Teaching, it is often asserted, is a profession. It is surprising, therefore, to find relatively little reference to other professions in most writing about teaching. True, the professional literature on management looms large in discussions of the management of educational institutions, and writing on educational counselling typically refers to counselling in general. Some parallels have been drawn with clinical decision-making and evidence-based practice in medicine. One also comes across passing references to other professions such as engineering, nursing, social work or design. But there is little sustained analysis of what it is that teachers might have in common with other professionals in terms of the nature of their work.
Insofar as there are any inter-professional references, they are usually in terms of the sociology of the professions (Hoyle, 1995). There is a well-established sociological literature on the professions and professionalization, which seemed to burgeon particularly around the 1960s (see, for example, Etzioni, 1969; Jackson, 1970; Reader, 1966). The professions seem to have reached an apogee of esteem at that point, before the growth of consumerist attacks, radical critiques and the political assault grounded in free-market economics. Such writing is concerned with the historical evolution of professions, their definition, nature and characteristics, their relations with the state and the client, and issues of access, training, status and control. All these aspects of the professions obviously have implications for teaching.
There is also a substantial literature on both initial and continuing professional education, usually in the context of higher education (Becher, 1994; Bines and Watson, 1992; Cook, 1973; Goodlad, 1984; Jarvis, 1983; Schein, 1972; Turner and Rushton, 1976). In particular, there has been a growth of interest in continuing professional development in recent years, mainly as a response to the organizational, legal, technological and social changes with which practitioners have to cope.
There is also a third strand of literature, which explores the nature of professional expertise, and how professionals do what they do. This literature addresses the relationship between theory and practice, knowledge and know-how, and the complex processes of professional problem-solving and decision-making. It is a rich vein of research and thinking, drawing on everything from detailed ethnographic analyses of professional practice to computer-based expert systems, and will be discussed in Chapter 5.
But none of these kinds of literature quite gets at the basic question that concerns us here, which is: What is the nature of professional work? What kinds of disciplines are professional disciplines? With some interesting exceptions (see, for