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A Professional View Of Teacher
Training & Development
by Frank Farmer
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This view proposes a strong position for professional bodies. A professional body is needed to make the argument in the first place for monopoly of practice to protect a vulnerable public. It is needed to act as gatekeeper so that only competent persons enter the profession, and to act as policeman against members who fail to uphold the standards of the profession. Competent members cannot be protected by the professional body if it does not cooperate fully in the discipline of incompetent members. Failure to do so would result in the loss of monopoly of practice. The Architects Registration Board (undated), for instance, gives its mission statement as ‘protecting the consumer and safeguarding the reputation of architects’. Contrary to popular belief, there is no conflict of interest in serving this dual function.

Professionalisation as a process has been described in two very different ways by Wilensky (1964) and Abbott (1991). Wilensky, examining evidence from a range of professions, sees it as a bottom up process in which practitioners sharing appropriate skills, knowledge and attitudes establish their competence in the eyes of the public, start a university level training programme, and finally apply for full professional status and monopoly of practice. Abbott cites evidence from the development of the medical profession in the USA to suggest that the whole apparatus of professional organization and education resulted from the imposition of mandatory regulation by the government as a top down process. However these opposing views come closer together if we accept that at the beginning of the process Abbott describes the distinction between real medical doctors and quacks was already clear, so that government would be negligent in not acting quickly to protect the public.

Professionalism in ELT

The issue, as has been shown, is not the protection of ‘qualified’ practitioners from losing their jobs to the unqualified, but rather the protection of vulnerable clients. The first question then is, are our clients practically, emotionally and financially vulnerable? Perhaps a case can be made for all three, as the consequences of failure to learn English do indeed have an impact in all of these in many parts of the world. The second question is more difficult. Who are the ‘qualified’ ELT practitioners and can they show that only they can do the job? One way of thinking about this may be to consider different routes towards qualified ELT practitioner status and to see where the locus of control in gatekeeper and police functions may lie.

One route towards qualified practitioner status may be through a mix of native speaker language skills, personal commitment, and in service training and development. People enter ELT for all sorts of reasons, but that does not automatically imply a lack of commitment. An example may be an educated native speaker, with a period of on the job training followed by something more formal like ICELT or DELTA. Although there may well be benefits to the practitioner in getting a qualification, it is not clear that clients benefit. After all, the practitioner entered without relevant qualifications, so that is presumably true of others in the organization too. The employing institution is in this case acting as both gatekeeper and policeman, and the criteria applied are not those of a professional organization.

Entry through academic qualifications is no better, in professional terms. Academics are supposed to be able to review the literature and contribute to it. But these skills have little to do with professional practice, and again the gatekeeper and policeman is the employing institution.

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