By Zafar Iqbal
The notion of professionalism has been widely defined in different disciplines. Most definitions stress on certain traits; for example, excellence, duty, advocacy, ethical standards, accountability, integrity and service . According to Dickinson et al (2010) that concept of professionalism in lifelong sector should encompass three vital elements: professional knowledge, autonomy and responsibility .
Conventionally, foundations of professionalism are based on three themes: Firstly, information gained through specific qualification’, secondly, autonomy of independence in professional judgments and thirdly, demonstration of responsibility built on professional values . However, an increased managerialism, lack of funding, loss of trust and autonomy and agenda of accountability, control and targets, employment insecurity have gradually eroded traditional and established foundations of professionalism. In this backdrop, it is challenging for lifelong learning professionals to exercise the role of ‘autonomous expert professional’ and core professional ethos in a vocational arena predominantly controlled by numerous regulators and ‘communities of practice’ such as LESIS, QAA, OFSTED, BIS, ISI and so on.
Since professional values do not work in a vacuum, they are shaped by society and personal influence. The values of lifelong sector professionals are nurtured under various factors such as profession, regulators and other stakeholders. In the wake of Lord Lingfield’s Review (2012) teachers and educators follow a set of key principles and standards envisioned and inherited from the Institute for Learning (IfL) that turned to the Education and Training Foundation. They include professional integrity, respect for others, care for learners, CPD and disclosure for criminal offenses and responsibility.
Professional Values in lifelong learning
For working in lifelong sector, these standards work as guiding principles. Other stakeholders such as Department for Education (DeF), Department of Business and Innovation and Skills (BIS), etc. have also endorsed these standards.
A brief description of these standards and values is provided below:
- Professional Integrity
Professionals in lifelong sector have a commitment to ethical intelligence and sensitivity, which means an ability and willingness to reflect on and use previous practice. It also requires an ability to reflect on the professional relationship of all parties involved in development process.
- Respect for others
The respect for others is closely linked to inclusive practices and valuing diversity . In lifelong learning sector it is an attempt to make greater equality and mutual understanding among all involved in the learning. McKinney believes that to attain higher levels of performance, professionals must respect not only their own work and its quality, but also their students’ work, their presence and the cause which brings them in the class’.
- Care of learners
Professionals working in lifelong learning sector are bound by a shared commitment of providing care to learners as ‘a real professional is a ‘technician who cares’ the learners.
- Continuing professional development (CPD)
The CPD is an engine for teacher development both from personal perspective and learner’s progress; hence, lifelong learning professionals should actively engage in continuous development of their subject knowledge and also learn new approaches and techniques for effective learning.
- Disclosure of criminal offense
Previous CRB is replaced with Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) checks. As protection of health and safety of learners is vital, the professionals are expected to report relevant organisations about any possible criminal offence to ensure learners safety.
Educational professionals are expected to make decisions with responsibility and accountability. After restructuring of the IfL, teachers are no more required to provide their CPD activity records. They are now personally responsible of enhancing their professional development which requires greater self-accountability.