The Development of Teaching as a Profession:
Comparison with Careers that have Achieved
Full Professional Standing
Prepared for the Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education
Michael S. Rosenberg
Johns Hopkins University
(COPSSE Document No. RS-9)
Center on Personnel Studies in
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
CENTER ON PERSONNEL STUDIES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER
INSTRUCTIONAL RESEARCH GROUP, LONG BEACH, CA
COPSSE research is focused on the preparation of special education professionals and its
impact on beginning teacher quality and student outcomes. Our research is intended to inform
scholars and policymakers about advantages and disadvantages of preparation alternatives and
the effective use of public funds in addressing personnel shortages.
In addition to our authors and reviewers, many individuals and organizations have contributed
substantially to our efforts, including Drs. Erling Boe of the University of Pennsylvania and
Elaine Carlson of WESTAT. We also have benefited greatly from collaboration with the National
Clearinghouse for the Professions in Special Education, the Policymakers Partnership, and their
parent organizations, the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association of State
Directors of Special Education.
The Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education, H325Q000002, is a cooperative
agreement between the University of Florida and the Office of Special Education Programs of
the U. S. Department of Education. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the
views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of other organizations imply
endorsement by them.
Connelly, V.J., & Rosenberg, M.S. (2003). Developing teaching as a profession: Comparison
with careers that have achieved full professional standing. (COPSSE Document Number
RS-9). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida, Center on Personnel Studies in Special
Additional Copies may be obtained from:
P.O. Box 117050
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
thatVork 352-392-2655 (Fax)
U. S. Office of Special
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please credit the source and support of the federal funds when
copying all or part of this document.
What Is a Profession?. 7
The Developmental Course of Established Professions 10
Medicine: The Fall and Rise of the Profession 10
Law: The Tug of War between the Profession and the Public 15
Engineering: Public versus Private Professional Interests 19
Social Work: Two Traditions of Struggle 22
Is Teaching a Profession? 25
Components of a Profession 25
Factors Influencing the Evolution of Teaching as a Profession 27
Table 1. The Presence of the Six Characteristics of Professions .26
Figure 1. Pressures that Serve to Promote or to Diminish Efforts to
Professionalize a Vocation 27
This paper investigates issues surrounding the status of teaching as a profession. First, we
consider what makes an occupation a profession and perspectives of professions in American
society. Second, we describe the evolution and developmental history of four established
professions-medicine, engineering, law, and social work. Third, we look at the developmental
status of general and special education in relation to each established profession reviewed. Using
this information, we consider issues that professions typically face during development,
including management of personnel supply and demand, public perception and status, and the
role of the profession in personnel preparation. Fourth, we discuss issues, policy decisions, and
social forces that we believe can influence the course and development of teaching as it moves
toward full professional standing. We conclude with a discussion of actions that will be
necessary if teaching is to achieve the status of a profession.
"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." Harry Truman
As policy makers address the shortage of qualified special education teachers and the best ways
to design preparation programs and to develop systems of certification and licensure, ambiguities
regarding the professional status of teaching cast a large shadow on public discourse. There is
hardly a policy debate in the fields of general and special education that does not question
whether teaching is a true profession or whether it is something less, such as a skilled
occupation. Clearly, this issue is not new. Etzioni in The Semi-Professions and their
Organization (1969) stated that teaching, which has neither established nor desired the status of
medicine and law, can best be thought of as a semi-profession. In his view, teaching has a less
legitimate status with a smaller body of knowledge and less functional autonomy from
supervision or external control. Consequently, to him, teaching is nothing more than an
occupation in need of supervision and not an autonomous profession.
So how does the public view teaching? One can easily see that Etzioni's views are tacitly
supported by the American public. With few exceptions, the typical methods the general public
uses to assess professionalism have been comparisons of salary and status. Compared to other
careers, teachers are not paid well. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey (U. S.
Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, 1992), a beginning
teacher's annual earnings of $26,000 is surpassed by most other occupations' starting salaries,
including but not limited to social workers, writers, artists, sales associates, nurses, accountants,
scientists, engineers, managers and executives, lawyers, judges, and physicians. We also know
that teaching is not currently considered a high-status profession. For example, occupational
prestige ratings from the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center (Davis,
Smith, Hodge, Nakao, & Treas, 1991) rated the prestige of the special education teacher below
most other specialty occupations in a category that included architects, engineers, computer
systems analysts, scientists, dentists, psychologists, lawyers, judges, and others. These simple
comparisons point to a clear gap between teaching and other professions.
Nonetheless, over two decades ago, Birch and Reynolds (1982) observed that special education
was a semi-profession but could move toward full professional standing if there were significant
development in the (a) formulation of professional standards and (b) identification and
development of a common body of practice in which all teachers were trained. In response, a
number of teachers, teacher educators, organizations, and policy makers took up the charge and
attempted to prove teaching worthy of the term professional.
In spite of such actions, as well as certain countermeasures designed to deregulate teaching (see
Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2001), it remains difficult to determine where educators in general, and
special educators in particular, stand on the professionalism continuum. Have we stalled at the
stage of skilled occupation or semi-profession, or are we still moving toward full professional
standing? If so, how have critical events, policy initiatives, and policies experienced in our
developmental trajectory compared to those experienced by careers that have been recognized as
having reached full professional standing? To answer these questions, it is essential that we
move beyond simple, static comparative analyses of teaching to other professions and expand
our investigations to incorporate the developmental profiles of the professions with which we
wish to be compared. By doing so, we can begin to understand how each profession has
responded to the forces and critical issues that challenged and facilitated its evolution and assess
where we as special educators fall along the professional developmental continuum. By
identifying common developmental benchmarks and evolutionary milestones, we can determine
if our field is headed on the path toward full professional standing or if we are remaining at or
slipping away from semi-professional status.
This paper is divided into three sections. In the first section, we consider what makes an
occupation a profession and examine the range of views of professions in American society. In
the second section, we describe the developmental history of four established professions-
medicine, law, engineering, social work-and consider the developmental status of both general
and special education teaching as a profession in relation to the development of these
comparative professions. For the most part, we focus on issues that professions typically face,
including personnel supply and demand concerns (i.e., how has each profession responded to
times of personnel shortages and surpluses); public perception and status differences between
professions; and personnel preparation (i.e., how personnel earn their qualifications). Finally, we
discuss the actions that may be necessary for teaching to continue its movement toward full
WHAT IS A PROFESSION?
The mantle of professional has been claimed by many groups with varying standards of
professionalism. For example, the New York State Education Department Office of the
Professions (2003) currently provides licensure standards for more than 645,000 practitioners
and over 30,000 professional practice business entities in 38 professions, including the
professions of interior decorator and athletic trainer. Professional status has been claimed by
many emerging self-interest groups as an entrepreneurial tactic for the dual purpose of
restraining competition and staking claims to an area of expertise. But are all of these
occupations truly professions?
Professionals are supposed to function disinterestedly. By disinterest, we mean that the
professional foregoes the windfalls they could enjoy if they exploited their privileged status as
professionals; true professionals take their gains over the long term (Menand, 1995). In his study
of the professions in America, Hatch (1988) stated succinctly that the ideal of most professions is
that "the accepted measure of success is not merely financial gain but some larger purpose,
whether it be the well being of the public, the advancement of science, the care of the infirm, or
the maintaining of justice" (p. 2). The true professional "does not work to be paid, but is paid in
order to work" (p. 2).
Keeping in mind that some definitions of the word profession have been prepared by the same
bodies that are seeking professional recognition, it may be useful to consider an unbiased source.
Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (2001) defines a profession as:
A calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive preparation
including instruction and skills and methods as well in the scientific, historical, and
scholarly principles underlying such skills and methods, maintaining by force of
organization or concerted opinion high standards of opinion and conduct, and committing
its members to continued study and to a kind of work which has for its prime purpose the
rendering of a public service (p. 939).
Clearly, such a definition is useful, because it excludes self-interested professions that seek to
define themselves professionally while concurrently maintaining minimal prerequisites,
qualifications, and standards of conduct for their members.
Ingersoll and Alsalam (U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational
Statistics, 1997) articulate more precisely what distinguishes professions from other kinds of
occupations. Using examples from sociologists, the authors describe six characteristics that
traditionally elevate a profession from an occupation.
1. Professions are distinguished by the degree and complexity of the knowledge
required for the work needed to be done. Still, the mere possession of knowledge
regarding these complexities is not enough. Through the use of credentials, a
profession screens out those who presumably do not have a sufficient or adequate
level of professional knowledge or skill in order to practice the profession.
