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close this bookProfessionalism in Teaching (UNESCO, 2000, 11 p.)
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View the documentThe Paradoxical Profession: Teaching at the Turn of the Century
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentCatalysts and casualties
View the documentProfessional actions and cultures of teaching
View the documentThe papers
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The papers

With the exception of the paper by Rosa Maria Torres, the articles in this issue of Prospects were presented at an international conference that PACT co-organized with the Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research and Faculty of Education of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The conference was entitled 'New Professionalism in Teaching: Teacher Education and Teacher Development in a Changing World', and was held in January 1999 on the campus of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The purpose of the conference was to provide a forum for international dialogue on the future direction for teacher development and teacher education. The six keynote speakers of the conference were joined by scholars and practitioners from Australia, Canada, the Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong, Israel, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The three-day event, which included a consultative session with top educational officials in Hong Kong, was organized along seven sub-themes: teacher development; teacher education; educational leadership; a culture of teaching; teachers' work; staff development; and educational policy. We have derived from the keynote and invited speeches an underlying paradox that is readily discernible in many aspects of the life and work of teachers. In recognizing that teaching is a paradoxical profession, we are also keenly aware of the fact that other equally appropriate themes might have emerged from the many discussions that took place in this very fruitful gathering.

The paradox in the professional life of teachers is illustrated by the co-existence of two seemingly contradictory trends in the development of the teaching profession: standardization of teaching and antipathy to teachers' professionalization, on the one hand, and higher professional standards and greater professionalism, on the other. As Ivor Goodson points out, the trend toward standardization and de-professionalization has provided space for higher standards and new professionalism to emerge. When professionalization is merely concerned with promoting the material and ideal interests of teachers as an occupational group, there is a clear need for teachers to define their own practice and develop character for their own profession. Teachers can no longer rely solely on the academics to develop and clarify for them a knowledge base for teaching, or on the practitioners to define the practice and character of the teaching profession with practical wisdom alone. The new professionalism in teaching should be developed from clearly agreed moral and ethical principles, with caring concerns at its core, and exemplification of the collaborative cultures for which teachers should strive. Goodson calls this the principled professionalism.

The paradox of teaching profession is further illustrated by phenomena in which teachers worry that their professionalism has been undermined by the initiatives to create systems of 'world class' schools. That many nations have embarked on a reform agenda to establish 'world class' schools reflects a growing concern over student achievement standards, as well as their competence and capacity to engage in lifelong learning. Brian Caldwell points out that, despite obvious challenges, a new sense of professionalism in teaching is being crafted. An image of a new professionalism in teaching is constructed upon findings and accounts of good practice in literacy, mathematics, the adoption of information and communication technology, and the capacity for 'reflective intelligence'. It is clear that today's teachers can develop the character of their own profession without having to abandon the traditional tenets of professionalism. In a knowledge society that affords opportunities in global and lifelong learning, teachers can now tap the wisdom of the best minds and engage in collaborative endeavours with partners within and outside of their schools. A new professionalism emerges with a significant change in the teachers' role and in their work. By examining the professional practice of medical practitioners, Caldwell counsels teamwork, networking, accountability, commitment, capacity to make use of information, and lifelong learning. In the rapidly changing landscape of education, a new professionalism for teachers should be one that takes into account the dynamics in a gestalt of schooling in the knowledge society.

A salient paradox in the work of teachers is reflected in their relationships and interactions with parents, who are supposedly their partners in the education of their students. As Andy Hargreaves points out, the pervasive reality in teacher/parent relations is marked by anxiety, tension and misunderstanding. Because of relativity in number and scale, teachers and parents have different expectations of teaching and learning in school and of the relationships with one another. The partnership between teachers and parents has changed through time. The silent partnerships of old were characterized by parents maintaining a polite distance from the teachers and provided necessary support at home. The partnerships of mutual learning and support are necessitated by the changing lives of the students as family and culture adopt different structures and forms. Both teachers and parents need to maintain relationships of reciprocal learning that are more open, interactive and inclusive in character. In their search for a new professionalism, the teachers should remember that it is in their own interest to see parents as important allies in a social movement that will transform the values and institutions of society in favour of public education. Developing a principled professionalism, Hargreaves asserts, requires schools and teachers to open themselves up to parents and the public. Only when learning runs authentically in both directions can communities 'build the capacity, trust, commitment and the support for teachers and teaching on which the future of their professionalism in the post-modern age will depend'.

