Professions provide a social benefit to society and contribute to the accomplishment of important social goals. Specifics about how to define a profession and professionalism have varied over the years and continue to do so. To add to the complexity, some professions face regulatory compliance issues in the form of licensure or other state-defined requirement(s) to denote the state’s interest in assuring the public of the practitioner’s qualifications and experience as a safeguard to the common well-being. There are different routes toward preparing well-qualified professionals through higher education. These routes are largely determined by decisions academics make regarding content, curriculum alignment, in-class and out-of-class learning experiences, pedagogical techniques, integration of research with practice, and philosophical approaches toward the profession. But the key to effective preparation ultimately rests with the value employers place on the focus, emphasis and balance between the academic and practical in relationship to their own expectations for skills graduates must have. With rapid changes occurring in industry in response to exponential advances in technology, there is significant risk for higher education providers and subsequently for industry and community reliant on the quality of professionals. Maintaining quality education for professionals who are well qualified to practice in a complex and changing global contexts is a challenge for both educators and employers.
It is now widely accepted by higher education institutions delivering professional pre-service courses that theoretical content knowledge and expertise in its application within a variety of practical industry contexts are both essential components of desired outcomes for professional graduates. The focus on content is now seen as not enough if, for no other reason, than the knowledge base reflects past experience whilst students are being prepared to encounter new realities (Jarvis, 1999) and mastery is not enough as broader affective considerations are critical (Sen, 2004). The need for change to incorporate more student-centred and practice-oriented curricula and teaching has been discussed for over a decade by higher education providers and industry (Heywood, 2005; Reidsema, Hadgraft, Cameron & King, 2011).
To achieve these ends higher education institutions globally are incorporating technology into both pedagogical approaches and delivery of courses which has significant impact on instruction and assessment in professional preparation programs. For example, in Europe and Australia the use of ePortfolios in nursing, pharmacy and engineering demonstrate their versatility for construction of knowledge, demonstration of outcomes achieved, engagement with authentic professional tasks and assessment; virtual engagement with scenarios is being utilised alongside practicum placements to provide insight into industry contexts and problem solving; and simulations are being increasingly used in teaching to bridge the gap between theory and practice (Bradley, 2006), an approach recommended by the WHO (2013) as a means to improve the curriculum and the quality of professional preparation.
There are different philosophical approaches toward the professions and a range of pathways for preparing well qualified graduates who meet the expectations of employers, professional associations and regulatory bodies. Most professions have guidelines or standards generated by professional associations or their equivalent (Padró & Hawke, 2003) and by government regulatory bodies. Decisions on content, curriculum alignment, in-class and out-of-class learning experiences, pedagogical techniques, and integration of research in developing a course or program ultimately reflect the needs of employers and the value employers place on how programs balance between the ‘academic’ and ‘practical’ in preparing graduates (Beaver, 1992). This is reflected in the World Health Organization’s (WHO, 2013) desire to see greater alignment between educational institutions and the healthcare system to drive transformative change to health-care systems across the world to provide quality care via professionals that are competent, capable and motivated to provide high quality service.
This paper is based on case studies drawn from higher education institutions in Australia, the United Kingdom and Norway. The case studies are focussed on two of Stark’s (1998) types of professional fields: human client fields, including nursing, pharmacy and psychology; and the enterprise/production field of engineering. Case studies for the purpose of illustrating quality teaching practice need to be distinguished from case study research. The latter is concerned with the research of a contemporary phenomenon while the former is a pedagogical methodology to help students apply theory to real life practice (Ambrosini, Bowman, & Collier, 2010). In this project, the case study approach was used to highlight exemplary practice in these aforementioned professions by addressing issues around quality of teaching and learning in the higher education sector for professional preparation. Using case studies can make a difference because they put learning into context (Herreid, 2012). This can occur by using cases as a vehicle for self-examination and self-awareness (Bass, Garn, & Monroe, 2010). The case studies in this project were based on real and actual courses in Australian and European higher education institutions and were used to illustrate key points highlighting those elements constituting effective practice within professional education (Ambrosini, Bowman, & Collier, 2010). Case studies were collected for each of the identified professions to illustrate and explore quality educational practice within professional preparation. The case study authors, from Australia, the United Kingdom and Norway, contributing to this project provided discussions of quality practice in those areas that teachers in higher education exhibit as part of their metaprofessional responsibilities (Arreola, Theall, & Aleamoni, 2003). Implicit in their writing is a recognition of the nexus between access, equity and quality in meeting the demands for well-prepared practitioners in these fields (United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2010). The cases also discuss the need for review of pedagogy, curriculum and practice components of education in the professions where concerns have been raised in regard to quality of pre-service education or the skills and knowledge of graduates. Each case also considers notions of quality in professional education, focusing on the conceptual complexities of quality assurance in higher education for the professions in relation to the multiple outcomes of employability, institutional and other requisite standards.