2. Professional work requires a lengthy period of induction. This training usually takes
the form of internship, mentoring, or residency designed to facilitate a successful
transition for the candidate into the profession.
3. Development and growth of a professional's skill and knowledge base is expected
through the career of a professional.
4. Professionals are persons who specialize and hold expertise in their field of practice.
Additional certification in certain specializations is common in professions.
5. Professions and professional employees have substantial authority over their actions.
For example, medical doctors retain autonomy and responsibility for the many
actions that constitute patient care.
6. Professionals receive relatively high salaries and enjoy better compensation for their
work compared to other occupations.
Interestingly, at the same time that Americans laud the professionals' expertise and dedication to
public service, they also remain suspicious of their claims and pretensions. As professions work
to provide a door to upward mobility for citizens, they can also serve as a way to "entrench elites
unresponsive to popular control" (Hatch, p. 4). Much debate has centered on the extent to which
professions either serve as agents of privilege (i.e., limiting access to and monopolizing service)
or as agents of democracy (i.e., permitting vertical mobility and basing authority on knowledge
At many points in American history, from our roots in egalitarian revolution onward, ordinary
people have worked against the established elites in the professions, claiming that their work
requires no special professional qualification. Even today, an attitude continues to exist that
professional expertise equates with elitism, and the word "elite" has become a new scare word in
American life. For many Americans, there are some vocations for which expertise amounts to a
virtual disqualification (Menand, 1995). For example, when people criticize the "career
politicians" on a board of education, they refer to professionals who have lost contact with
common wisdom, those who work solely for their self-interests rather than for the benefit of the
public they are to serve.
The view of the professional as a self-interested elitist contrasts with the view of the professional
as a disinterested specialist, an expert necessarily qualified to perform the work at hand. By
being disinterested, we mean that the professional is interested primarily in achieving excellence
and quality in their work rather than self-aggrandizement (Menand, 1995). Thinking of the
professional as a specialist begins with the recognition that specialized knowledge, skills, and
expertise inherent in a professional are not generally transferable across professions.
Specifically, engineers do not have legal authority, lawyers do not design bridges, and doctors
are not authorized to argue in front of a court. Such specialization of roles provides a societal
check against those who work to stretch the boundaries of their own power.
The disinterested specialist is especially valued in professional areas that provide critical and
trusted public services. Our culture expects that those who provide our most critical public
services be knowledgeable and skillful specialists seeking excellence and quality in their work.
As such, engineers must design and build bridges to be structurally reliable and sound,
physicians must be able to correctly diagnose and heal, and lawyers must practice in a manner
that is not self-serving or manipulative. Accordingly, if educators generally, and special
educators in particular, are to conform to the ideal of a professional as a specialist, they should
be expected to be competent, knowledgeable, and effective to be afforded the public trust and
prestige we associate with the word professional.
THE DEVELOPMENTAL COURSE OF ESTABLISHED PROFESSIONS
This second section describes the developmental histories of four established professions:
medicine, law, engineering, and social work. We have chosen the first three established
comparative professions to review because the majority of individuals in these vocations have
attained a specific knowledge base and requisite credentials, earned the public trust, and
achieved a level of status, authority, and independence sought by many in American society.
Social work was chosen as a comparative profession because it shares certain characteristics with
teaching. Specifically, social work is currently engaged in an internal debate over its status as a
profession. Further, social work and teaching-unlike the professions of medicine, law, and
engineering-exist primarily to serve in a public welfare function that is, in part, funded and
directed by the state. After we consider the histories of these professions, we assess the
developmental status of teaching in relation to each profession according to the six professional
criteria set out earlier by Ingersoll et al. (1997). In addition, our comparisons focus on the major
issues of personnel supply and demand, public perception and status, and personnel preparation
and licensure. Finally, to articulate better the aspects of teaching that can be usefully compared
to other professions, we describe relevant milestones in the development of the fields of general
and special education teaching in the United States.
Medicine: The Fall and Rise of the Profession
History. The history of the medical profession in America in the 19th and 20th centuries
provides interesting analogies to current debates regarding the professional status of teaching.
Basically, the evolutionary status of the American medical profession can be conceptualized as
first a fall and then a rise (Numbers, 1988). Beginning in the early 19th century, medical
physicians viewed their profession with optimism. The opening of the first medical college in
Philadelphia in 1765 had enabled doctors to supplement apprenticeships, the primary mode of
learning then, with formal lectures and medical degrees. By 1830, there were 22 such medical
institutions in the U. S.
The fall of American medicine occurred in three areas. First, revised state laws in the 1830s
accepted a medical school diploma as the equivalent of a license to practice medicine. "Medical
school mania" (Numbers, 1988, p. 52) broke out, and a large number of medical schools flooded
the country, some marginally affiliated with a college or university for prestige, but most run for
profit. Some medical students could not read or write, and most had never been in a college
classroom. Ability to pay was seen as the primary prerequisite for admission. Surprisingly, entry
into medicine was not seen as a preferred occupation, but considered as a last resort over careers
in divinity or law. Practitioners saw medicine as a trade rather than a profession, with the
emphasis on patient getting rather than patient curing.
The second element in the fall of medicine as a profession in the 19th century was the
fragmentation of its body of knowledge and skills. Medical practitioners splintered into
competing sects, each espousing alternative therapies. Many different fads emerged within the
sects, some espousing the benefits of drug therapy, others the benefits of bleeding a patient.
Shyrock (1966) in his historical essays on the field spoke of the medical profession as a "body of
jealous, quarrelsome men, whose chief delight was the annoyance and ridicule of one another"
(p. 151). Indeed, the status of the profession and public confidence in it was not strengthened
when Harvard physician Oliver Wendell Holmes (cited in Rothstein, 1972) suggested that, with
few exceptions, "if the whole material medical, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the
sea, it would be all the better for mankind-and all the worse for the fishes" (p. 178).
The third element in the fall of American medicine was the field's inability to exert control over
the supply of medical practitioners crowding the field. With so many medical school graduates
leaving for-profit medical schools, there was a national glut of practitioners, driving salaries
down. Consequently, a practitioner could not live on medical income alone. Professional leaders
within the field believed that action was necessary to both protect their pocketbooks and the
health of the public.
In 1846, the State Medical Society of New York convened a national convention to address
concerns in medical education and practice. A year later, this group formed the American
Medical Association (AMA), the first national society of physicians. Reforms instituted by the
the establishment of a code of ethics
the establishment of minimum patient fees to be binding in all cases except for the
exclusion from AMA membership practices based on exclusive dogma
establishment of standards for AMA-approved medical schools.
In 1893, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine established a bachelors degree as a requirement
for admission, setting the standard for other schools. Shortly after, states established licensing
boards that influenced the quality of a medical education by requiring all candidates to hold an
undergraduate diploma for admission to medical school and by requiring medical graduates to
pass a qualifying examination. These actions forced competing for-profit schools either to
upgrade their curricula or to go out of business. A shallow medical education no longer proved
profitable for the physician.
Still, professional leaders continued to search for strategies to increase the quality and decrease
the quantity of medical practitioners. Overcrowding in the field depressed salaries. For example,
in 1914, fewer than 60% of Wisconsin's 2,800 practitioners earned enough to pay income taxes.
To increase the power of the AMA, local, national and state units were welded into one unit
(Numbers, 1988). Through its efforts to monopolize the practice of medicine along with its
alliance in developing state law, the AMA reduced overcrowding in the field and greatly
increased its prestige and power. In 1904, the AMA created the Council on Medical Education,
which inspected and graded medical schools. The Council cooperated with the Carnegie
Foundation, which produced the Flexner Report on medical education in the United States (see
Numbers, 1988). This report described abysmal conditions in the nation's schools, forcing many
institutions to shut down and halting production of unqualified and under-qualified physicians.
This professional winnowing, combined with the growth of health insurance, helped physicians
surpass bankers and lawyers as the highest paid workers in the land.
Physicians' status and salaries continue to increase today (Medical Group Management
Association, 2002). As parents continue to encourage and hope that their child will grow up to
become a doctor, admission to medical schools remains highly selective. Two themes justify the
status that the medical profession enjoys in our society: advances in function and consolidation
of power. Specifically, advances in the professional physician's increasingly valuable societal
function are ascribed to advances in an ever-growing body of technical skills and knowledge.
Being able to harness such knowledge has made the physician's function more valuable as
evidenced by the ability to intervene and treat illnesses as never before. It is also clear that
physicians have monopolized the acquisition of this knowledge to intervene. Medical knowledge
is power-in this case, the power is over life and death.
