Tag Archives: professional

Meet the CSPACE Team – Alex Wade

Name: Dr. Alex Wade

alex W Role at BCU: Researcher

Research Interests:

  • Technology and Education
  • Young People
  • Digital Media and Relationships
  • History of Technology

Research you are currently working on:

  • Sexting and young people
  • Use of Simulations in Speech and Language Therapy
  • Fundamentals of General Practice Nursing Evaluation
  • Lunch and Brunch Clubs Evaluation
  • British Videogames of the 1980s

Research methodologies you are using: Genealogy; habitus; simulations and simulacra; dromology; cultural histories.

Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: It continues to amaze me how many areas have so little research undertaken in them. If you can find an emergent, or under-researched area, you can potentially – if you so wish – have a whole life dedicated to research in a topic where it is impossible to exhaust the possibilities. The aphorism, ‘we spend all of our life learning and die stupid’ is never truer than when applied to research – and to education!

Most influential research you have read/seen: Jean Baudrillard’s The Transparency of Evil. In 1993 it appeared to be prescient, now it is prophetic.

Advice for new researchers: Your degree by research is a driving licence that allows you to undertake the real learning that takes place after you pass. You will never have the opportunity to do such an expansive and broad piece of work again (even if you write a book!). So, whether PhD or professional doctorate, it is a reference work and a tool, but most importantly a position that you will return to again and again and is the basis for everything that follows.

Mini fact about you: I can read upside down as proficiently as I can the ‘right way up’, which I understand is one of the pre-requisites for joining MI6. (I may actually be a triple agent . . . . )


Professionalism as a commitment to continual learning

Written by Phil Taylor, MA Education and Maters in Teaching and Learning Course Director, Education, Pedagogy and Professional Studies Co-ordinator

The newly-formed Practitioner Education Research Cluster within the Faculty of Health Education and Life Sciences has begun to share and discuss ideas on professionalism and professional identity. This is bringing together perspectives from across different disciplines and practices, drawing on experience in diverse healthcare and teaching roles. Our initial stimuli for re-thinking professionalism have come from two articles, by Hargreaves (2000) and Stronach et al (2002), which over a decade ago drew attention to debates that are still current and ongoing. While agreeing that notions of professionalism are multiple and difficult to pin-down, some common themes and interesting differences have started to emerge from our discussions. My reflections on this process so far, still in its early days, are written from an educational perspective, though the opportunity to listen to and learn from healthcare experiences has already been invigorating.

First, we have shared the notion that professions do not pre-exist as entities, but arise from occupational groups with common goals, experiences, expertise, qualifications and language. Professionalism entails the acquisition of knowledge and skills specific to an occupation or discipline, but further, application of this expertise to contexts and clients is of crucial importance. This has the potential to be a source of confidence to ourselves as professionals and also to those we care for or educate as our clients, patients, learners. Professionalism, as discussed by our research cluster, therefore becomes inextricably linked to ways of meeting the needs of others, providing public service or benefit and fulfilling a greater good, working with others ethically and responsibly. Commonly expressed values in building positive relationships with others were trust, partnership and empathy.


There are also emergent tensions in the ideas we have shared, between professionalism in a culture of openness and trust where problems are shared and resolved in teams, and professionalism as a set of standards to be complied with and used for accountability purposes. One member of our cluster spoke of expectations of ‘being professional’, seemingly important to members of professions, used as both stick and carrot. Also mentioned were political interference and hyper-accountability as eroding professionalism and leading to more entrepreneurial and instrumental professional identities. We began to explore the possibility that professionalism can create barriers or boundaries as well as forge relationships, perhaps exemplified by expressions such as ‘overstepping the mark’, or ‘beyond my pay grade’. This connects to experiences of some occupational or practitioner groups not always being considered as ‘professionals’ in the same way or with the same status as others with whom they work, for example teachers, early years practitioners and teaching assistants in schools.

Some of these tensions resonate with Stronach et al’s (2002, p.131) characterisation of the professional situation of teachers and nurses as ‘unstable’, with particular emphasis on the potentially negative impact on professional motivation brought about by audit cultures. For Hargreaves (2000), in teaching, these are symptoms of ‘de-professionalization’ along with the lessening role of higher education in initial teacher education risking practice that:

‘can at best only be reproduced, not improved’ (p.168).

Hargreaves’ (2000, p.175) solution of a ‘postmodern professionalism that opens schools and teachers up to parents and the public’ is apparently not favoured by Stronach et al (2002, p.130), who link this position to discourses of performativity, effectiveness and improvement. Both articles associate stronger professionalism with greater trust but, in my reading, divergence appears over issues of how to build and motivate this trust.

Hargreaves’ (2000) solution to de-professionalisation, for ‘professional effectiveness and public credibility’, is for teachers to ‘set and meet an exacting set of professional standards of practice‘ (p.171, italics in original), recognising this as a ‘paradoxical challenge’ (p.176). For Stronach et al (2002) such standards of practice seem to invoke a deficit model that risks demotivation, insisting that healthy practice ‘needs exercise rather than medication’ (p.132). They conclude that professionalism relies on ‘positive trust’ rather than ‘performance ranking’ (Stronach et al, 2002, p.131) and that

‘excellence can only be motivated, it cannot be coerced’ (p.132).

For a group of academics and practitioner educators, perhaps a key to both fostering this motivation and re-defining professionalism lies in another theme arising from our research cluster discussions; one with which I think both Hargreaves and Stronach et al might concur. That is, a commitment to continual learning.


Hargreaves, A. (2000) Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning. Teachers and Teaching6(2), 151–182.

Stronach, I., Corbin, B., McNamara, O., Stark, S., & Warne, T. (2002) Towards an uncertain politics of professionalism: teacher and nurse identities in flux. Journal of Education Policy17(1), 109–138.