Teaching as a Professional Discipline

Teaching as a Professional Discipline

Teaching as a Professional Discipline

Teaching as a Professional Discipline


The lack of an agreed theory of teaching is one of the most important and yet intractable problems facing education. Questions of training and assessment currently take place according to the criteria of many diverse theories, most of which are dualistic and incompatible with each other. Squires proposes a new integrated model of teaching, derived from aspects of the professional discipline of teaching. The three characteristics of the professional teacher are laid but -- being instrumental, being contingent and being procedural. The questions asked are: What do teachers do? What affects what they do? And how do they do it? The resulting multidimensional model will challenge and stimulate education researchers and teacher trainers, as well as those with an interest in the constitution of professional discipline.


Since about 1980, my work has consisted mainly of training lecturers and tutors in further, higher and adult education, and training trainers in both the public and private sectors. I have also been involved, through research and workshops, in education for a number of professions.

What I have to say in this book is largely the outcome of these activities. My first tentative steps in this direction were recorded in an occasional paper published in 1982, but it was not until 1988 that I really began to conceptualize teaching in terms of a multi-dimensional model. Brief accounts of the emerging model appeared in my book on the undergraduate curriculum in 1990 and in various conference papers in the following years. Then, in 1994, I brought out a comprehensive training package for use in my own and others’ workshops. This has proved to be invaluable as a way of testing out and developing the model with a wide range of practitioners. There have also been a number of subsequent publications dealing with various applications of the model.

In terms of schools, I thus write as an outsider and must express a due measure of caution. However much one knows about them at second hand, people who have not actually worked in schools are unlikely to have the feel for them that day-to-day practitioners have. And there are, I think, key differences between schools and post-school education, which stem not only from the age of the learners, but the existence in the former of a national curriculum and (more complex to unravel) the role and place of the teacher. Nevertheless, I hope that what I have to say will offer a different perspective on teaching, and in particular one that places it firmly in the context of other professions.

The long gestation of this work means that it is impossible for me to thank everyone who has contributed to it. However, I would like in particular to mention David McNamara, who has been the best kind of colleague, constructively critical, and Tony Becher, for his support over the years. I am grateful to Michael Eraut for his helpful comments on certain portions of the text. I would also like to acknowledge the generous assistance of David Walker with the section on Aristotle. In all cases, the responsibility for what I have said remains of course my own. I am also grateful to my colleagues on the Educational Development Team at the University of Hull, and to my family who have had to live with this and without me at times.

However, as this Preface will have made clear, my main debt is to the large number of practitioners—lecturers, teachers, tutors, trainers and managers—with whom I have worked over the years. The models that are set out here have emerged

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