This project has collected a range of case studies of quality practice for teaching within the professions in higher education from higher education institutions across Australia and Europe. It illustrates different philosophical approaches toward the professions and a range of pathways for preparing well qualified graduates who meet the expectations of employers, professional associations and regulatory bodies. Many professions actively express heightened interest in the learning and teaching components of professional preparation beyond simple gatekeeping of those unfit to practice in these fields. Such interest reflects concerns over the current quality of entry level professionals in terms of skills they bring into fields undergoing change in terms of definition of competence, levels of expectation and knowledge. Most professions have guidelines or standards generated by professional associations or their equivalent (Padró & Hawke, 2003) and by government regulatory bodies. The cases presented in this project attempt to address these concerns by providing insight on the educational process around how higher education institutions in Europe and Australia are incorporating technology into both pedagogical approaches and delivery of courses which has a significant impact on instruction and assessment across professions.Decisions on content, curriculum alignment, in-class and out-of-class learning experiences, pedagogical techniques, and integration of research in developing the courses and programs within these cases reflect the needs of employers and the value employers place on how programs balance between the ‘academic’ and ‘practical’ in preparing graduates.
Ambrosini, V., Bowman, C., & Collier, N. (2010). Using teaching case studies for management research, Strategic Organization, 8(3), 206-229. Arreola, R.A., Theall, M., & Aleamoni, L.M. (2003). Beyond scholarship: recognizing the multiple roles of the professoriate. Paper presented at the 2003 AERA Convention, April 21-25, 2003, Chicago, IL. Bass, L., Garn, G., & Monroe, L. (2010). Using JCEL case studies to meet ELCC standards, Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 14(1), 1-12. Beaver, W.H. (1992). Challenges in accounting education, Issues in Accounting Education, 7(2), 135-144. Bradley, P. (2006). The History of Simulation on Medical Education and Possible Future Directions. Medical Education, 40(3), 254–62. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02394.x Herreid, C.F. (2012). Introduction. In C.F. Herreid, N.A. Schiller, & K.F. Herreid (Eds.), Science stories using case studies to teach critical thinking. (pp. vii-xiii). Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association. Heywood, J. (2005). Engineering Education: Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction, Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-IEEE Press. Jarvis, P. (1999). The practitioner-researcher: Developing theory from practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Padró, F.F., & Hawke, M.F. (2003). A perceptual model of organization behavior. National Social Sciences Journal, (19(2), 102-112. Reidsema, C., Hadgraft, R., Cameron, I., & King, R. (2011). Change strategies for educational transformation. Paper presented at the Australasian Association 376 for Engineering Education Conference 2011: Developing engineers for social justice: Community involvement, ethics & sustainability 5-7 December 2011, Fremantle, Western Australia. Sen, A. (2004). Elements of a theory of human rights. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 32(4), 315-356. Stark, J.S. (1998). Classifying professional preparation programs. The Journal of Higher Education, 69(4), 353-383. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]. (2010). World Conference on Higher Education 2009: Final report. Paris: Author. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001892/189242e.pdf World Health Organization [WHO]. (2013). Transforming and scaling up health professionals’ education and training: World Health Organization Guidelines 2013. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/93635/9789241506502_eng.pdf?sequence=1
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