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A Professional View Of Teacher
Training & Development
by Frank Farmer
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A professional approach to ELT would also allow us to think about our outstanding practitioners. Professionals must all attend to the points noted in the scenario, but beyond that we know that there are really marvelous teachers who have acquired their skills as much though reflective practice and hard won personal insight as through innate ability. What are we to do with them? In architecture, for instance, we know who they are and what they are for. They are for designing Reichstags and Millennium bridges. In ELT we do not know who they are, nor do we know what they are for, and until we do know both reflective practice and other forms of teacher development remain rather purposeless.

The research agenda too would benefit from a professional approach. The purpose of research is to establish and test knowledge, and Pratte (1981) offers a useful tripartite view of knowledge for the present purposes. He proposes Propositional knowledge (knowing something), Performative knowledge (knowing how to do something) and Dispositional knowledge (knowing to do something). The relative independence of these types of knowledge may be demonstrated by an example. Suppose, for instance, we wish to persuade children to wash their hands before eating. We may tell them about germs (propositional knowledge) and show them how to use soap and water to get rid of them (performative knowledge). But how much do they really have to know about microbiology or the best way of washing their hands to make the washing of hands (dispositional knowledge) a good idea? Surely it is a good idea anyway, even without microbiology or a study of hand washing techniques. The area of dispositional professional knowledge has been largely ignored by the research community, and performative knowledge too has been abandoned to hearsay and teacher lore. Professionals may or may not find themselves attracted to a particular theory of learning, but what they really need are good accounts of what works. They need to know who may be helped and who may be harmed by any procedure, how much, and under what circumstances, whether or not there is a satisfactory theoretical explanation. This kind of clinical research is both achievable and applicable as both performative and dispositional knowledge.

Finally, a professional approach to ELT would lead towards the formation of valid professional organizations, moving gatekeeper and policing functions away from teaching institutions and into the professional system of public accountability where they belong. Bottom up professionalism, starting with individual practitioner responsibilities, makes more sense than attempts to impose professionalism from above, and would be in line with Wilensky’s account of the development of other professions. Such professionalism would be local, culture sensitive, accountable and above all, achievable.


Abbott, A. 1991.‘The order of professionalization’ Work and Occupations18 355-384.
Architects Registration Board undated. ‘Architect’s Code, Standards of Conduct and Practice’[available on-line] [last accessed 19/06/03].
Dingwall, R . and P. Fenn 1987. ‘A respectable profession? Sociological and economic perspectives on the regulation of professional services’ International review of Law and Economics 7: 51-64.
Eldridge, J. 2005. ‘Rendering unto Caesar: the ambivalent case of in-service teacher education.’ Iatefl Teacher Development SIG newsletter1/05 6-10
Goode, W. J . 1969. ‘The Theoretical Limits of Professionalization’ in Etzione A (Ed.) The Semi- Professions and their Organization. New York: The Free Press.
Pratte, R. 1981. ‘Analytic philosophy of education: a historical perspective.’ in Solis, J. (Ed.) Philosophy of Education since mid- century. New York. Teachers College Press.
Wilensky, H. 1964 ‘The professionalization of everyone?’ American Journal of Sociology 70 137-158.


Frank Farmer has been a Profesor Investigador at the Universidad de Quintana Roo since 1996. He holds the COTE qualification in language teaching, is a certified oral examiner for Cambridge ESOL, is an examiner for IELTS, and has a Master of Education degree in Educational Technology and ELT from the University of Manchester.


His research interests include Self Access, the use of technology in language education, and professionalism in ELT and he has presented papers on these topics at national and international conferences, as well as publishing articles on professionalism.

His book on Professionalism in ELT comes out in 2006. He is also an architect registered to practice in the UK, and has never had an action for negligence or incompetence brought against him.

Recent publications:

Farmer, F. 2006. Professionalism in ELT. México, DF: Plaza y Valdés/ Universidad de Quintana Roo (ISBN: 970-722-509-2)

Farmer, F. 2006. Accountable professio nal practice in ELT. ELT Journal 60/2, ( ISSN 0951- 0893)

Farmer, F. 2005. Conceptualizing professionalism in ELT. In Beaven, B (ed.) IATEFL 2005 Cardiff Conference Selections . Canterbury: IATEFL (ISBN: 1 901095 02 9)

Farmer, F. and L. Vázquez Pérez . 2005. Ways of looking at professionalism in ELT. In Rodriguez Reyes, J. M. and J. M. González Freire (eds.) Proceedings XIX Foro de Especialistas Universitarias en Lenguas Extranjeras 29-43. Colima, Col. México: Universidad de Colima. (ISBN 970-692-255-5)

Farmer, F. and M.E. Llaven Nucamendi. 2004. A taxonomy of professionalism in ELT. In Garri do y Rivera, I. and M. Muñoz Gutierrez (eds.) Asociación Nacional Universitaria de Profesores de Inglés Conference preoceedings 2004 Puebla, Pue.: ANUPI (ISSN: 1870-2074)

Farmer, F. and M.E. Llaven Nucamendi. 2004. Towards professionalism in english language teaching. In Pender, J (ed.) Ten years of collaboration in ELT: Accounts from México. México, DF: Consejo Británico.

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