EDM170-Professionalism in the 21st Century

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:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Alan Floyd

Email: alan.floyd@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Professional arenas are increasingly subject to government intervention, ostensibly to improve organisational as well as individual effectiveness, with an emphasis on standards, coupled strongly with mechanisms of accountability and deep economic concerns about needs for the rationalisation of resources. The aim of this module is to explore the changing nature of education professions, and attendant notions of professionalism, against this backdrop. Content draws on current research evidence, key concepts and academic debates in order to develop students’ own critical reflection on their professionalism and their readiness to undertake practice-oriented empirical research.


  • To develop an understanding of the key concepts and issues related to professionalism across all sectors of education including values, subject knowledge, identity and ethics. 

  • To critically examine literature, theories, frameworks and conceptual models of professionalism from education, and elsewhere, and relate these to practice

  • To enable participants to theorise and enhance their practice through critically engaged reflection on their own professionalism

  • To provide an opportunity for participants to undertake a small-scale research study within their own institution exploring an aspect of professionalism.

Assessable learning outcomes:

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

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the key concepts and issues surrounding professionalism and how these relate to political, cultural and societal influences

  • Critically examine literature, theories, frameworks and conceptual models of professionalism from education and elsewhere and relate these to practice

  • Reflect upon and enhance their own practice as educational professionals

Demonstrate their ability to select and employ appropriate research methods in relation to their research focus

Additional outcomes:

  • Students will have developed increased depth to their understanding of a substantial body of knowledge relating to professional values, identity and practices.

  • 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:      
    Wider reading (independent) 20 30 30
    Wider reading (directed) 10 10 10
    Advance preparation for classes 5 5 5
    Preparation for tutorials 5 5 5
    Completion of formative assessment tasks 10 10
    Essay preparation 40 30 30
    Reflection 10
Total hours by term 100 100 100
Total hours for module 300

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
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

Assessment 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: 10 April 2019


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