Yet another paradox of the teaching profession is the inability of teacher education programmes to response effectively to the sweeping changes that are taking place in schooling and teaching in many societies. As Miriam Ben-Peretz points out, changes in teaching that are intensively sought will not be viable or have far-reaching effects if they are not accompanied by concomitant changes in teacher education programmes. Indeed, changes being initiated in teaching will also change the understanding and practice of teachers. Changes in our understanding of the learning and teaching processes, in curriculum and subject integration, in the nature of teachers' work, and in the role of technology in teaching, are all important issues that should be addressed by teacher-education programmes. New models of teacher education have to be incorporated into the change process if current initiatives are to find their way into classrooms. According to Ben-Peretz, the transformation of teacher education should be based on the principles of feasibility, comprehensiveness, synergy and interaction. Teacher education programmes should pay special attention to the attitudes and dispositions of students, the characteristics of teacher educators, our approaches to understanding and problem solving, and teamwork that involves the contribution of students, practising teachers, and teacher-educators who are experts in didactics and in the foundation disciplines. The ethos of teacher-education programmes should reflect an emphasis on teachers being members of learning communities that promote the pedagogy of inquiry.

The paradox of the teaching profession is also discernible in the reform experiences of societies that have launched large-scale projects to improve the quality of their schools and teachers. Evidence from past and on-going reform endeavours seems to indicate reluctance among teachers to embrace those efforts that aim to improve their quality. Indeed, a continual stream of reform efforts with policies that aimed to influence teachers' professional capacity has affected teacher professionalism. To Ann Lieberman and Milbrey McLaughlin, the picture of teachers' professional development in the United States looks chaotic and incomprehensible, as it is difficult to see the strategic or practical connections among the reform efforts. By examining the orientations of three policy tools-standard-based, school-based, and development - based reforms - they underscore the limitations of each as motivation and support for teachers' professional development. Reform experiences at the state and local levels suggest that an appropriate synergy of the three policy approaches should yield positive results. A goal for reform policy, then, is to 'grind trifocal lenses' that focus the strengths of the three approaches in mutually reinforcing ways so that reform policies can support rather than frustrate sustained teacher learning and growth. With this, the persistent problems affecting teacher development can be tackled more effectively.

The kind of ambivalence that surrounds reform policies has confused teachers in some Asian societies as well. As teachers struggle to cope with the many demands of reform and to fulfil the numerous tasks that have been heaped upon them, there is little time for reflection and even less space for a new professionalism in teaching to emerge. Based on the findings of a study on the impact of contextual factors on the direction of teacher development in Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland, Leslie Lo points out that when the professional authority of teachers is weak, reform measures are imposed on them in a top-down manner. As the educational context experiences rapid changes, and the teachers' attention is constantly drawn to such matters as status, salaries and benefits (as in the case of the Chinese Mainland), the direction of teacher development is dominated by policy mandates and bureaucratic control. Teachers in the two Chinese school systems have to work in educational settings that are highly segregated by academic achievement. They also have to dig deep into their personal and professional resources to wrestle with the problems of compulsory schooling, such as increased diversification in students' ability and background, lack of motivation, challenges to conventional teaching strategies, and the growing intensification of work. When reform initiatives place increasing demands on teachers to strengthen their professional capacity, teacher education programmes in both societies have failed to respond with necessary insights and support. Teacher development has remained at the level of developing their knowledge and skills. For a new professionalism in teaching to emerge in Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland, Lo suggests a sense of purpose, collegiality, and room for growth as its three basic ingredients.