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Teaching in post-compulsory education: profession, occupation or reflective practice?

BERA Conference, Lancaster University, September 1996

Dr G Elliott

Director of Access
Worcester College of Higher Education
Henwick Grove
Worcester WR2 6AJ
Tel: 01905 855145
Fax: 01905 855132


This paper argues that a new conceptualisation of teaching in post-compulsory education is required. Taking into account the radical ideology-driven change experienced in the sector in recent times, it is suggested that there are difficulties with traditional and reworked models of the lecturer as a 'professional', chief amongst which is that lecturers do not seem to think of themselves in this way. It is suggested that any alternative conceptualisation must (i) take into account lecturers' own conception of their working practices, (ii) reflect the range of these practices, and (iii) reflect the epistemological and ethical basis of teaching, in particular, lecturers' sense of the value and worth of what they do. Such a model may contribute to our understanding of the nature and extent of the policy crisis in the sector, since it potentially conflicts with both the radical conceptualisation of knowledge and understanding which underpins the NCVQ vocational qualifications framework, and assumptions underlying current managerialist practices.

Key words: post-compulsory education; teaching; profession

Teaching in Post-Compulsory Education: profession, occupation or reflective practice?


The cultural ethos of universities and colleges has shifted markedly in recent years. Radical legislation affecting the post-compulsory education sector, allied to major reorganisation of the vocational curriculum and new arrangements for funding and quality assurance have combined to contribute to major changes in institutional organisation. Governing bodies are now comprised of a majority of business representatives, the funding for non-vocational adult education has collapsed, and decision-making takes place within a closely-coupled financial framework. The interim report of the Dearing Review of 16-19 qualifications (Dearing 1995) and the announcement of the Dearing review of the purpose, structure and funding of higher education (to include further education) makes it clear that further changes and re-organisations will continue to characterise the sector.

The speed and scope of change is unprecedented. It can be argued that lecturers have experienced acute loss of control of their work situation and that the barriers to change invoked by lecturers in response to that loss are one expression of the working out in practice of the ethical basis of their educational conceptions. There is a developing real tension in the sector between the management imposed imperatives of satisfying quantitative performance indicators, and lecturers' conceptions and priorities based upon their value judgements. One result of squeezing resources, increased vocationalisation of the curriculum, and increasing external accountability, is that lecturers are led to engage in trading off learners' needs, course needs, and their former ideas about practices which count as teaching. In many cases, lecturers' personal biographies have been built around a conception of teaching which would deny the very market model they are required to implement. There is a growing climate of suspicion, which fosters distrust of initiatives such as flexible learning and work-based assessment. The fear is that such developments are purportedly introduced to serve students' needs, but will be used by unscrupulous managers to further undermine lecturers' ownership of legitimate work. It is therefore important, in order to understand the potential for change and development in the sector, that both managers and lecturers question traditionalised and, it is argued, outmoded, notions of teaching.

In this paper, three models of teaching in post-compulsory education are explored: the professional model, the occupational model and the reflective practitioner model. Whilst it is recognised that these models are not mutually exclusive, nonetheless each is commonly represented and clearly identifiable within current debates on contemporary practice within the sector.

Teaching as a profession

Little work has been done specifically on teaching in post-compulsory education as a profession; the work in this area is predominantly school-based. Educational theory has relied heavily upon the notion of teacher professionalism in order to describe and explain teachers' educational conceptions and their view of the world (eg Hoyle 1969, 1980; Darling-Hammond 1989; Ozga 1992). A difficulty with the notion of profession is that it invites unhelpful comparison between different professions (Lawn 1989; Pietrasik 1987). To note that lecturers do or do not have the same degree of autonomy, status or esteem as lawyers or doctors has little more than curiosity value. A second difficulty is that the concept of teacher professionalism or professionality meets with little consensus either in the literature or amongst practitioners (Hughes 1985: 269). The term is differently used and understood, dependent upon the nuance of meaning attached, when used as a noun or adjective, everyday or technical term. Another difficulty lies in reconciling both the institutional context of teaching (Hoyle 1975) and the increasing prescription and demarcation of lecturers' activities through new contractual arrangements and competence-based accreditation of assessment practice, with traditional models of professionalism which centre around notions of autonomy (Dennison and Shenton 1990: 312).

