Advancing Practice In Academic Development: Chapter 3 Professions and professionalism in teaching and development


Edited by David Baume and Celia Popovic
Routledge – The Staff and Educational Development Series
Publication January 2016

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Chapter summaries and extracts will on the SEDA Blog over the coming months. (There may be small differences between these and the published versions)

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Chapter 3 – Professions and professionalism in teaching and development

Stephen Bostock and David Baume


The chapter explores the ideas of professions and professionalism. We suggest that teaching may be considered either as additional to the original profession or discipline of an academic, or, perhaps more usefully, as part of this original profession or discipline. We seek to resolve whether pedagogies are most usefully considered as generic or discipline-specific. We explore how various suggested elements of professionalism may be relevant to teaching and to development. We review the development of professional standards for teaching and development, and consider the professional bodies and associations through which these standards have been developed and implemented, in both cases drawing mainly from UK experience but hopefully with international implications. We consider some of the uses of teaching standards, and the training and accreditation of academic developers.

Some extracts


The biggest difficulty that the idea of profession brings for teaching and for academic development in higher education may be that most academics, including academic developers, already have a profession, or a discipline (an adjacent concept).


The other main approach is to describe teaching (ignoring development for now), not as a further profession or discipline to be learned and adopted, but rather as part of an academic’s current or primary profession or discipline. Most members of disciplines and professions acknowledge their responsibility to the future of their discipline or profession, as well as respect for its past. However, this responsibility to the future of the discipline or profession is most widely manifested through a commitment to research, scholarship, service, or otherwise undertaking and enhancing practice in the discipline or profession. Not only must the academic be expert in the profession’s knowledge base, they must also contribute to it. The aspiration at least is that these forms of contribution to the future are undertaken to the highest academic and professional standards. The same is not always true of contributing to the future of the discipline or profession through teaching.


Ensure that all the courses and processes that you run continue to be superb examples of professional teaching and development practice. As a developer you must be – you cannot avoid being – a role model. It comes with the territory. You will be judged much more by what you do and how you are than by what you say. This a great load, and a great opportunity.


Each of these professional standards is very short – around a couple of hundred words. This is mainly because the professional standards do not prescribe how the outcomes should be achieved and how the values and knowledge should inform practice. Detailed implementation of standards is left to the individual professional. It may be thought that a longer, more detailed standard would better assure quality. The evidence suggests otherwise. Proposed standards for further education (college) teachers in the UK, published by the Further Educational National Training Organisation (FENTO, 1999), were some 10,000 words long, and were not well received. Less can be more, as long as it is the right less!


Contestable though it clearly is, the idea that teaching and academic development can usefully be considered and treated as professions can be very productive. The idea of profession raises questions that might otherwise not be raised: about the obligations and rights of academics and developers; about the preparation, qualification and continuing development of academics and developers; and about the nature of our practices.

About the Editors

David Baume is an independent international higher education researcher, evaluator, consultant, staff and educational developer and writer.

Celia Popovic is Director of Teaching Commons at York University, Toronto, Canada.


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