01 SES 13 B, Professionalism and Professional Identity
Existing literature has pointed to the complexity and interplay of the variables impacting on teachers’ work and lives in many parts of the world (Flores, 2012; Flores & Coutinho, 2014; Flores & Ferreira, 2015) where the rise of performative cultures through increased accountability and imposition of standards (Sachs, 2016), the compliance of teachers with the demands of performance policies and the tyranny of audit (Lo, 2012), and the decline in teacher autonomy and an environment of distrust (Sachs & Mockler, 2012) have been identified. These have affected the realities of teachers’ work and lives and in particular their sense of professionalism in so far as all these trends have influenced the ways in which they experience their daily work as well as the public image of teachers and teaching. This paper focuses on teachers’ views of the teaching profession and the ways in which they experience their professionalism in a particularly challenging context as is the Portuguese case. In order to look at the complex and changing nature of teachers’ work and lives, particularly in the Portuguese context, the work by Evetts (2009) and by Reeves (2009) will be used as a theoretical and analytical tool. The concepts of organizational and occupational professionalism as ideal-types identified by Evetts (2009) are useful to understand teachers’ work in times of intensive school reform and top-down initiatives which point at the same time to the need to increase teaching standards and student achievement and to the importance of teacher autonomy and agency. In analyzing the Scottish context, Reeves (2009, p. 114) analyzes three competing forms of teacher professionalism which are “embedded in multileveled and mixed practices in schools”: i) bureau professionalism; ii) educational operationalism; and iii) “new” professionalism. The tensions arising from the co-existence of these three forms of professionalism create, in Reeves’ perspective, opportunities for teachers to reinvent and revitalize new forms of professionalism through “action, argument and alliances within the field of practice” (p.115). It is, therefore, important to examine further the nature and forms of teacher professionalism in context and the conditions for its enhancement.
This paper reports on findings from a wider research project focusing on professional standards and professional development, teachers’ work and lives, funded under the grant SFRH/BSAB/114245/2016 (National Foundation for Science and Technology). In this paper the following questions are addressed: • How do teachers value the various dimensions of their work? • How do they feel as teachers within a context of intensive school reforms? • What are the factors that make them stay in the profession? • How do they experience their professionalism? In total, 1307 teachers participated in the study. The vast majority of the participants in the study are female teachers (70.5%) and older than 45 years of age (69.7%). In regard of years of experience, most of the participants have between 21 to 30 years (44.1%) (see Table 1). These data are in line with both national and international data described above (OECD, 2019; DGEEC, 2018; CNE, 2019). An online questionnaire based on a survey developed and conducted by Flores and Van Nuland (2003) and Flores (2014) was designed. The questionnaire was piloted with 50 teachers before its administration in the study itself. In total, 1307 teachers participated. The questionnaire consisted of six sections and participants were asked to respond to a series of questions using a Likert scale, related to their understandings, purposes and use of professional standards; development of professional standards for teaching; dimensions of their work; feelings about being a teacher; opportunities for professional development and motivations to stay or leave the teaching profession.
Teachers’ accounts reveal that their experience of professionalism is dependent upon their personal and professional values but also upon the context in which they work. It is associated with how they see the profession from within and how they perceive it from the outside (namely parents, media and policy makers). As such, it is possible to identify in their accounts features of the bureau professionalism and the educational operationalism (Reeves, 2009) when they refer to issues of bureaucracy, the amount of paperwork and the lack of autonomy which is situated within a logic of top-down policy initiatives driven by accountability demands. They see themselves as compliant operatives which indicate a loss of control over their work marked by prescriptive and narrow perspectives of teaching (as teachers themselves describe it) alongside the pressure from the society in general and from policy makers in particular. In other words, tensions between organizational and occupational professionalism emerge (Evetts, 2009) with a stronger emphasis on the former, as top-down policies, standardization, formal procedures, managerialism and hierarchical and bureaucratic structures influence their capacity for action. Issues of lack of recognition and the non-existence of both material and symbolic rewards are recurrent elements in teachers’ accounts. It seems that some of the teachers in this study tend to accept, comply with and act according to policies whilst others may be seen as mediators and others seem to resist. More needs to be done particularly in regard to the ethical and political dimensions of teachers’ work and to explore the plural understanding of teacher professionalism, one which combines positive and negative elements, but also different sources of motivation, resilience and hope.
CNE. (2019). Estudos de seleção e recrutamento do pessoal docente da educação pré-escolar e ensinos básico e secundário. Lisboa: CNE. Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência (DGEEC). (2018). Perfil do Docente 2016/2017. Lisboa: DGEEC Evetts, J. (2009). The management of professionalism: a contemporary paradox. In S. Gewirtz, P. Mahony, I. Hextall, & A. Cribb (Eds.), Changing Teacher Professionalism. International trends, challenges and ways forward (pp. 19-30). London: Routledge. Flores, M. A. (2012). Teachers’ Work and Lives: A European Perspective. In C. Day (Ed.), The Routledge International Handbook of Teacher and School Development (pp. 94-107). London: Routledge. Flores, M. A. (2014). Profissionalismo e Liderança dos Professores. Santo Tirso: De Facto Editores. Flores, M. A., & Coutinho, C. (2014). (Org.) Formação e trabalho docente: tendências e desafios atuais (volume 1). Santo Tirso: De Facto Editores. Flores, M. A., & Ferreira, F. I. (2015). (Orgs.) Formação e trabalho docente. Projetos, políticas e práticas. (vol 3) Santo Tirso: De Facto Editores. Flores, M. A., & Van Nuland, S. (2013). Teachers’ understanding of standards. 57th World assembly of the International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET), Sukhotai Thammathirat Open University (STOU), Nonthaburi, Tailândia, pp.86, 25-28 June 2013. Lo, L. N. K. (2012). Issues in teacher professionalism and performativity: Introduction. In C. Day (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of teacher and school development (pp.13-18). London: Routledge. OECD (2019). TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1d0bc92a-en. Reeves, J. (2009) Inventing the Chareterd Teacher. In S. Gewirtz, P. Mahony, I. Hextall, & A. Cribb (Eds.), Changing Teacher Professionalism. International trends, challenges and ways forward (pp. 106-116). London: Routledge. Sachs, J. (2016). Teacher professionalism: why are we still talking about it? Teachers and Teaching Theory and practice, 22(4), 413-425. Sachs, J., & Mockler, N. (2012). Performance cultures of teaching. Threat or opportunity? In C. Day (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of teacher and school development (pp. 33-43). London: Routledge.
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