Special Education Teaching as a Profession: Lessons Learned From Occupations That Have Achieved Full Professional Standing

Aug. 20, 2009

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 32 no. 3 (August 2009) p. 201-214.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, issues surrounding the status of special education teaching as a profession are investigated. First, the authors consider what makes an occupation a profession and examine the range of views of professions in American society. The authors describe six characteristics traditionally distinguish a profession from an occupation (Ingersoll, Alsalam, Quinn, & Bobbitt, 1997).

1. There is the degree and complexity of the knowledge inherent in the work needed to be done. Typically, a system of credentials is used to screen out those who presumably do not have the professional knowledge to practice the profession.

2. Professional work requires a lengthy period of induction. Such training may take the form of internships, mentoring, or residency.

3. There is an expectation of ongoing development and growth throughout the professional's career.

4. Professionals are persons who specialize and maintain expertise in what they practice; training in new approaches are common.

5. Professionals retain substantial authority over their actions, most notably autonomy and responsibility for their efforts and clients.

Last, professionals receive relatively high salaries and enjoy better compensation than most other workers.

Second, the authors describe the evolution and developmental history of three established professions: medicine, law, and engineering.

The authors then consider the developmental status of special education in relation to the histories of these three established professions.

Using this information, the authors consider issues that professions typically face as they develop, including personnel supply and demand; public perception and status; and the role of the profession in personnel preparation.

The authors conclude this article with a discussion of actions that will be necessary if special education teaching is to achieve the status of a profession.

Ingersoll, R. M., Alsalam, N., Quinn, P., & Bobbitt, S. (1997). Teacher professionalization and teacher commitment: A multilevel analysis. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Updated: Nov. 23, 2009