Sunday, 8 February 2015

Are you a professional?

I am hearing the resounding "yes" of most of you who are reading this article. "Of course we are professionals!"

But, what exactly makes you a professional?

I can still hear you. Your responses are many and varied. Some of your responses are coherent. You know exactly why you are a professional. Some of your responses are incoherent. You believe that you are a professional but you are finding it difficult to articulate your reasons for your belief.

A number of scholars in many fields - Education, Business,  Government, among others - for example, Donald Schon and M. Noordegraaf who have engaged with the study of professionalism, have suggested, among other things, that there are some key components of professionalism. These components are as follows:
  • There is a knowledge component. That is, the area in which one claims to be a professional has some specific knowledge associated with it. Having gained the knowledge associated with our areas of interest, knowledge acquired through many years of study, we take a step towards being professionals. 
  • There is a skills component. That is, the expertise that we have developed in our chosen fields, our ability to manipulate the knowledge that we possess, then applying it to solving the problems that we will be called on to solve in the fields in which we have settled. 
  • There is a collaborative component. That is, we in our different fields have come together to form groups or associations which we give the authority to take action in our "best interest". Our "best interest" like our responses to the question of what makes us a professional are many and varied. However, if we just delve into the operations of our "professional" organisations that are related to our areas of work, we will get some insight into what they think is best for us or what we have told them is best for us. In addition, they are usually responsible for licensing our practice. 
  • There is a behavioural component. That is, there is usually a document referred to as a Code of Conduct that our professional organisations develop which sets out the prescribed behavioral norms that we the members ought to display. 

The scholars have spoken, but why do you believe that you are a professional?
  • Do you believe that you are a professional because you have ticked all the above boxes? That is, you have spent years and years of schooling and are certified in your area of study, you have developed expertise in this area of your study, you are a licensed member of your professional organisation and you adhere to the Code of Conduct. 
  • Do you privilege one or more of the components of professionalism - either the behavioural or knowledge and expertise or membership of your professional organisation to determine your professional status?
  • Do you believe that you are a professional because you have realised that professionalism may be used as a strategy to negotiate your way to whatever end that you have in mind?
So, why are you a professional and is it important to be a professional?

Sound off in the comments section below.

Janette Fuller is an educator who is now engaged in writing, editing, blogging and studying. She has recently written her first book,  Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world in which, through the stories she tells, she presents a sociological account of the lives of people in the Jamaica/Caribbean setting who have been achieving their versions of success in spite of the odds that they have had to face. This book is available here. She also blogs about issues in Education in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world here.

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