Meyer and Rowan (1988), reviewing the organisation and structure of US educational organisations, reject the notion of the professionalisation of teaching, arguing that teachers themselves do not believe it. They cite the irrelevance of teacher training as judged by teachers themselves, the lack of teacher autonomy over what teachers should teach, and the generalised locus of responsibility for planning and co-ordination, as evidence that teachers are not professionals, and argue that what they term "the myth of professionalism" has arisen because teachers have much discretion within a loosely-coupled system (Weick 1988), and is maintained because it serves the requirements of public confidence and good faith in the performance of teachers and pupils (Meyer and Rowan 1988: 96; 106). Ozga and Lawn (1981: 11-12) have noted the difficulty of arriving at a definition of 'professional' which is not a reflection of the value position adopted by members of leading professions themselves.

A telling case is made by Grundy (1989) in her critique of the relevance of professionalism to teaching. She argues that the self-critical, reflective practitioner must inevitably be in a different power relationship to the client than would a professional, that is, a relationship which minimises control and coercion and maximises mutual respect and cooperation. Behind this view is the assumption that a professional's primary duty lies towards colleagues. This view is consistent with Illich's (1973) position that a key agenda for professionals is the defence of their profession, which can limit their commitment to those who are in receipt of their services.

Carr and Kemmis (1986) take a different view of the primary focus of professionals, which underlines the elusiveness of the term. For them, a "distinguishing feature of professions is that the overriding commitment of their members is to the well-being of their clients" (1986: 8). Despite this differing emphasis on where the responsibilities of professionals lie, they also spell out "the limited extent to which teaching, as we know it today, can legitimately be regarded as a professional activity" (1986: 8). Avis (1994) also criticises the notion of professionalism as applied to teachers on the grounds that "ahistorical and essentialist notions of professionalism, as expressed in trait approaches and those which fall back upon definitions of knowledge and skill that constitute expertise", cannot address issues of social antagonism and social difference (1994:65). A looser use of the term 'professional', indicating "commitment, self-organisation, and a certain status" (Pietrasik 1987), underlies contemporary debate on FE lecturer's terms and conditions of service (eg McBean 1994:6; NATFHE 1994), and is implicit in the College Employers' Forum (CEF) so-called 'professional contract' (CEF 1993) for FE lecturers.

Hoyle (1992) has noted that "there appears to have been a semantic shift in the connotation of professional as adjective and noun which has somewhat decoupled the term from its original reference to profession" (1992: 5) [original emphasis]. It is the very attractiveness of some of the attributes traditionally associated with professionalism and professionality which has led many to wish to retain the link between teaching and professionalism. Some of these attributes are the idea of expertise, or a job well done ('a professional job') ; the idea of autonomy, which is a very powerful concept for lecturers in the context of increased centralisation of educational policy; the idea of specialist knowledge, another powerful concept when appraisal mechanisms and accreditation procedures are held to be deskilling lecturers; the altruistic ideal of education for its own sake; and the idea of the exercise of critical judgement and creativity in deciding the best approach to meeting learners' needs. Salaman (1979: 137) presents a profile of organisation-based professionals which incorporates a number of these attributes. The value of professionality as a notion for teachers and lecturers themselves may be found in its potential to legitimate autonomy.

The slippage in the use and application of 'professional' represents a significant danger of marginalising lecturing as a profession in post-compulsory educational institutions, where other professions and different professional values, are given more status and esteem. University and college managers might legitimately reduce staffing levels, contact hours, and replace lecturers with technicians and demonstrators, whilst at the same time claiming to serve the students' best interest in terms of 'service to the customer', 'value for money', and increased throughput - notions which can be, and frequently are, sustained by a use of the term 'professional' which is founded upon the ideology of a business efficiency ethic.

