A Teachers’ Self-identity and Professionalism


The present assignment is dedicated to the issues of teachers’ self-identity, the shift of their roles in the educational process with the progress coming to all spheres of human lives and interactions. The focus on educational professionalism will be taken from a professional point of view because of the necessity to erase personal bias and boundaries when discussing education as a socially significant process. The reason for personal bias affecting all interactions of a teacher and a student lies within the specificity of teaching being always colored with personal treatment that is attributed by the teacher to the group; the way the educator poses his or her subject also plays a significant role in the peculiarities of perception thereof by the students. Depending on such elements, the overall schedule of studies is formulated depending on the paradigm imposed by the educator.

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It often becomes evident nowadays that teachers find themselves unable to fit the evolving reform of studies and fail to accomplish the task education entrusts them with. These experiences make the government think about educational changes as a number one priority on a national and international scale. However, it will be possible to conduct the change only as soon as both external and internal factors are harmonized and brought to cohesion. Logically, students should perceive the change as an inevitable phenomenon taking place in their everyday reality, and educators at the same time should communicate the change, explain its main implications and integrate its elements into the learning process successfully.

The task is approached from the angle of a professional perception of the traditional educational process from the historical perspective. It is vital to understand how well the difference between the basics of education of the 20th century and the changes it experiences in the 21st is realized by an educator. More than that, it is essential to understand his view on the practical ways to implement the change and personal reflections on the point of whether they yield only positive results or conceal hidden threats and negative elements. The last point to assess is the way an educator can evaluate the steps that have already been made and ground them in theory to justify their propriety and to estimate further steps for reforming that need to be made.

Theoretical Background

The current theoretical research perspective connected with the need for a new educational paradigm is closely connected with such questions as the process and peculiarities of the teacher’s self-identification, the path he or she has to go through to achieve the substantial level of professionalism, and the impact of modern changes and challenges on his or her personality, style of teaching and model of interaction with students (Cunningham, 2008). To understand all meaningful implications of this study, it is necessary to find out the historical development of pedagogy and the evolution of students’ and educators’ place in the educational framework at different stages of its development.

It is very hard to find out how pedagogical practices looked a century ago, though the outer vision of a Victorian epoch classroom can be seen in many museums. Lawn (1996) looked further than just analyzing the latest changes in the curriculum and methodology – he analyzes the major 20th-century pedagogical shifts such as World War II on the example of pedagogical writings of the 1940s and 1950s (Lawn, 1996).

Talking about the post-war changes, Lawn (1996) states that instructional materials were based on principles of community and democracy, including elements of Christian thought that jointly created a sound ideological basis for social progress and development. All education was designed to fit a practical, local and civic education, and the changing mode of psychology and behavior allowed to creation of a new model of teacher-student relations.

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Schools were not directed centrally, wide and innovative curriculum emerged, and teachers were free to experiment. Nonetheless, the shift also moved forward the problem of competence – teachers had to find the middle between wide application of their knowledge and specificity of the newly introduced subjects.

The 1950s’ paradigm of learning surely shows the confirmation and implementation of ideas voiced at the previous stage. The school curriculum was based on learning through action and personal experiences. Still, much of the older tradition of the teacher’s authority in daily classroom activities was clearly felt in the overwhelming majority of that period’s writings (Lawn, 1996).

One of the examples given to prove resistance to change is the debate over the necessity of using films as a part of education. Lawn (1996) reasonably concludes that the main break of a liberal tradition was found in the dominance of old-school teachers. For this reason, young teachers with liberal or innovative ideas were always doomed to criticism and prosecution (Lawn, 1996).

Gewirtz (2009) continues the study of Lawn and assumes that historically there have been three elements of schooling message systems: curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. If pedagogy is neglected, the teacher’s identity cannot be shaped fully and appropriately. However, the modern reality of reforming education represents a paradoxical vision thereof by the state, educators and students:

“The paradox is that while the right hand of the state sets targets for increased retention in the last years of secondary schooling, for widening participation in university, and for strengthening the skill levels of the population, one effect of neo-liberal policy convergence globally has been the widening of inequalities within and between nations. This strengthens the pressure on teachers to enhance their care” (Gewirtz, 2009, p. 91).

