Join the professionals
15 August 2012
I think my title comes from an advertisement from many years ago to join the military. The point was, I guess, that members of the armed forces were to see themselves as professional. In much the same way, we encourage teachers to see themselves as professionals – like doctors, lawyers and accountants – rather than practitioners of a craft that could be learned by developing practice on the job, as they may have been judged previously.
Well, that paragraph opens up more than one debate in the current climate and would provoke a number of arguments in certain quarters. Let’s sidestep it for a definition of professionalism, which is being developed by the Science Council:
“Professionalism is the dedicated practice of maintained and continually developing high standards of technical and ethical competence, in the interests of society as a whole, for the benefits of clients and employers, and in a manner that supports other professionals and reflects positively on the standing and integrity of the profession.”
I’d like to explore the part about “reflecting positively on the standing and integrity of the profession” as I think we need to go further than this. Recently, there has been huge debate about bad practice in banking and journalism, and there are frequent surveys about the most trusted professions. I was at a meeting a little while ago, where we talked about reputation and the most trusted charities, and it seems to me there is a general view which needs to be brought out a little more. The view is that, to be professional, you not only have regard for your own development, as an accomplished and knowledgeable teacher (for example), but you have to care for the reputation of your profession as a whole. I think this means in the ultimate stage, you are not only a fine example of your profession, but you are also a champion for it.
So let’s get specific. ASE awards three categories of registration, all of which recognise an individual’s professionalism – Registered Science Technician, Registered Scientist and Chartered Science Teacher – the first two being new this year. These are becoming very popular and now we have to respond with an additional step. It’s great many teachers want the recognition that they are committed to their profession, and at CSciTeach level, they have to demonstrate the impact their professionalism has on others. Now, ASE has to be sure to provide avenues for those who have gained these awards to stand up and enhance the reputation of the profession of science educator in a wider context. Of course, the more of our members who gain the award, the easier this will be!
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