Teaching: occupation, work or labour?

Many contemporary critiques of lecturers' working conditions are underpinned by a view of teaching as occupation, work or labour. For example, occupational and work characteristics of teachers are referred to by Hodkinson (1992) and Ball (1993). Other accounts highlight the extent to which teaching is open to influences which are held to be bureaucratising (Darling-Hammond 1989), de-skilling (Ayres 1990; Hyland 1992a), deprofessionalising (Trow 1993: 21) and proletarianising (Apple 1986; Ozga and Lawn 1988). All of these factors gain a particular force when applied to lecturers in post-compulsory education. The use of competence-based education (CBE) approaches to the accreditation of lecturers, through the use of occupational standards, are argued to be evidence of this kind of trend.

Pietrasik (1987: 169-70) argues that teachers are turning to trade unionism to secure better pay and conditions, rather than appealing to professional status. In a school context, Lawn (1989), has argued that "teachers' work is going to be (or already is) more clearly defined, more fragmented, more supervised and more assessed, and that teachers are losing control over it" (1989: 154). As noted elsewhere (Elliott and Hall 1994), human resource management (HRM)` strategies underpin a view of the labour force as an allocatable resource. Teaching qualifications of any kind have never been a prerequisiste for lecturers, but there is a growing concern at the mandatory imposition of low-level competence-based testing procedures upon experienced lecturers (Ashworth 1992; Chown 1992; Chown and Last 1993).

Hyland (1992b) has been influential in arguing that the development and implementation of Training and Development Lead Body (TDLB) occupational standards for lecturers undermines the lecturing role. His critique of the introduction of a competence-based approach to lecturer training is largely based upon the limitation of the lecturers' role which is implicit in the performance specifications of the TDLB Assessor and Verifier Units. He also signals the inherent danger, consequent upon functionalist occupational mapping, of producing compliant staff "who are uncritical of change but well able to perform the tasks and duties required of them by college management" (Hyland 1992b: 11).

Hyland then proceeds by implication to flesh out a view of what the lecturer role might entail and, at the same time, what it is about the role that cannot be described by the occupational work role criteria which underlie the TDLB framework:

The pace of change in the post-school sector in recent years has resulted in a fluid and uncertain state of affairs in which lecturers are required to be flexible, critical, reflective and knowledgeable about a vast range of curricular and organisational matters.
(1992b: 11)

In a later paper, Hyland (1993) argues for a model of lecturer professionalism based upon the notion of "professional expertise". The circularity of this position considerably undermines his application of the term professional in this context. In fact, the literature he cites to support his notion of 'professional expertise' in almost all cases focuses upon 'expertise' rather than 'professional expertise'. Hyland himself acknowledges that the literature on experts points to certain common traits which "seem particularly appropriate in relation to the 'reflective practitioner' model" (1993: 129). Carr (1993), in his discussion of the knowledge and professionalism of teachers similarly has recourse to the idea of the reflective practitioner to summarise what he means by professional when applied to teaching (1993: 253).

Rationale for a reflective practitioner model of teaching

The growth of managerialism and the demands made by policy shifts towards a mass participation system of post-compulsory education suggests that this might be an opportune moment to revisit the nature of teaching. As lecturers find themselves working for managers with employment experience outside education, and who allocate resources according to business priorities, it may become more necessary for lecturers to affirm the territory of their expertise. Occupational standards which emphasise competences demonstrated in a designated workplace may be found to be too limiting in the way in which they circumscribe lecturers' practice, whilst viewing lecturing as a profession, on the other hand, carries with it the danger of legitimising a wide range of assumptions and activities which focus attention and resources away from the teaching and learning process. Drawing upon literature from educational management, and the sociology, psychology and philosophy of education, some ground rules can be proposed for a new conceptualisation of teaching.