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One more issue covered in the teacher’s self-identity evolution through the prism of the third-millennium innovation is the ethics of his or her conduct and morality of the imperative that is surely included in the educational process. Kultgen (1988) discussed this question in his work on morality and professionalism and dedicated a separate chapter to teacher imperative, asking an eternal question – whether education will ever be possible without paternalism for which the traditional paradigm has been so often criticized. He analyses an ideal teacher from the point of view of his/her interaction will ideal students – in such a situation dominance and instruction surely lose their sense and are reduced to the level of advice and guidelines. Kultgen (1988) emphasizes the conditions for the creation of such ideal educational situations: students attend the studies on a voluntary basis and aim at knowledge but not at a certain rate for credentials, they are well-prepared by home and culture to make rational, mature choices; enough time is attributed to independent studies and self-appraisal is the dominant form of assessment.

This picture certainly sounds ideal, but it is never achieved in practice, this is why the teacher’s dominance and a certain level of paternalism are inevitable in the curriculum:

“Unfortunately and shamefully, our educational system falls far short of the ideal…The public, sensing the debasement of the professional ideal in this form of pedagogy, meets the clamor of teachers for professional identity with polite skepticism. Teachers are good and faithful servants of society but not very bright or very ambitious” (Kultgen, 1988, p. 310).

Fortunately, much in this opinion has changed and the role of a teacher and his/her right to be appropriately assessed has finally been recognized. According to the innovative educational paradigm, teachers are more distanced from their students, they bear less responsibility for the outcomes of the teaching process as they act more as advisers than paternalists. Here the article of Geoff Witty speaking about the evolution of teachers’ models of professionalism gains force – he states that they have moved from the traditional one to managerial, collaborative and democratic (Cunningham, 2008).

Rodrigues (2005) analyzes the reform of education from a scientific point of view, noting that its aim should be to “maintain and raise pupil progress and achievement”, which includes the teacher self-esteem raise as well. The teacher’s professional development is seen by the author as a lifelong process that has utmost priority in contemporary reality. This is why initiatives have taken on the national and international level show how directed and reform-focused the professionalism movement is.

In England, the Department of Education and Skills together with the Welcome Trust initiated the creation of the National Center for Excellence in Science Teaching and the Association for Science Education in 2003. In Spain, the 2002 Organic Act on the Quality of Education regulates the standards that are put forward in teacher professionalism issues. The movement towards the unification of teaching professional standards and creating a new professionalism paradigm is seen in the adoption o state license requirements and performance assessments. Rodrigues (2005) argues that too much attention has been dedicated to instructing pupils, and pedagogical education has been largely neglected. For this reason, professionalism is becoming the leading concept in teachers’ self-identity and evolution of educational perception:

“From a theoretical idealistic perspective, professionalism could be seen as a commitment to career and professional ideas, that are usually seen in the individual’s ideas, beliefs and attitudes. Being a professional usually means that the individual brings with them some autonomy (at both and individual and whole profession level) and a fair amount of specialists knowledge, for a teacher, this is pedagogical content knowledge” (Rodrigues, 2005, p. 146).

Finally, Klein (2006) tries to investigate the concept of professionalism from the inside and to find what characteristics distinguish a truly evolving contemporary professional. She states that a pedagogical professional nowadays should:

  • Respect each other’s physical and psychological intimacy;
  • Educate to tolerate differences;
  • Aim to create a peaceful and caring atmosphere;
  • Behave the way we would like the others to behave;
  • Create co-operative methods that support learning etc. (Klein, 2006, p. 173-174).

Klein (2006) has found out that genuine pedagogical professionalism is made up of a mix of relational (co-operation, autonomy and consideration) and individual values (excellence, self-esteem). Professionalism is a continuous state that can be sustained through a skillful reflection of named values in a regular, balanced and conscious way.


