Professionals or Technicians? Teacher Preparation Programs and Occupational Understandings

Apr. 20, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 16, No. 2, (April 2010), 183–205.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Teacher preparation is a mechanism of occupational socialization, a process by which novice workers learn the norms and values of the occupation. Traditional education programs housed in schools of education support the ideology of a professional teacher with norms that include a strong pedagogical knowledge base and a gradual induction to the field. Alternative training programs, conversely, are field based with a strong technical emphasis on content and skills.
The primary question of this research, therefore, is do the differing modes of entry socialize novice teachers into different occupational understandings?


The author conducted interviews with 49 beginning teachers in one labor market, 26 alternatively certified and 23 traditionally certified, to explore occupational understandings by preparation program.


The author found that the initial socialization process was weak for both groups, and neither expressed a strong professional or technical identity. This finding indicates that both modes of entry have strengths and weaknesses regarding teacher preparation that support and challenge the professional or technical occupational understandings.

All teachers expressed a strong classroom focus and supported the idea of learning through experience. However, there were some key differences in the role of peer groups and pedagogical theory.
Alternatively certified teachers developed strong peer networks through the program structure but their pedagogical knowledge was weak and needed time to develop. Traditionally certified teachers, on the other hand, expressed a weak sense of community but generally felt able to engage students in learning and understood the importance of pedagogical theory in the classroom.

According to the teachers interviewed, both alternatively certified and traditionally certified, their preparation should have a strong classroom focus to be most useful; a perspective that indicates a more technical rather than professional occupation.

In conclusion, the voices of teachers in this research indicate that the boundaries of a professional or technical teacher are not concrete but fluid. There are shifts in the modern conceptions of a profession that include a move toward greater technical competency and incorporate the organizational context in professional practice, particularly for those in the public sector such as teachers (Taylor, 2007).

Taylor, I. (2007). Discretion and control in education. Education Management Administration and Leadership, 35, 555–572.

Updated: Sep. 19, 2010