In order to be meaningful and valid for the practitioner, a new conceptualisation should be grounded in lecturers' own understanding and experience of their working practices, and it should adequately reflect the range of these practices, as well as their epistemological and ethical basis (Day and Pennington 1993: 251). It should reflect a phenomenological perspective towards organisations, which recognises the centrality of understanding individual's orientations (cp Maslow 1954), and that "organisations are to be understood in terms of people's beliefs about their behaviour within them" (Greenfield 1975:83). It should also be capable of supporting theoretical and political opposition to attempts to redefine practitioners' shared educational values (Avis 1994). This last point is increasingly important in light of attempts by the CEF to apply the term 'professional' to their new restrictive and widely opposed (Uttley 1994) college lecturers' contract of employment.

A key limitation of the model of lecturing as a profession is that it implies a consensus and common orientation among lecturers which the literature does not support (Little 1984; Fullan 1990; Huberman 1990). An important advantage of the concept of reflective practice over the concept of professionalism is that the former is more consistent with a micropolitical perspective, recognising the different interests, biographies, careers, priorities, subjects, status and pedagogical orientation of lecturers.

Hargreaves, in his work on contrived collegiality (1991), teacher individuality (1993a, 1993b), and balkanisation (1994), highlights the importance of taking teachers' individual differences into account in understanding the working practices and assumptions of teachers. He warns against assuming the existence of a shared culture amongst members of an organisation, arguing the possibility that "some highly complex organisations may have no shared culture of any substance" (1991: 50). This view is supported by Astuto and Clark (1986), who argue that some educational institutions may be "culture light" (1986: 62).

A second important characteristic of the notion of reflective practice is that it is capable of encompassing moral and educational values as well as specific 'professional' practices (cp Elliott 1989; Grace 1993). This is not insignificant at a time when educational managers are under pressure to re-define their own roles and those of their staffs, away from pedagogical orientations towards a model of professionality which has more to do with a business and market orientation which "bespeaks a philistine simplism" (Stones 1989: 8), or towards what Carr (1994) has called "a technicist conception of educational professionalism focused largely on the development of superficial tricks of the trade" (1994: 50). In circumstances where the role of the education professional may come to be re-defined by other stakeholders, then a conceptual re-orientation may be timely, since it is only through the "grounding of our actions in our values that we can recognise the nature of the competing rationalities we face and find means of coping with them, whether as managers or as those being managed" (Bennett et al 1992: 15).

A third feature of the proposed model of reflective practice specifically addresses the criticism raised by Avis (1994) of the reflective practitioner notion presented by Schon (1983, 1987) and Elliott (1991a). Avis characterises the idea of the reflective practitioner as solely concerned with " (meeting) clients, collaboration, holistic understanding and self reflection . . . . absent however is an engagement with power, politics and difference" (1994: 67). He presents reflective practice as a facilitator model of teaching, similar to the role of counselling, which he claims ignores the social struggles surrounding education, and rests on the premise that professional educators really do know best, and which understands "teaching as a neutral enterprise, only compromised by values orientated towards the educational development of all - a quasi-neutrality - that fails to address the politics involved and the very real conflicts and social antagonisms surrounding education" (1994: 68). However his position is quite ambiguous, since he acknowledges that whilst "the technological rationality of traditional professionalism is deemed dysfunctional and thereby fails in its own terms, . . . a dynamic model of professionalism embodied in the reflective practitioner is valuable, in that it does encourage us to examine the taken for grantedness of our practice, to indulge in autocritique" (1994: 68). In suggesting that the limitation of the reflective practitioner model is that "it is compromised by its lack of a politics" (1994: 68), Avis fails to recognise that reflection, critique, and examining taken for grantedness - reflective practice in his terms - are essential pre-requisites for political action, either at a micro or macro level (Blase 1991: 11; Griffiths 1993: 158; McCulloch 1993: 300). Indeed it is only through reflective practice that the "preoccupation with the personal, and the relative neglect of the social and political (which) is a chronic condition of post-modernity" (Hargreaves 1993b) can be avoided. At bottom, Avis' position is rooted in a single, rather than a multi-level, analysis of political action. He fails to acknowledge that it is necessary for individuals to adopt a reflective practice in order to draw coherent linkages between institutional and national contexts.