A professional educator who has been working in the sphere of teaching humanities has been chosen for the present interview. The reason for choosing humanities as the aspect of the analysis is that they include much more social, cultural or religious elements in the teaching process; these subjects are approached from a socio-cultural perspective while science education can be fully deprived of personal elements. The interview has been conducted with a teacher of American literature with 15 years of teaching experience. She is a female working in a higher educational establishment, so her students are mostly teenagers at the early stages of maturing (20-22 years old). The name of the teacher is concealed for the purpose of confidentiality, but she will be addressed in the course of the work as Mrs. Tina Blair.

The first part of the interview will be dedicated to Mrs. Blair’s assessment of the traditional view on education as it looked like in the 20th century. Then she will be asked to assess the changes that took place at the verge of centuries both from the point of view of objective external factors and from the perspective of teachers and students. In the third part of the interview, Mrs. Blair will be offered to assess the extent of involvement of different authorities (e.g. the educator, the government or the administration of the educational establishment) into the change as well as the point at which it is now, how much work has already been accomplished and how much is still ahead. After the excerpt of the interview’s most meaningful facts is given, the detailed analysis of Mrs. Blair’s remarks will be conducted in comparison with the theoretical basis constituting the main framework of the present work. Finally, relevant conclusions and recommendations for further research will be given at the end of the present assignment.


Mrs. Blair spoke very warmly about her educational experience because she was sure that students are initially good, and the main effort for an educator was to find a proper approach to each of them. She noted that during her work in an educational establishment a grand change occurred and she could see how the paradigm of considering students as a part of the educational process evolved. She noted that when she came to work at the university in the 1990s the power was in hands of old-fashioned tutors who had much authority but did not want to subdue to the pace of progress that required more interactivity at the lessons, engagement of multimedia resources and involvement in more multidimensional relations with students who seized to subordinate but gradually became partners and interlocutors. Mrs. Blair also marked the drastic difference in student-tutor relations that is evident now and that was about a decade ago – students had to keep silent, only the tutor’s opinion was considered correct and acceptable, and all initiative was severely punished. Surely, it was easier to build the curriculum and the evaluation on the authoritative means of teaching because no improvising was accepted, thus presupposing strict assessment measures. However, students who were deprived of the chance to think and explore the world together with her were considered paralyzed in their future critical thinking and learning processes.

Answering the question on what changes affected her personally, Mrs. Blair noted that nowadays it is highly important to build the educational process on more engaging activities due to the voluntary attendance rules, choice of subjects by students as well as their freedom and wider scope of rights in the educational establishment. She also said that the educator should always be ready to explore any point in the curriculum from another point of view, as students often turn up with suddenly reasonable remarks, and it is highly important not to lose the authority in the eyes of students and not to discourage students to think of once. Mrs. Blair pointed out the key role of the teacher now as a guide but not an instructor. Surely, some elements of upbringing are still included in the educational process, but there is much less thereof as this function is taken by the family.

Speaking about external and internal factors affecting the change in her role as a pedagogue, Mrs. Blair said that the external factors should surely be seen in the process of globalization and internationalization taking place in every corner of the world nowadays. She assumed that the glowing multiplicity of representatives of different religions, cultures, races, languages and skin colors has made her a mediator whose responsibility is to teach children to interact and tolerate each other. One more vital external factor that influenced the teacher’s role, in general, was the emergence of the internet and distance learning. This model of teaching distanced the teacher and the student and made them invisible to each other, thus changing each other’s perception in a dramatic way (which is, in her opinion, the only negative factor in educational changes nowadays). As for internal factors, Mrs. Blair did not find much change in herself but the factor of the growing experience and maturity that make her look at her students from another angle every semester.

Discussing the change itself, Mrs. Blair stated that much legislative action has been recently taken in the sphere of reforming education on a legal national and international basis. However, she also noted that there is still a lack of coherence in the actions of the government and of educators and the efficient communication channels that would allow these two major forces of the change to understand each other would become crucial in the solution of the educational reform challenge up to date.