The evolution of the medical profession was a struggle for control over both supply and demand
and the quality of practitioners in the profession. In the early 19th century, the emergence of for-
profit medical schools clearly compromised the quality and integrity of a medical education.
Consequently, the large supply of medical practitioners graduating from these schools had a
suppressive effect on the salaries that doctors earn. Public perception of medicine plummeted
due to the poor quality of the emergent practitioners. Kaufman (cited in Hatch, 1988) described
the public perception at the time of a career in medicine as a last resort:
It is well understood among college boys that after a man has failed in scholarship, failed
in writing, failed in speaking, failed in every purpose for which he entered college, after
he has dropped down from class to class; after he has been kicked out of college, there is
one unfailing city of refuge-the profession of medicine (p. 53).
In summary, the quality of the practice of medicine in the past suffered from three major deficits
within the emergent profession:
Legitimate programs of preparation were difficult to separate from the shoddy and
There were no clear demarcations separating qualified and unqualified candidates.
Fads and competing alternative therapies were allowed to coexist with those that
were grounded in scientific fact, theory, and research.
In response to these deficits, the profession, guided by the force of the newly founded AMA,
began to exercise central professional control over admissions to education programs,
accreditation of schools, and the content of their preparation programs.
Comparisons to education. Teacher education, like medical education in its early days,
currently faces a debate over the appropriateness and proliferation of the for-profit professional
preparation model. Private sector involvement in the delivery of post-secondary teacher
education has grown dramatically in recent years (Rosenberg & Sindelar, 1998). Business-
minded, for-profit corporations engaged in the delivery of undergraduate and graduate teacher
education programs have experienced rapid growth. In their most extreme form (see Traub,
1997), these para-universities fixate on the provision of stripped-down classes that meet the
minimal requirements for teacher certification, employing few full-time tenured professors. In a
time when declining student academic performance has prompted close scrutiny on how teachers
receive both their pre- and in-service training, these for-profit universities are, according to
Rosenberg and Sindelar (1998), "antithetical to the agenda of teacher education reform and the
improvement of our nation's schools" (p. 228).
In the early history of the medical profession, there were no clear demarcations separating
qualified candidates from the unqualified. Unqualified or under-qualified practitioners were
allowed to practice in the profession. It was assumed that the length of their careers was subject
to a winnowing process based on ability. Arguably, there are few demarcations today separating
qualified from unqualified teacher candidates. Considerable research has shown that many new
teachers are entering the field without adequate preparation for their positions. For example,
Darling-Hammond (1997) found that 11% of newly hired teachers in 1994 entered the field with
no license. An additional 16% had a substandard license, indicating that they lacked full
preparation in either their content area, in teacher preparation, or in both. Moreover, most of
these teachers were working in low-income schools serving high numbers of minority students.
In addition, Gray (1993) found that unlicensed recruits are: (a) less academically able than their
licensed counterparts, (b) achieve GPAs significantly below those of other college students, and
(c) perform less well in the classroom than other teacher education graduates. Comparable
standards of licensure and placement in the field of medicine today would be considered
The field of education has found that determining what constitutes acceptable teacher quality can
be a very problematic issue; as such, each state defines a licensed teacher quite differently. Some
states (e.g., Arizona, Connecticut, New York) require at least a Master's degree in addition to a
subject matter degree for professional certification, including a lengthy supervised practicum or
internship. Other states (e.g., New Jersey, Texas, Virginia) have reduced professional education
course work to no more than 18 credits at the undergraduate level without requiring a Master's
degree or supervised internship for professional certification (Darling-Hammond, 1990).
The field of teacher preparation is also in disagreement about what constitutes a quality program.
Mid-career entrants from other fields have been enticed into the field of teaching through a
variety of programs of varying quality. At the top of the scale, these are graduate-level teacher
education programs, in the middle are short-term alternative certification routes that lower the
states requirements for licensure, and at the bottom are emergency certifications that admit
anyone. Studies of various preparation models have shown that quick-entry routes into teaching
(e.g., incomplete alternative certification programs, emergency certifications) have extremely
high attrition rates (50%-60% in less than 3 years) and ultimately cost more than thorough
preparation programs (Rosenberg & Sindelar, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1990; Darling-
Hammond, Hudson, & Kirby, 1989). Such standards of preparation and licensure in medicine do
not vary so freely.
The final issue in comparing teaching to medicine is an agreed-on knowledge base within the
profession. In the early days of medicine, fads and competing alternative therapies were allowed
to co-exist along with therapies grounded in scientific fact, theory, and research. Arguably, the
same problem continues to persist in education. Kauffman (1980), in his introduction to the
classic Handbook of Special Education, stated "that special educators have paid little attention to
their own brief history, much less the histories of other social movements, is suggested by the
readiness with which they jump onto bandwagons" (p. 10). He cites the letters of Blatt, entitled
"Bandwagons Also Go to Funerals," lamenting that special educators seem to pay attention
neither to the successes nor to the failures of past generations. One need not look any further than
the great debates surrounding reading instruction (i.e., phonics versus whole language), the new
math, or inclusion to see how little agreement there is in the field regarding best practices in
pedagogy or service delivery. Conflicting influences and agendas among textbook publishers,
school boards of education, state departments of education, professional advocacy organizations,
and university researchers combine to form a virtual fog of war over the battlefield of what
teachers should know and do regarding instruction in the classroom.
A large part of the base of knowledge in special education is instructional or pedagogical in
nature, unlike in general education. It is misleading to equate general and special education
programs of teacher preparation because of the greater emphasis placed on the accumulation of a
base of pedagogical knowledge in special education.
The definition of pedagogy and its emphasis as a base of knowledge and skills practiced among
qualified general or special educators has changed over the years. Pedagogy today is considered
to be the body of knowledge that contains the skills, methods, and principles behind teaching.
The etymology of the word was derived from the Greeks, for whom a pedagogue was a person,
usually a slave, who attended a boy to and from school, carried his books, looked out for his
wants and needs, and exercised some disciplinary authority over him (Shen, 1999). Pedagogues
were held in contempt and low esteem, because they were often slaves who were seen as useless
for other tasks. Arguably, these connotations of a teacher as a pedagogue have not entirely
According to Shen (1999), three orientations are useful in describing what it is that a teacher
does and must know. Each orientation places the role of subject matter knowledge and pedagogy
in a different context. First, the orientation of subject matter as pedagogy is the thinking behind
the Master's of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree, which is popular among departments of arts
and sciences. By seeing subject matter as pedagogy, everything the teacher would need to know
to be successful would be a teachers' subject matter knowledge. Under this view, a methods
course is gimmicky, considered the smoke and mirrors of education.
The second orientation to pedagogy describes subject matter and pedagogy as two separate
entities. Special scholarship or content knowledge forms one domain and professional
knowledge (the technical knowledge of teaching) is the other domain (Shen, 1999). Knowledge
of subject matter can be defined easily, but the definition and value of pedagogy, a subject of
debate, has found its way into the current discourse in educational policy. According to Shen, the
saying, "Great teachers are born, not made," implies that subject matter and pedagogy are
separate entities, with pedagogy defined as a gift or special endowment.
In the third orientation to pedagogy, subject matter and pedagogy have both separate and shared
identities. This orientation views pedagogy as much more than a bag of teaching tricks, linked
inextricably to subject matter in humanistic, behavioral, and cognitive ways. By looking at
education's nascent roots in pedagogy, we have found that the distinctive nature of teaching lies
in the most modern multifaceted definition of pedagogy-pedagogy as both subject matter and
instruction with distinct, overlapping identities. Debates over how a teacher should be prepared,
what a teacher should know, and what a teacher should be able to do all center over the fulcrum
of the orientation to pedagogy those involved take. Historically, there has been no consensus on
which orientation to pedagogy the field should adopt.
General and special education show substantial differences in their courses of development.