The model of reflective practice which underpins Freire's (1972: 15-16) notion of 'conscientisation' fully meets Avis' objections. For Freire, conscientisation refers to the development of a critical consciousness (rather than consciousness-raising, in a patronising sense) to a level where individuals can achieve a sufficient degree of social and political awareness to understand contradictions within society and, crucially, to work to transform it. As Hargreaves concludes:

In what we do with teachers and in how we study teachers and their development, it is time to 'get real'; to reconnect the system with the self, as part of a critical, collaborative and deeply contextual agenda for change.
(1993b: 110)

Teaching as reflective practice

It is an unfortunate and limiting characteristic of a good deal of educational research that it fails to recognise the antecedents of some of the central issues and concepts with which it deals. Thus, the idea of the reflective practitioner is often attributed to Schon (1983; 1987). Whilst readers of this journal may have noted that there are good reasons to account for Schon's popularisation of the notion (Eraut 1995: 9-10), the origins of the idea go somewhat further back.

The idea of reflective practice can be demonstrated to be at the centre of British philosophical discourse, from the seventeenth century philosopher Locke's (1690) concern with appropriate knowledge and judgement as vital to well-informed rather than ill-informed understanding, through Mill's (1843) concern with the centrality of inferential thinking to the exercise of good judgement. John Dewey (1933: 29; 287-8) was the first formally to apply the idea to the educational situation. His definition of reflective thought is predicated upon its status as a conscious, voluntary and purposeful activity. Dewey believed that reflective thinking was an artistic rather than scientific endeavour, and that it represented the ideal human mental state (1933:29; 287-8), and an antidote to a restrictive preoccupation with "those things that are immediately connected with what we want to do and get at the moment" (Dewey 1970 [1929]: 159).

Stenhouse (1979) recognised the key role of reflective thinking for educational practitioners, in arguing that what is learnt from comparative studies can "tutor our judgement" (1979: 6). Schon (1983: 62-3) develops Dewey's notion of the essential artistry involved in the intellectual process of reflecting on action. It is the creative dimension of reflective practice which enables practitioners to deal effectively with inconsistent or incompatible demands, and which thus makes it such a powerful framework for understanding action in non-rational, unpredictable organisations. The unpredictability of much classroom knowledge is also acknowledged by Eisner (1967: 89), who distinguished between learning characterised by behavioural, instructional objectives, and that characterised by novel or creative responses, and argues that pre-specified behaviourist approaches to learning and educational evaluation are inappropriate for the latter, since the student's behaviour cannot be specified in advance (Eisner 1969: 93).

Eisner's model of classroom knowledge as created, shared and unpredictable is evocative of the work of those, such as Freire (1972: 44), who reject bureaucratic teaching and learning procedures in favour of a critical student-centred pedagogy. Central to this model is the notion of teacher and student as of equal status as subjects: "the students - no longer docile listeners - are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher" (1972: 54). Freire contrasts this model with the prevalent banking model of education, where "knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing" (1972: 46). As Gore has pointed out (1993: 42) it is the attention which Freire pays to the elaboration of an alternative critical pedagogy, rather than the generation of abstract educational theory, which makes his contribution so valuable and potent. By reconceptualising the task of the lecturer it is possible for the lecturer to make a significant impact upon the quality of students' educational experiences. Freire's pedagogy requires teacher and student, jointly, to engage in the educational process as partners, each having an active and valuable contribution to make within a negotiated curriculum. This approach can also be conceptualised as a "dialectical learning relationship" (Fryer 1994:19). As Trow notes:

Teaching is not an action, but a transaction; not an outcome, but a process; not a performance, but an emotional and intellectual connection between teacher and learner. Therefore it cannot be assessed as an attribute or skill of a teacher or a department, independent of the learners who have their own characteristics which affect whether and how much they learn (about what) from a particular teacher , and, indeed, how much they learn from them.
(Trow 1993: 20)

