EDM170-Professionalism and an Ethic of Care

Module Provider: Institute of Education
Number of credits: 30 [15 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Geoff Taggart

Email: g.taggart@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
Those working with children and young people (e.g. teachers, early years practitioners, social workers, playworkers, etc.) have often found it difficult to ensure they are perceived as ‘professionals’, in the traditional understanding of professional status. Whilst some occupations (i.e teaching) have had some success in this endeavour, others continue to be seen as forms of low-status work. This lack of consistency threatens to undermine recent attempts in the UK to construct an ‘integrated children’s workforce’, based on common values, skills and knowledge. The module therefore addresses this challenge by creating a community of enquiry within which representatives from different parts of the workforce can share perspectives on the subject of professionalism.
A key question to be considered in the module is the extent to which official attempts to ‘professionalise’ the workforce (e.g through codes of practice or occupational standards) reinforce or undermine the roots of the ‘caring professions’ in virtue ethical dispositions such as care, compassion and public service. In order to address this question, the concept of care is analysed from the perspective of different disciplines.


  • To critically evaluate the ways in which social and economic change impacts upon the constructs of profession and professionalism
  • To promote in-depth understanding of the benefits and challenges involved in the attempt to align professions within the children’s workforce
  • To explore critically the relationship between ‘professionalisation’ and the ethical basis of work with children and young people
  • To promote in-depth understanding of the concept of ‘care’ as it applies to such work

Assessable learning outcomes:
On successful completion of this module participants will be able to:

  • Articulate their own understanding of professionalism and care in the context of multi-disciplinary theory
  • Identify ways in which social and economic change impacts upon professional identities
  • Demonstrate understanding of the sociological, philosophical and psychological theories taught in the module, as related to the student’s research into the construct of professionalism
  • Demonstrate appropriate methods in relation to chosen form of research

Additional outcomes:

  • Students will develop a clearly articulated understanding of professional identity
  • Students will develop an increased understanding of parallel professions within the children’s workforce
  • Students will have increased their ability to communicate complex information in both oral and written communication

Outline content:
The module offers students the opportunity to engage critically with current sociological, psychological and philosophical thinking on the concept of the ‘caring profession’ and, via original research or advanced scholarship, to apply this to their own working contexts. The two constituent elements of the concept represent intertwining themes within the module:

1) As regards the concept of ‘profession’, organisational theories of professional skill are critically evaluated. Students analyse sociological accounts of widespread changes in the structure of professions and the influence of post-modernity. Different examples of ‘caring professions’, both national and international, are analysed in terms of their comparative expectations, and rewards for, practitioners.
2) A range of disciplines are drawn upon to focus on the subject of ‘caring’. The theories of psychoanalysis and object relations are used to investigate critically the gendered origins of the caring disposition and its role in ‘emotional labour’. As part of this theme, the sociology of Foucault and Bourdieu is explored to cast light on how power is structured within caring relationships. The module also incorporates feminist philosophy which has focused on caring practices as a challenge to the modernist approach to ethics. Contemporary research on ‘virtue ethics’ in relation to professionalism is evaluated. The potential importance of generic human spirituality to caring work has also been championed in some professional literature (e.g. nursing) and students are invited to consider the relevance of this to other professional contexts.

Global context:
Examples from caring professions in various countries are drawn upon as appropriate.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

  • Lectures
  • Group discussions and short tasks
  • Blended learning tasks on-line
Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 7 7 7
Tutorials 3 3 3
Guided independent study 90 90 90
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 300.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:
A qualitative research project which applies an area of study within the module to the student’s field of work. Depending on the composition of the cohort, comparative studies are encouraged which, as part of the assessed project, involve the student in researching a profession within the children’s workforce which is parallel to their own. The topic and title will be negotiated with the module convenor.

The word count is 6,000 words.

Formative assessment methods:
Continuous feedback on research project through tutorials

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:
A mark of at least 50%.

Reassessment arrangements:
One resubmission only. Resubmission is negotiated to be no longer than three calendar months of the notification of failure

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 31 March 2017

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