Their teachers are required to have different types of knowledge and skills. Differences include
the content that must be mastered, pedagogy, knowledge of students with disabilities, and
contexts in which teachers work. In terms of content, both general and special educators are
expected to have command over the subject areas they teach. In addition, special educators must
have additional knowledge of the curriculum and specialized knowledge in other areas (e.g.,
social and emotional development, communication skills and oral language development, social/
behavioral skills, motor skills, functional skills). In terms of pedagogy, both general and special
educators are required to understand how to teach content to students with disabilities. However,
special educators must know how to design and implement content-specific specialized
accommodations, access and use assistive technologies, and provide transition support. Both
general and special educators are expected to know their students, including specific information
about each student's abilities and disabilities. However, special educators must have additional
specialized knowledge about the ranges and manifestations of specific disabilities and their
implications for teaching and learning and know how to develop specialized educational
interventions to mitigate the effects of the disability. Lastly, both general and special educators
are required to know special education policies, procedures, and laws that are the framework for
the provision of educational services to students with disabilities. Special educators must have a
greater understanding of the larger contexts (family, school, district) in which teaching occurs
and work across these contexts with their specialized expertise to meet the needs of disabled
Unlike role-specific general educators, who typically serve in a classroom, special educators
perform a variety of specialized roles, each requiring a different set of knowledge, skills, and
dispositions. To give a few examples, special educators may serve as case mangers, instructors
responsible for the integration of students with disabilities in general classrooms, self-contained
classroom educators, co-teachers in inclusive settings, or itinerant teachers. Each role requires
specific knowledge and skills, even though all roles fall under the inclusive title of special
Law: The Tug of War between the Profession and the Public
History. Patterns in the evolutions of professional education and the medical profession are
similar to patterns in the accreditation of lawyers. Like the medical profession, the profession of
law has had to resolve divisive issues concerning how practitioners are to be prepared. Should
lawyers and the institutions that prepare them be deregulated and opened to unrestricted
competition, or should they be controlled through some external (or state-controlled) regulatory
agency? The evolution of the preparation and accreditation of lawyers is a good example of how
a shared responsibility between state and professional agencies has developed in an effort to
reduce tension between the powers of the profession and the public it serves.
The early status of law as a profession in America was characterized by the post-Revolutionary
rise of "gentlemen of the bar" (Bloomfield, 1988, p. 34). These men, by either birth or marriage
in the colonial elite, attempted to restrict the practice of law to those with comparable social and
economic backgrounds. Even so, after the Revolutionary War, there was a genuine shortage of
skilled technicians and no standards for their preparation. By 1820, with new republican
individualist ideologies at the helm of the young country, an open-door policy of professional
legal recruitment was adopted. For example, in 1851, the voters of Indiana approved a new state
constitution that allowed every person who was of good moral character and a voter to gain
admission to practice law (Hurst, cited in Bloomfield, 1988). Some predicted a precipitous
decline in the quality of legal practice through such legislation, but across-the-board declines did
not occur. The method of preparation and evaluation of these new attorneys included self-study,
apprenticeship, and winning courtroom performance. Success in the court, rather than prior
certification, was key to establishing one's self as a successful attorney. Even though the open
door invited the incompetent to try their hands at the practice of law, there was a distinct
winnowing process for those who did not have either the intelligence or the energy to succeed.
This process, while effective in smaller towns, was slowed somewhat in highly populated cities
where it was harder to screen out either the incompetent, corrupt, or both.
Class divisions were rampant in the early bar. As the growing body of new American law was
quickly becoming codified, the production of self-study practice manuals proliferated, slowing
the growth of established law schools. Law schools that were established prior to the 1830s,
usually affiliated with colleges or universities, looked at law as a humanistic discipline requiring
many years of study in history and philosophy to produce enlightened statesmen and courtroom
advocates. Not surprisingly, most law students preferred to dispense with this unnecessary
learning and get on with the business of fee collection. Education at law schools soon collapsed
into course work that qualified the lawyer merely as a technician. Students could come and go as
they pleased, shopping for palatable tuition fees and schools that abolished exams.
At the time of the Industrial Revolution, however, great economic and industrial growth
threatened to overwhelm established values and norms of institutions, including the bar. As the
gaps between the haves and the have-nots became wider, some in the field of law attempted to
establish moral standards in addition to professional norms, while others saw the unsettling
effects of industrialization as an opportunity to gain enhanced prestige. More lay people turned
to experts for guidance, making the late 19th century a seed time for professional development in
the U. S. In 1878, the American Bar Association (ABA) was formed. Although its views were
only those of the narrow professional elite who controlled it, the ABA was a powerful lobbying
force. As a result, many excluded groups (e.g., women, African-Americans, and other minority
groups) formed their own associations. In an effort to bring these sometimes troublesome
practitioners under a central disciplinary control, states adopted the closed-shop policy of an
integrated, compulsory membership in a state bar for the practicing lawyer. This compulsory
membership worked to make the field more inclusive, yet without any standards of professional
The law profession struggled in its early attempts to find a unitary system of legal education.
Consolidation and autonomy in legal education were first supported through the actions of
Christopher Columbus Langdell at Harvard Law School (Bloomfield, 1988; Johnson, 1978).
Langdell introduced the case method of instruction and a scientific rigor to instruction in the
profession. With the popularity of Langdell's ideas, experience in learning the law, rather than
experience in work, became the mark of a good lawyer. The sole focus of legal preparation
became law school and the quality of the school's program. While elite practitioners praised this
move toward quality, they also tried to eliminate night and part-time programs in an effort to
purge the profession of perceived sub-standard programs. The motivations of this move were
suspect; many women, minorities, and low-income individuals attended part-time programs.
Many saw this as an attempt to maintain social stratifications in the bar, rather than quality in the
education of lawyers. Unlike the Flexner Report, which called for the abolition of marginal and
part-time medical schools, a parallel investigation into the condition of American law schools by
Alfred Reed (Trainingfor the Public Profession of the Law cited in Bloomfield, 1988) dismissed
any move to restrict part-time options. Reed argued that such divisions would lead to a two-
tiered system of practice and preparation, a situation that would be inherently unequal and
Confrontations like these led the ABA in 1921 to give its Council on Legal Education central
authority to give accreditation only to schools that adopted uniform educational standards. Many
state legislatures approved of such measures as a way to shut down weak schools and alleviate a
crowded job market. States insisted that law school training was the sole method of preparation
for the bar, and students could only attend schools approved by the ABA or American
Association of Law Schools (AALS) through the Council on Legal Education. The result was an
increase in the breadth and quality of both full- and part-time programs of preparation.
The need to protect the public from ill-prepared attorneys necessitated state participation in the
licensing process. By licensing an attorney, a state attests that an attorney has the knowledge and
skills needed in order to perform. However, in the field of law, a state does not take on the
additional role of specifying the content of the educational program. This is an example of where
the shared, yet autonomous, responsibilities of the state and university complement each other.
The state exercises its control over the quality and quantity of lawyers through the bar exam.
Through this exam, the final decision-making authority and responsibility regarding licensing a
practitioner rest with a state. The bar exam is of sufficient complexity to require an education
from experienced law professors at a law school to pass. While no one advocates that the bar
exam is a good predictor of performance in the courtroom, the license granted by passing the bar
exam states solely that the holder possesses sufficient legal knowledge to meet the quality
concerns of a state. Individual state bar associations also exercise control over the quantity of
lawyers in its state by annually adjusting the passing score for the exam. These states are
considered to have an exclusionary bar, which means that the exam's primary function is to
regulate the number of lawyers in the state rather than merely to screen for knowledge.
California is a prime example of a state with an exclusionary bar. Due to the large number of
licensed attorneys currently practicing in California (over 175,000 in 2001), the state bar exam,
which is designed to exclude, is considered one of the hardest to pass in the nation. For example,
at the February 2001 administration of the California bar, only 39.2% of all examinees passed
(The State Bar of California, 2001).
Neither the bar exam nor the state licensing agency prescribe a preparatory curriculum. This is
the domain of the law school, whose curriculum is expected to meet the educational standards set
by the profession. Clearly, law schools have a great interest in assuring that its graduates pass
the bar exam; few would wish to attend a school with an abysmal bar pass rate. Still, law schools
do not only teach to the bar exam. The practice of law is larger than the exam, and it is assumed
that a well-rounded, comprehensive program would prepare a sufficiently competent student to
pass the bar exam. In the field of law, preparatory schools gain their prestige from the quality of
the education that they deliver to their graduates, and, of course, through the accomplishments of
their graduates. In the end, prestige comes from the diploma from the alma mater on an
attorney's office wall, not a license or score report from the bar exam.
In its evolution as a profession, law-like medicine-has dealt with supply/demand and
professional preparation issues. The development of law has been rife with class divisions:
Practitioners of the law were either "gentlemen of the bar" or those who came to practice through
an open-door policy that gave them little in the way of preparation and qualifications. Growth of
the ABA and consolidation of standards and power in law schools led to better control over the
gate-keeping function within the profession.