The conception of teaching as an activity underpinned by 'core values' is a persistent one in the literature which attempts to characterise teaching and explore its key attributes. Carr (1987), for example, claims that "a definitive feature of an educational practice is that it is an ethical activity undertaken in pursuit of educationally worthwhile ends" (1987: 165-6). He cites Peters' argument that these ends "are not some independently determined 'good' to which educational practice is the instrumental means. Rather they define ... the 'principles of procedure' which constitute a practice as an educational practice and justify its description in those terms" (1987: 166). For Altrichter and Posch (1989) education is essentially a moral practice aimed at the realisation of values, and for Sockett (1989), more specifically, teaching is concerned with moral values such as care, courage and truth. This emphasis upon core values would, as Elliott (1989) points out, refute an 'objectives' model of curriculum development, and lend weight to Stenhouse's (1980) 'process' model. In Whitehead's (1989) terms, the values of education are realised through educational practice, not through a prescribed and predetermined set of objectives or outcomes. Reflective practice, then, can be construed as epistemologically and ethically linked to philosophical and pedagogical traditions which assert "that the educational character of any practice can only be made intelligible by reference to an ethical disposition to proceed according to some more or less tacit understanding of what it is to act educationally" (Carr 1987: 166).

The focus upon core values locates the reflective practitioner model within a cultural, epistemological, and essentially ethical tradition which transcends economic, political and administrative expedience (cp. Gadamer 1980: 249-262). Viewed through this lens, it is not difficult to see why competence-based education (CBE) approaches which focus upon the activity, rather than the context and worth of the action, have fuelled a powerful critique which focuses upon the extent to which CBE impoverishes the educational experience. It is the extent of the radical centralist CBE-based curriculum reforms introduced by NCVQ (Hyland 1994), and the degree to which they have undermined the core values associated with teaching and learning (Smithers 1993: 9-10), which has led to the most vocal critical comment. Hyland (1994: 235) has illustrated the pervasive power and influence of the NCVQ framework, and has pointed out that the CBE strategies which underpin the NCVQ framework are diametrically opposed to the conception of learning and development held within the reflective practitioner model. He argues that the development of what he calls a "learning culture" (1994: 242) in post-school learning requires a closer look at strategies concerned with learning per se, rather than performance or outcomes. In Eisner's (1967: 89) terms, a weakness of CBE would be that it fails to distinguish between the application of a standard and the making of a judgement.

Advantages of a reflective practitioner model of teaching

This final section sets out some of the implications of conceptulising teaching as reflective practice for theory, practice and practitioners. Skilbeck (1983) has been particularly influential in noting the benefits for "teachers in school, educational advisers and academics who are carrying forward a general style of reflective inquiry of which Stenhouse is the principal luminary" (1983: 18). Similarly, in their study of teacher-researchers on a university course, Vulliamy and Webb (1992) found "that the in-depth reflection on practice, promoted on the course by case study and action research, often made a major contribution to participants' professional development and led to changes in policy and practice for which they were responsible" (1992: 43). If lecturers are, potentially and in practice, open to the benefits of innovation, it is in managers' interest actively to explore the extent to which, and under what conditions, lecturers are prepared to review and amend their practice. By the same token, it seems likely to be counter-productive if managers set up mechanistic and system-serving procedures which lecturers regard as against their own and their students' best interests. Managerialist strategies may be wholly inappropriate for educational institutions which seek to characterise themselves as 'learning organisations' or 'investors in people'. Whether managers recognise the limitations of prevalent HRM models and attempt to flatten their staffing structures, or whether the sector continues to be characterised by contracts disputes and fragmentation, it is the nature of resourcing decisions, and questions about the selection and control of the curriculum, which should be the focus of analysis. The view that lecturers, as those closest to the area of curriculum operations, are in the best position to take decisions affecting that area, is consistent with some influential management thinking (eg Peters 1989) that 'de-layering' is an effective way of increasing organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

Alternatives to prevalent business-derived quality assurance systems which are grounded in the everyday practice of lecturers have the potential to return questions about the nature of learning and teaching to educational debates, which have for so long now been enclosed within a managerialist discourse. Review and evaluation models in use by the CNAA and being developed in FE prior to incorporation (Miller and Innis 1990) hold considerable potential for satisfying criteria which lecturers hold as important: straightforward, related to lecturing and teaching, involving peer review, consistent with existing practice in curriculum review and evaluation, and legitimated at the point of delivery, ie involving student representation.