Finally, reflecting on the changing self-identity of a pedagogical professional in the context of the third millennium, Mrs. Blair agreed that nowadays a pedagogue should comply with a much greater number of standards than he or she used to. The reason is in more autonomy of students who can doubt the teacher’s competence and claim for their rights for a decent education. More than that, even in case the teacher is competent, he or she may be unable to communicate the importance of studying a certain subject to the students, may fail to interest them, which will also be a failure. For this reason, she noted that a modern educational professional should continuously work on his or her spiritual and intellectual growth to sustain the honorable title of a professional.

Analysis of Interview

The findings voiced by Mrs. Blair during the interview fully prove the points assumed as a result of conducting the literature review. As a matter of a fact, educational patterns have experienced much change within the past century, and the model of teaching has changed dramatically from instructional to a collaborative and managerial one. The teacher’s authority used to never be doubted, and relations were unilateral, with the teacher acting as an instructor and the student being a silent recipient of information. However, the limits of such an approach have been finally recognized and the newly formulated paradigm of teaching presupposes much more freedom of the educated as compared to about half a century ago.

Besides, the scope of a teacher’s competence needed to be called a professional has been substantially widened. The matter is that the necessity of founding some unifying principles for their assessment has been finally recognized and nowadays there is a set of national and international assessment boards that monitor the quality of education and promote the professional growth of educators.

The third millennium brought about much change in the external structure of education as well, and there surely are some negative phenomena such as distance learning erasing the classroom perception and making the teacher and the student distanced from each other substantially. However, another consequence of progress is the wealth of visuals and multimedia resources that are currently used to enhance students’ understanding of the material and to make the whole process more interesting.


From the analysis that has been conducted with the application of both theoretical educational foundations and empirical research, one should understand that the change of an educational paradigm is a natural phenomenon predetermined by the historical evolution, development of digital information resources and globalization taking place worldwide. The new framework of communication, multiculturalism and global integration have claimed for the new model of teaching that would allow the teacher and the student to approach a new stage of interpersonal relations in which instruction would give way to advise, and authority would be doubted every class and would result in the discovery of the new truth every time.

Surely, there is much more that has to be done on a legislative level to strengthen the positions of the new educational paradigm and to stipulate the standards that are required from an educational professional of the third millennium, but the strong beginning has already been created, which makes it possible to make positive assumptions. Education is strategically important in every country, so it has to raise true citizens who at the same time will tolerate and realize the whole diversity of their world, their community and their country; authoritative regime of studies does not fit the new world in which modern people live, so the change in learning can be called nothing but a natural response to the global necessity that is so far being successfully satisfied.


Cunningham, B., & Watson, D. (2008). Exploring Professionalism. Institute of the Education University of London.

Gewirtz, S. (2009). Changing Teacher Professionalism. Taylor & Francis.

Klein, M.B. (2006). New teaching and teacher issues. Nova Publishers.

Kultgen, J.H. (1988). Ethics and professionalism. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lawn, M. (1996). Modern times?: work, professionalism and citizenship in teaching. Routledge.

Rodrigues, S. (2005). International perspectives on teacher professional development: Changes influenced by politics, pedagogy and innovation. Nova Publishers.

The Interview Guide

  1. Dear Mrs. Blair, what can you tell me about the traditional educational paradigm that dominated teaching philosophy throughout the 20th century and shaped student-teacher relations?
  2. What changes did the transition stage of the third millennium require from you?
  3. How did you perceive the change of your role as an educator in the new structure of education?
  4. What internal and external factors have affected you throughout the process of change?
  5. How have students changed within the period of your teaching experience?
  6. What steps, according to your opinion, have already been made on the way to progress in education?
  7. What negative consequences of the change can you notice, or does it yield only positive outcomes?
  8. How has your self-perception as a professional evolved? What steps do you still need to go through on the way to the complete change?
  9. What else should be done for the reform to finally take place and suit the demands of the third millennium?
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