Comparisons to education. As we have noted previously, education is still debating the
qualifications and competencies a teacher must have before entering a classroom. Law provides
an example of shared responsibility by schools and states in determining what constitutes a
qualified practitioner. The state exercises final control over the quantity and quality of
practitioners in their jurisdictions through the requirement of a rigorous licensing exam. Few
could pass the exam without a legal degree from a college or university. By sharing
responsibility for induction into the profession, the state ensures a minimum level of competence
through the exam, while the law school retains its autonomy and prestige through the quality of
the education that it provides its student. States do not unilaterally dictate the content of the law
school curriculum, but rely on the content of their qualifying exam.
If attorneys tend to hang diplomas rather than bar exam scores on their office walls, it is unclear
if teachers feel the same way. Which is considered of more value in education-the state
teaching certificate or the diploma from a school of education? Departments of education are
quite familiar with the large numbers of uncertified practitioners who return to colleges and
universities for courses that satisfy state licensure requirements. As noted by Rosenberg and
Sindelar (1998), the collective mantra from this group tends to be, "I must have 6 credit-hours by
the end of the summer to keep my job! Do you have course work that will satisfy the state's
requirements?"(p. 229). In this case, teachers are clearly more concerned with the importance of
maintaining certification than with evaluating the status and quality of the degree that institution
provides. Unlike the legal model, states interfere with the autonomy of schools of education by
mandating the content of postsecondary course work, often in response to perceived political
needs. Sindelar and Rosenberg (2000) have asserted that the content of an education degree is
politically determined in response to topical issues. State legislatures freely add competency and
course work requirements via statute. For example, teachers in Florida were made responsible
for recognizing signs of drug or child abuse; in Maryland, the state legislature required 12 credit
hours in the teaching of reading. While Sindelar and Rosenberg did not quarrel with the
importance of teachers being able to do either, they expressed concern that competencies were
added with little thought about what might be eliminated in order to accommodate this new
content. Moreover, in an era when student-consumers do not wish to learn content they believe is
unrelated to their professional interests, regional and state mass-market institutions of higher
education (IHEs) are willing to strip down education classes until only minimal requirements for
continued employment are addressed. It remains to be seen whether the mere accumulation of
course credits will lead to professional competence in education.
We can learn much by considering the evolution of the legal profession. As described by
Bloomfield (cited in Hatch, 1988), a professor of law at Harvard Law School in 1829, Joseph
Story, was driven by financial deficits, low enrollments, and the "dictates of the marketplace" (p.
38) to modify Harvard's program of law by eliminating all subjects not immediately useful to
practitioners. Students were permitted to come and go as they pleased (provided they paid their
fees), and examinations were abolished. Under these conditions, understandably, the law school
prospered and enjoyed high enrollment, but at what price success? The appointment of
Christopher Columbus Langdell as Dean of Harvard Law School in 1870, although resisted at
first, revolutionized law education through the introduction of the case method, Socratic
dialogue, and legal reasoning. A higher standard of legal education prevailed. By 1900, the
Association of American Law Schools (AALS) was formed to continue to promote the
Harvardization of legal training throughout the country-the method of legal training that
Engineering: Public Versus Private Professional Interests
History. From the outset, engineering as an American profession was solidly connected to
national goals. According to Sinclair (1988), this connection emanated from a belief that
technical skill or "Yankee ingenuity" was an element of our character as a nation. Americans
believed that through the export of our technology, we also sent democratic ideals and evidence
of the rightness of our politics. By the 1830s, the tasks of engineers were clearly defined: they
were to create prosperity for the citizenry, and, through that abundance, demonstrate the wisdom
of the country's political system.
The full-blown institutional development of engineering in America did not occur until after
1870. Until this time, early schools of engineering attempted to create an enlightened, educated
artisan from working-class stock. These early efforts to create an engineer-artisan failed, because
the informal instruction at these schools taught science at such a basic level that it lost all utility
and application. As a response, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia shifted to a model
combining the rigor of the means of the scientific method to the goals of engineering (Sinclair,
1988). This was the first model of professional education in engineering that trained the engineer
as a scientist rather than as an artisan.
In the late 19th century, two related events raised the status and expedited the development of
engineering as a profession. First was the teaming of engineering with the emerging economic
industrial movement. The benefits of scientific technical analysis in engineering were turned to
benefit industry. As a result, the profession became administered by industrialist-entrepreneurs
as well as by scientists. Those in the public works industry, for example, earned wealth and
prosperity in the completion of socially beneficial work. Second, the alignment of engineering
with entrepreneurial society coincided with changes brought by the emerging Industrial
Revolution. New standardized fittings and machine tools economized and improved production.
Unskilled labor was now used to an unprecedented degree. Benefiting from these technological
developments, engineers could now design and build objects and structures in less time with
greater precision, strength, and reliability at a lower cost. With its alignment to entrepreneurial
industry, these factors brought forth an enormous growth in engineering in a very short time.
As a result of this convergence, the first American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME),
founded in 1880, had a remarkably coherent sense of mission about their work. To this end,
according to Robert Henry Thurston, the first president of the ASME, their most important
business was to narrow the gulf in engineering between "men of the world who were primarily
concerned with the creation of wealth, and men of science who were devoted to the creation of
knowledge" (Thurston, cited in Sinclair, 1988, p. 134).
In the 19th century, professionalism in engineering was thought of as the application of
specialized knowledge in the interest of one's employer, usually an owner-manager partnership.
However, in the early 20th century, a period called the "progressive era" in engineering, a
reactionary movement termed the "revolt of the engineers" began (Layton, 1971). Members of
this professional movement sought a split from engineering, perceived to be driven by private,
selfish, and corrupt motives, toward a new city manager or independent, contractual level of
public service. This movement raised the question of the role of a professional engineering
society in America. Specifically, could the engineer have any deeper ethical responsibility than
loyalty to one's employer? (Sinclair, 1988). The revolt of the engineer and growth in the number
of engineers split engineers into factions, by geography and by specialty.
The present ideal of engineering professionalism as specialized occupational independence
emerged from this split-a pure professional-client relationship where the engineer serves a
client in a manner that is unbiased by special interests. The engineer now operated with the
professional freedom achieved when specialized knowledge is applied to socially important
goals. As a result of the development of occupational independence in engineering, according to
Sinclair, "professionals apply to the best of their ability their expertise and judgment to the
client's problems" (p. 141). The client was not obliged to take the engineer's advice. What
emerged then and what continues today is a direct positive connection between the professional
engineer's integrity and recommendations.
Comparisons to education. Two factors are similar in teaching and engineering. First, the
early mission of engineering and the current mission of public education in America today focus
on goals of a national scale. Engineering's early, idealized mission was to create prosperity for
the citizenry and, through that abundance, demonstrate the wisdom of the country's political
system. Similarly, it can be argued that the mission of public education is to demonstrate the
value of a free education for a citizenry that needs preparation in American democracy. This
focus on work toward the best interests of the public is clear in education and in engineering
through public works. Second, the two professions both debate the evolving nature and purposes
of their professions. Specifically, engineering has been influenced greatly by the introduction of
a market approach. Teaching is beginning to confront a similar influence in its own evolution as
The engineering profession encountered a critical milestone in its evolution when enormous
industrial and technological growth brought great market-driven forces to bear on the
organization of the profession. "Men of science," as quoted by Thurston, were separated from
"men of the world" (p. 134) as the preferred professional in engineering. As a result of this
influence, a professional-client model of operation began to emerge and take precedence among
engineering practitioners. This flourishing professional-client model was the engineering
profession's response to the introduction and growth of market forces.
Similarly, the field of education is currently debating how educational services should be
delivered in the presence of current market forces. As articulated by Cochran-Smith and Fries
(2001), the sides of this debate hold fundamentally different views of the purpose and role of
schooling in America. Should education continue to support a professionalization model that
ensures a fully licensed and qualified teacher to every student in America, or should market
forces prevail in the preparation and selection of teachers? Moreover, should the nature of a
teacher's work be a public enterprise, or should the work be considered, as coined by Larabee
(cited in Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2001), "private goods" (p. 12)? Should teachers engage in
individual competition and proffer their educational services to schools and students via a form
of the professional-client relationship? What would be the impact of a free-market approach to
teacher hiring and teacher education?