Quality assurance systems which have relied upon the ongoing introduction of formal appraisal systems for lecturers have not led to any systematic attempt to categorise and describe what lecturers do. Clearly appraisal is going to be problematic in circumstances where there is ambiguity, disagreement or ignorance about what does and should constitute legitimate, effective and purposeful activity for lecturers. As Day and Pennington (1993) have pointed out, in the context of teacher staff development, efficiency and effectiveness demand that "it is vital that key commitments, qualities, knowledge, skills and tasks of teachers are identified" (1993: 251).

A significant advantage to lecturers of the notion of the reflective practitioner is that it provides a conceptual framework within which the complexities, tensions and contradictions of their work can be explored, and at the same time it provides a reference point against which the intrinsic value of their practice can be judged. Carr (1992: 251) argues that only the reflective teacher can adequately engage with the moral and evaluative roots and the complexity of educational discourse. To reconstruct the lecturer as a reflective practitioner draws attention to the relationship of the lecturer with the range of types and levels of activity which constitute his or her own practice, and to the barriers to the implementation of policy-driven change. The potential for lecturers to inform and influence policy, and the process by which lecturers make considered responses to political, cultural and technological change, and devise considered strategies to contain or exploit both intended and unintended consequences, are also key issues which are given prominence within a reflective practice model of teaching.

One major gain of such a perspective is that it achieves a defensible conception of educational theory, which resonates with Pring's (1978) definition of theory as "critical and systematic reflection on practice", and meets his earlier criticism of educational theory, that it is "generally divorced from educational practice" (Pring 1976: 19). Another major gain of this approach is that it can link teaching in FE with an important and influential body of literature, providing a theoretical and conceptual orientation which has the capacity to inform, improve and, perhaps most important at the present time, value lecturers' own reflective practice against the impositions of market-based policies at national and institutional level.

Further implications of the reflective practitioner model for theory are pointed up by Griffiths and Tann (1991):

... reflective teaching requires that public theories are translated into personal ones and vice versa, unless teachers are going to allow themselves to be turned into low-level operatives, content with carrying out their tasks more and more efficiently, while remaining blind to larger issues of the underlying purposes and results of schooling.
(1991: 100)

The implication of this for the lecturer is that reflective practice obliges him or her to carry out his or her work within an ethical framework; the work, no matter how varied, how menial in parts, is underpinned by a notion of educational worth.

In addition to the benefits at the level of practice, there are significant gains at the level of theory to a reflective practitioner model. Constructing reflective practice as an epistemology, rather than a methodology, frees it from the theoretical straitjacket of any single research tradition and opens up the possibility of exploring practice from a variety of perspectives.

Future study may need to assess how far policy makers may underestimate the extent to which their policies provoke resistance, especially if they fail to understand the degree to which lecturers' resistance is circumscribed by their cultural and ideological assumptions and dispositions. Managers, too, may underplay these factors, and may fail accurately to 'read' the real potential for changing practice and procedures in their colleges. It is of major importance to recognise that policymakers and managers alike may reap practical benefits by questioning the logic of their assumptions with regard to lecturers' practice.

It is of critical importance to a teacher education agenda for the incorporated post-compulsory sector that the inter-relationship between lecturer pedagogy, education policy and managerialist HRM strategies, is fully explored in order to question what Gore (1993) calls the "regime of pedagogy", which assumes that such issues are unproblematic (1993: 144). It is here argued that only by exhorting lecturers critically to examine their practice - to engage in reflective practice as a political act directed towards change and improvement - that the damaging effects of policy and managerialist practice at the level of practical action within the sector might be ameliorated.


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