be Considered A Professional?[edit]

Critics argue that, "a reasonably stable body of knowledge based on high-quality," almost universally accepted research within workers in the field "systematically imparted by its training institutions" are not criterion teachers can declare. Rather, they claim that it is fundamentally based on teachers personal philosophies zealously put into practice, "and not on anything (one) could call science" (Edge). Also, in comparison to other professions, such as engineering, the medical profession, etc., which are continuously developing based on new discoveries and studies, teacher development has remained relatively stagnant. Standards must move with time, and not remain stationary. Generations develop and change. We are not who our grandparents were. This fact alone should constitute changing teaching conditions(Sachs, 2003). Professionalism advocates who maintain that teaching fails to meet the professional standard also state that, "Because of its historically weak knowledge base and highly uneven preparation programs, critics often compare the teaching occupation to journalism, where some practitioners are highly trained and others just learn on the job" (Edge). However, theoretically, if this statement is true, even if educators don't start out as professionals, they should eventually become such as they gain experienced.

Does The Criteria For Being A Teacher Fit The Description?[edit]

In Moss Glenn Schwab’s book Portrait of a Professional, the guidelines with which the professionalism of an occupation can be gauged are as follows:

“There is an accepted body of specialized knowledge necessary for good professional practice", and "Expert knowledge and professional skill require extensive specialized training (Moss, pg. 30).” Considering that teachers have had at least four years of schooling and training before receiving their certification, it seems reasonable to contend that it meets this first requirement. Specifically, a future educator must, at the minimum, acquire a bachelor's degree or certification in the field of education, as well as in their concentrated subject (Oak, 2008). This is consistent with the requirements for many professions such as counselors, engineers, business managers, and architects(New York). A differing characteristic though is that with teaching, the certification requirements may vary from state to state, meaning other criterion in addition to a certification are necessary. Highly developed supplementary training is a common condition(Oak, 2008).

"Admission to professional training is selective and based on academic aptitude and appropriate personal qualities(Moss, pg.30)" Basic teaching requirements include necessary relational skills to engage students as well as the academic qualifications(Oak, 2008).


Surely teacher development could stand to advance, thus ensuring the cementation of the title of professional. Considering that standard teaching requirements meet the standard professional requirements, teaching should obviously be considered a profession. Learning never ends, and educators of all people should understand this and never be satisfied with mediocre standards.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

1. The definition of professionalism is...

A. The same regardless of the individual

B. Teaching

C. Widely varied depending on the individual

D. Irrelevant

2. Why are teachers considered by some to fall short of 'Professional'?

A. They haven't had an education.

B. Teaching standards are often based on personal enthusiasm and ideologies of the teachers instead of science.

C. Teaching does not require any sort of skill.

D. Aspiring teachers are exempt for many standard educational requirements.

3. An occupation that supports one's livelihood is...

A. A definition of 'profession'

B. A job, but not a profession

C. The basic definition of 'profession'

D. Not Teaching

4. What standards qualify one as a 'business professional'?

A. ethics

B. standards of behavior

C. performance

D. all of the above

5. Sally wants to be a teacher. Her father wants her to have a professional career.

A. Sally can't be a teacher.

B. Sally must pursue a career in respected fields such as engineering or medical care.

C. Sally can be a teacher without anyone questioning her professionalism.

D. Sally can make a good argument for becoming a teacher and still be considered a professional

Answers 1 C, 2 B, 3 A, 4 D, 5 D


Edge: The latest information for the education practitioner. (2008). Retrieved February 8, 2009, from Education Research Complete Database.

Kelley, Phillip P. (1995, April) Teaching a Profession. Retrieved February 8, 2009 from http://

Moss, D. M., Glenn, W. J., & Schwab, R. L. (2005). Portrait of a profession: teaching and teachers in the 21st century. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

New York State Professions: License Requirements/Application Forms (n.d.) Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

Oak, M. (2008). Basic requirements to become a teacher. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

professional. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved February 8, 2009, from website:

Sachs, J. (2003). Teacher professional standards: controlling or developing teaching?. 9, 2, 175-186. Retrieved February 8, 2009 from Teachers and Teaching.

Saringer, M. C., (2009). What is a professional?. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

Soder, R. (1990) The Rhetoric of Teacher Professionalism. The Moral Dimensions of Teaching. (pp-35-86) San Franscisco: Jossey Bass. ED.