There are fundamental differences between the public enterprise and free-market views of
teaching and education. Proponents of the public enterprise view (see Earley, 2000; Engel, 2000;
Larabee, 1997) argue that, unlike engineering, the introduction of a market approach to
education policy "fundamentally undermines a democratic vision of society" (Cochran-Smith &
Fries, 2001, p. 8). Under the banner of educational reform, proponents of a market approach (see
Ballou & Podgursky, 2000; The Fordham Foundation, 2000) seek deregulation of teacher
training and elimination of the perceived monopoly that schools of education have exerted over
teacher preparation. By focusing exclusively on results that teachers achieve, it is assumed that
the effects of a free market will then enable good teacher education programs to prosper and poor
programs to wither. It can be argued that there is a fundamental paradox between the nature of a
teacher's work, which is essentially democratic and for the public good, and market-driven
reform, which is competitive and individualistic. Competition and choice imply that there are
winners and losers and culprits to be found when teachers, and consequently children, do not
perform well (Early, 2000). These notions conflict with the assumption that every child should
receive an education from a quality teacher.
In summary, we have considered the evolution of engineering as a profession and the
development of a contractual model in which engineers offer their expertise through a marketed
client-professional relationship. The lessons here may be prophetic for education. Teaching and
teacher education will inevitably take stands on a spectrum of issues ranging from market-led to
government-directed. Whether teachers will be perceived as domesticated government workers
or as independent professionals in the future remains a critical issue for the profession. The
extent to which teaching is willing/unwilling to conform to external forces-governmental or
free-market forces-will inevitably change the character of the education system and its
influences on American society at large.
Social Work: Two Traditions of Struggle
History. Compared to medicine and law, social work is a fairly new profession. In the U. S.,
social work is over 100 years old (Ginsberg, 2001). While most believe that social work began in
the early 1900s, the origins of social work can be traced back to two traditions of progressive
activism, the Charities Organization Societies (COS) and the Settlement Houses Movement
(SHM). The COS focused on changing individuals; the SHM wanted systematic societal reform
to drive the work of the field. The history of social work parallels cyclical expansions and
contractions of these two traditions. In some periods, the field sought to meet individual needs
and constructed itself around a clinical model. At other times, the field attempted comprehensive,
sometimes radical, national societal change. In a broader context, the field of social work has
been characterized, perhaps somewhat unfairly, as the "handmaiden of the status quo" in
American society (Abramovitz, 1998, p. 7).
In the 19th century, most social work in the U. S. had arrived from London in the 1870s
(Abramovitz, 1998). These English Charity Organization Societies became forerunners of
American charity organizations. American COS introduced the principles of "scientific charity"
(p. 3). This method mirrored current scientific business management theories followed, which
called for targeted, efficient, and rational giving to the destitute by charities. The COS wanted to
help change individuals and their families, the perceived source of all social problems. By 1895,
the main organization in social work, the Conference of Charities and Corrections, had elected a
COS leader from the private sector. Influenced by this organization, almost all public relief
organizations were abolished.
In reaction to the blaming-the-victim philosophy of previous organized charity work, the SHM
argued that poverty stemmed from adverse social conditions over which individuals had little or
no control. SHM staff moved into the poorest neighborhoods, provided community service, and
worked for community justice. This more radical position gained influence in the field,
especially during the Great Depression when dire conditions forced social work to reconsider the
value of its own resistance to government involvement and assistance programs.
In the decade before the Depression, social work focused on the pursuit of professional status,
psychodynamic theory, and private practice as an evolution of a COS client-centered orientation.
Large-scale suffering brought on by the Depression forced the field to challenge the
appropriateness of this model. At this time, some social workers believed that the field had no
special duty to become involved in this national emergency. Other social workers disagreed,
questioning the field's pursuit of middle-class clients, psychodynamic theory, private practice,
and professionalism (Abramovitz, 1998). The Depression forced social work to reassess the role
of social activism in its mission: should it be an individual's responsibility, a specialized function
of social work, or a responsibility of the entire profession? Social work was further forced to
confront the value of economic assistance given to clients, the social underpinnings of poverty,
and the efficacy of its own previous resistance to government programs and assistance.
Roosevelt's New Deal legislation aided the liberal wing of social work in enacting social policies
that considered social and economic planning for the poor, minimum standards of living, and
public works programs. By the end of the 1930s, an improved economy and the effects of a
liberalized profession brought the radical elements of the profession closer to the mainstream.
After World War II and into the economic boom of the 1950s, the public's interest in social
reform waned, and the risks of speaking out during the times of the "red scare" silenced
reformers in the field. In the 1950s and early 1960s, public assistance came under renewed
attack. Social work responded and helped draft the 1956 and 1962 amendments to the Social
Security Act, which added the benefit of clinical social services to public assistance programs.
By the end of the 1960s, massive social unrest rekindled the debate over the role of the
profession and the question of whether social work was behind the times of social change. Social
work was forced to decide once again whether it was to be an agent of systematic social reform
or keeper of the status quo. By the early 1970s, the nationally unifying body of social work, the
National Association of Social Workers (NASW), had rejected a long-standing separation
between professional and political activities.
According to Abramovitz (1998), three factors continue to help or hinder social work's attempts
to define the profession and to shape its professional mission:
its structural location
the requisites of professionalization in a market economy
changing political climates over the past 100 years.
Social work is located somewhere between individuals and the system. It is forced to respond to
the needs of individuals and their requirements in the context of a larger market economy. A
market economy requires and encourages increased profitability from employers, something that
essentially undercuts the breadth of social work's ameliorative agenda for individuals and
communities. This contradiction is lessened during prosperous or liberal times, when all in the
society benefit from the economy. The contradiction is heightened, however, during times of
economic decline or conservative reaction, when the ability of social work to reconcile corporate
profit and social well being simultaneously is stretched to its limits.
Professionalization of social work required the development of an identifiable knowledge base,
control of the social services market, creation of a commodity that would appeal to a large
number of customers, and the acquisition of private donor support. In the context of a market
economy, these requirements pressed social work to narrow its vision in the pursuit of
professional status (Abramovitz, 1998). The movement of social work's mission from advocating
societal reform to rendering technical services efficiently-from a cause to a function-is the
essence of its professional conundrum. A case work model eventually dominated the field. Like
the professions described earlier, social work restricted its practice to those holding an MSW
degree. Social case workers from then on continued to refuse requests from group workers and
community organizers for admittance into the field, further consolidating the move from its
historical roots in charity to its modern appearance as an enterprise.
Comparisons to education. Similar to social work, teaching struggles with an unclear,
bifurcated definition of its professional mission, which is split between cause and function. The
tension between a focus on models of service delivery and a focus on models for civic reform in
a profession was seen in engineering, which was forced to respond to calls for a more
progressive movement in its ranks. Comparably, the field of nursing, split between function and
cause, evolved into: (a) nursing as we traditionally know it, which remained oriented to
medical/physical scientific approaches to disease as problem of individuals and retained
predominantly female nurses working under the direction of male physicians, and (b) public
health nursing, which used physical science as a tool within a broader social science framework
that attacked the social causes of disease (e.g., sanitation, water purification, work place safety)
and incorporated female nurses working collaboratively among themselves and with local
communities to solve health problems. Similarly, it can be argued that teaching must respond to
a latent progressive movement within the profession. Like social work, teaching continues to be
influenced in its mission by its structural location between individuals and the system, the
requisites of professionalization in a market economy, and the effects of a changing political
scene during the past 100 years.
The most recent challenge to the mission of the teaching profession can be seen in the political
climate and requirements contained in the revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(ESEA), better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), arguably the most significant federal
education policy initiative in a generation. A potent blend of new requirements, incentives, and
resources, NCLB poses enormous challenges for teaching. It sets deadlines for state departments
of education to expand the scope and frequency of student testing, to revamp their accountability
systems, and to guarantee that every classroom is staffed by a teacher qualified to teach in his or
her subject area. It requires states to make demonstrable progress from year to year in raising the
percentage of students proficient in reading and math and in narrowing the test-score gap
between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Lastly, it pushes them to rely more heavily on
research-based approaches to improving school quality and student performance. The array of
accountability measures in the law include mandatory provision of supplementary instructional
services, public school choice, reconstitution of the school, and allowing outside parties to
operate the school. Such accountability measures are forcing teaching's hand to declare itself as a
entity in a market economy, one that must either render its technical educational services more
efficiently or, like social work, be forced to abdicate its role in social welfare entirely.
IS TEACHING A PROFESSION?
Components of a Profession
Given what we have learned about the status of teaching and the evolution of other professions,
we return to several abiding questions. We will use as anchor points for our evaluations the
essential components of a profession (Ingersoll et al., 1997), described earlier. Using these
anchor points, how does teaching match up with other professions? Can we claim that teaching is
a profession? Concluding that teaching has not achieved full professional status, we consider
the issues and policy decisions that we believe will influence the course and development of
teaching's professional evolution. Specifically, we address the form and current nature of the
debate surrounding the agenda to professionalize teaching and consider how the structure of this
debate within education corresponds to the developmental histories of other professions.
We have considered the developmental histories of four vocations, the significance of their
critical developmental periods and how each evolved to provide careers having full professional
standing. We also reviewed central issues in teaching in relation to each of these professions-
personnel supply and demand, public perception and status, and personnel preparation and
licensure. With this in mind, can we consider teaching a profession in its present stage of
development? Based on these current comparisons, we agree with those who concluded in
previous decades that teaching was not quite a profession (e.g., Birch & Reynolds, 1982; Etzioni,
1969; Goodlad, 1990).
Table 1 summarizes the analysis of the professions and occupations discussed. Each profession
has been reviewed according to the Ingersoll et al. criteria (1997). Clearly, the professions of
medicine, law, and engineering stand out as having achieved professional status. For teaching
and social work, it is not at all certain that the fields have established these factors in the public
and professionals' minds.
Similar to Goodlad (1990), we conclude that factors present in other professions are not currently
defined or in clear existence in either general or special education. According to Goodland,
teaching lacks (a) a coherent body of knowledge and skills; (b) a considerable measure of
professional control over admissions to professional preparation programs; (c) autonomy with
respect to the determination of relevant knowledge, skills, and norms of the profession; (d) a
degree of homogeneity in groups of program candidates with respect to academic expectations
and curricula; and (e) clear borders in the profession distinguishing qualified candidates from the
unqualified, legitimate programs of preparation from the shoddy and entrepreneurial, and fads
from innovation grounded in theory and research. Our analysis has shown how the careers of
medicine, law, and engineering have struggled to incorporate the above conditions into their
By strengthening the AMA in the early 20th century, medicine exercised central professional
control over admissions to educational programs, accreditation of medical schools, and the
content of preparation programs (Kauffman, cited in Hatch, 1988). This was not an easy task.
American doctors viewed the overcrowding of their profession by poorly trained and poorly
performing physicians as their greatest problem (Numbers, 1988). Through a reorganization of
Table 1. The Presence of the Six Characteristics of Professions.
Complexity Lengthy Ongoing Speciali- Authority Relatively
of work? induction? growth? zation and over own high
expertise? actions? salaries?
General Disagreement Disagreement Agreement Disagreement Disagreement Disagreement
Special Disagreement Disagreement Agreement Agreement Disagreement Disagreement
Medicine Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement
Law Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement
Engineering Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement Agreement
Social Work Disagreement Disagreement Agreement Disagreement Disagreement Disagreement
the AMA, a member of a local society automatically was given reciprocal membership in state
and national organizations. The membership increase gave the AMA a large voice for furthering
its interests. Strengthening AMA's relationship with state licensing boards yielded similar
results. State boards delegated the authority of deciding which schools of medicine merited
licensure of their graduates to the AMA; not surprisingly, the organization began to wield
considerable control over the supply and education of doctors.
Similarly, to resolve the divisive issue of how best to prepare and control the number of legal
practitioners, the profession of law entered into a relationship of shared responsibility with state
regulatory agencies. The profession determines the curriculum and sets the educational
standards, and state authorities exercise control over the quantity and quality of those entering
the profession through the bar exam. Again, consolidation of power within the profession of law
and demarcation of the standards of preparation and admission into the profession emerged only
after a long developmental struggle. When law confronted the critical challenge of defining a
coherent body of knowledge and skills, the profession exchanged "prevailing community
standards" or "immutable moral principals" (Johnson 1978, p. 178) for the more efficacious case-
based methods of practice as bases for legal decisions. The adoption of a scientific approach to
learning the law gave gate-keeping power into the profession to the school of law. Since the
1930s, states have insisted that the sole method of preparation for the bar is a law school
Many of the conditions faced by medicine and law remain unresolved in teaching. Clearly,
teaching and teacher education continue to be "at the mercy of supply and demand, pillages from
without, and Balkanization from within" (Goodland, p. 71). Education is currently a servant to
many masters-forces that emanate from outside and inside the field (Sindelar & Rosenberg,
2000). Teaching and teacher education programs are required to address state certification
standards, licensure requirements of a myriad of professional organizations, specific college and
university standards, as well as both state and professional accreditation standards. As evidenced
by a spate of recent federal and state governmental initiatives, the essential content of the field
remains "political putty, ready to be shaped by decision makers in response to hot-button issues"
(Sindelar & Rosenberg, p. 189). In short, these are not characteristics of a vocation that has
achieved full professional standing.
Factors Influencing the Evolution of Teaching as a Profession
If teaching is not quite a profession, is it on a developmental trajectory toward becoming a
profession? The uncertainty surrounding this question has smoldered into a firestorm of debate
that influences the direction of reform in teaching and teacher education. This debate:
shares characteristics with earlier debates in the development of medicine, law, and
reflects part of a larger national schism-the love-hate relationship with the
professional as either elitist or expert (Menand, 1995)
includes locus-of-control issues, with control of the profession ranging from free-
market forces at one extreme to total governmental controls at the other extreme.
Figure 1. Pressures that Serve either to Promote or to Diminish Efforts to
Professionalize a Vocation.
These dimensions-minimalist/elitist and free market/governmental control-are illustrated in
Figure 1. Adapted from the work of Bottery and Wright (2000), this representation shows the
pressures that serve either to promote or to diminish efforts to professionalize a particular
vocation. Two intersecting axes combine to form four quadrants, each representing a unique
stance or organizational approach. The vertical dimension is the degree to which the profession
is controlled by the influences of a free market at one end or by governmental control at the other
end. The horizontal dimension is the difficulty associated with entrance to the profession, taking
into account the rigor of professional preparation programs. At one end of this dimension is a
minimalist approach that presents few hurdles for entrance into the profession; at the other end is
an elitist/expert approach that requires rigorous preparation and assessment before entrance into
the profession. Specific influences, events, and actions within these quadrants strongly affect the
character of the profession, its developmental decisions, and ultimately, its effect on and status
within the society it serves.
Quadrant 1 activities. Market-oriented influences, events, and actions define the vocation as
requiring minimal professional preparation, deregulation, and dissolution of the perceived
monopoly currently held by the teacher education establishment. A combination of minimal
requirements and a free-market approach to teacher education induction and education leads to a
competitive independent contracting model for educators. The singular focus is on the results
that an independent teacher achieves rather than the qualifications of an individual teacher.
Quadrant 2 activities. Minimally prepared teachers are hired to implement government-
generated curricula using methods prescribed by the government. The measure of success is
whether a teacher's students meet external criteria specified by the government. In this model,
teachers are perceived as domesticated, semi-skilled government workers.
Quadrant 3 activities. The combination of elitist, specialized preparation and a market
approach allows government to leave matters of education to the influences of the market place.
Free to rise without governmental oversight to a level limited only by one's own abilities,
teachers can develop and operate private, independent schools that operate outside public sector
control. The primary measure of success for teachers in this model is survival in a free-market
Quadrant 4 activities. Under a combination of elitist, specialized preparation and
governmental control, knowledgeable professionals work to provide services as employees of the
government. Success is measured by how well teachers equip students for their future roles in
society. Correspondingly, in this model, teachers view their educational efforts as contributions
to the public good; however, the requirements for highly specialized preparation are likely to
create conflict between a controlling government and teachers.
The four quadrants are models for synthesizing major elements of debate toward understanding
events, policies, and actions in the evolution of teaching as a profession.
In a recent analysis, Cochran-Smith and Fries (2001) characterized the debate as two overarching
1. professionalization of teaching and teacher education
2. deregulation of teaching and teacher preparation.
In their view, the agenda to professionalize reflects, "a broad based effort to develop a consistent
approach to teacher education nationwide based upon high standards for the initial preparation,
licensing, and certification of teachers" (p. 3). In direct opposition, the movement to deregulate
involves dismantling teacher education institutions and breaking up the long-held monopoly of
those who mediate entry to teaching.
Cochran-Smith and Fries describe three types of warrants-evidentiary, accountability, and
political-that have been used to substantiate, justify, and legitimize positions on both sides of
the debate. An evidentiary warrant makes exclusive use of empirical data, facts, and evidence
from research. For example, in an effort to win their side of the debate, those on the
professionalization-deregulation side have attempted to win the evidentiary warrant through: (a)
convincing empirical evidence about the efficacy of teacher education, (b) discrediting evidence
provided by the other side, and (c) casting the other side's arguments as strictly ideological, and
thus able to be summarily dismissed or refuted. The accountability warrant, according to
Cochran-Smith and Fries, refers to the side of an issue that is most "reasonable and attentive to
responsible outcomes" (p. 10). For example, those advocating for professionalization often point
to raising admissions criteria for teacher training programs and a toughening of program
accreditation standards so the public can be assured that teachers have sufficient professional
knowledge. In contrast, those advocating deregulation focus on the outcomes that teachers
produce. Deregulation simplifies hiring, eliminates the qualifying hurdles that teacher candidates
must jump, and judges teachers directly on whether students are learning. The political warrant
refers to "the ways proponents of competing policies in teacher education justify their positions
in terms of service to the citizenry and of larger conceptions about the purposes of schools and
schooling in modern American society" (Cochran-Smith & Fries, p. 10). With this warrant, both
sides of the debate use the language of public interest, civil society, pluralism, and freedom to
bolster their arguments. Each side suggests that the other side wishes only to further its private
agenda, and, therefore, is aligned against the public good. In terms of teaching, the
professionalization side of the debate is characterized as favoring regulatory strategies to protect
existing academic monopolies; the deregulation side is seen as favoring status quo policies to
protect the advantaged and deny educational opportunities to the disadvantaged.
Either in isolation or in combination, each warrant serves to legitimize courses of actions to
improve the quality of the nation's teachers and the status of the profession. Similar to the
quadrants proposed by Buttery and Wright (2000), arguments and discourse within warrants can
be represented as points across the continuum, specifically, trends that can be plotted along a
developmental trajectory. Those who advocate professionialization of teaching seek to move
teacher preparation from a minimalist stance to an elitist, specialized position. Conversely,
deregulation advocates move toward teaching policies that represent minimalist, market-directed
The similarities of quadrants and warrants of professional reform in education and in the
development of vocations with full professional standing are clear. Taken together, it is our view
that the developmental trajectory of teaching is at a critical juncture and that the field is
experiencing pressures on two major fronts. Responses to these pressures and the course that is
pursued, we believe, will determine if teaching is to remain a domesticated occupation or if it is
to emerge as an independent profession of its own accord.
The first pressure involves the methods used to determine who is and is not qualified to teach.
Inextricably attached to this issue is an argument over power-who should hold the keys to the
gates into the profession. Specifically, should entry into teaching be solely contingent on courses
of study found at institutions of higher education (IHEs)? Here, the evolution of teaching is not
unique. Law, medicine, and engineering grappled with questions about the place, nature, and
value of professional preparation. As these professions entered the 20th century and consolidated
authority over who did and did not enter the vocation, the power of preparation was universally
consolidated in IHEs. One of the first missions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
was to narrow the gulf that existed between men of the world and men of science and to decide
who should control preparation and entry into the profession. Men of science (i.e., professors in
IHEs) won out, albeit men (and women) who understood and were influenced by the value of
occupational independence and the market forces that affect the work.
Perhaps the best lesson for teaching is from medicine. As the value and rigor of a medical
education increased, the corresponding increase in the prestige of the medical profession was
seen as a function of:
its enhanced usefulness
its tighter grip on power
the exclusive nature of a medical education.
If the exclusivity of the profession pays dividends in enhanced function (i.e., better medical
care), then the profession is better able to withstand public scrutiny. However, if the functional
demands of the profession are not perceived by the public to be met, then the field is seen as
merely elitist, as having a monopolistic grip on power that does not serve the public good, and
only works to protect its own interests.
This may be the case for teacher education. Where does the functionality and power lie within
teacher education? Pressures from disparate sources are intense. Learning from the experiences
of other professions, teaching must:
come to consensus on the relative function or utility of the body of knowledge
currently presented in teacher education
decide who should control the power of entry into the profession.
In other words, the field needs to be decisive about the usefulness of teaching knowledge and to
retain real power over teaching credentials.
Unfortunately for many observers, standards for preparation vary according to the vagaries of
supply and demand. For example, Teach for America and similar programs have granted
teaching credentials to persons who do not hold a teaching license but have enthusiasm and the
desire to teach. Did other careers moving toward full professional standing allow unqualified
practitioners in clinics to Heal America, or similarly to Engineer for America, based on
enthusiasm rather than standards of professional preparation and competence? For medicine,
law, and engineering, the days of free, unqualified admission into a profession are over. To move
toward professionalization, teaching would best be advised to assimilate the lessons learned by
other professions and realize that the knowledge base of teaching requires specialized standards
The second pressure affecting the developmental course of teaching involves:
the scrutiny and rigor a profession devotes to educating and training professionals
before issuing credentials
professional identification of itself as either a public, government-directed enterprise
or as a private market-directed enterprise.
Medicine moved from minimalist, market-directed policies to elite, specialized market-driven
policies by increasing preparation standards and limiting personnel supply. Similarly,
engineering came into its own by articulating occupational independence and contractual, free
market-driven bids as the method of practice. The power over entry into the legal profession
evolved into shared responsibility between forces within the profession and external state
control. Specifically, the state assesses and is assured of the competency and professional
knowledge of the law candidate through the bar exam, but it does not specify a preparatory
curriculum. Further, the state bar can adjust the passing scores on the bar exam to restrict the
number of professionals licensed to practice in its jurisdiction, effecting some control over
supply and demand. Both of these powers allow the state to retain a measure of control over the
quality and quantity of the professionals practicing within the state without impeding the ability
of the law school to develop autonomously and to implement its own curricula in response to
Teacher preparation curricula, for the most part, are dictated by states. States also hold sole
discretion and control over the nature and rigor of the assessments used to determine admission
into the profession. Given the pressing need for teachers, states have been forced to find teachers
to fill vacancies: (a) by relaxing or reinterpreting their own rules to grant emergency credentials
regardless of the candidate's qualifications, or (b) by redefining what it means to be a fully
qualified teacher. If teachers certified through abbreviated approaches are found to succeed, then
the policies that favor these approaches abide at the pleasure of the state. IHEs will be pressured
even more to adopt market-driven approaches if they are to survive. If such teachers are found to
serve the students under their command poorly, IHEs can only hope to provide a warrant that is
compelling enough for the state to take notice and raise standards.
Still, outcome issues do not include the larger issues of professional rights and responsibilities.
Optimal development of teaching, teacher education, and students requires resolving the issue of
who should direct programs of professional preparation. The current model of teacher
preparation and assessment is not unified. Conflicting pressures on teacher preparation programs
both allow and reward teachers seeking the path of least resistance to certification. Similar to
events in the early histories of medicine, law, and engineering, poor professional preparation in
both general and special education is both a symptom and a cause of a decline in prestige.
Whether through state, IHE, or shared control, teaching and teacher education can only develop
into profession through a true program of professional preparation.
Our analysis has confirmed that teacher education reform discourse can benefit by studying the
history of careers that have achieved full professional standing. Several frameworks (e.g.,
quadrant models, warrants) assist in defining the parameters and direction of arguments related
to the professionalization of teaching. According to Angus (2001), the debates over
professionalization in teaching revolve around four issues. We believe that resolving these issues
in light of historical precedent will go a long way to help the status of teaching as a profession.
Specifically, we need to resolve the following:
Who should control licensing of teachers?
Should licensing decisions primarily be based on a competency exam or completion
of an approved program, or both?
What are the effective elements of a course of study, and who should dictate them?
How specific should a license to practice be?
These questions, which echo historical debates that have been resolved to some extent in other
professions, resonate through current debates in educational policy, but clear answers are elusive.
The field must resolve the following critical issues if teaching and teacher education is to move
beyond classification as an occupation and be fully considered profession:
What is the value of professional preparation in teacher education? Is anyone
qualified to teach, or is teaching worthy of professional preparation on a par with
medicine, law, engineering, and social work?
What is the suitability of a market-driven aspect to teaching and teacher education?
As we have seen in medicine and law, sometimes ability to pay takes precedence
over all other concerns when it comes to personnel preparation with disastrous
What is the role of government in the preparation and assessment of teaching
professionals, or, who should hold the keys to the gates of the profession? Should
government prescribe a preparatory curriculum and teacher competency testing, or
should a shared model of responsibility, (e.g., in law) prevail?
What monitors and controls does teaching and teacher education have over the
supply and demand of personnel?
Like others who labored in careers seeking full professional standing, we believe that it is
essential for teaching to take decisive action on these issues. The consequence of failing to
address these issues is that others will define the field according to political and economic
criteria rather than according to the knowledge base that many of us hold dear.
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