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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Educational Professionalism for the 21st Century: The Organization and Use of Expert Instructional Knowledge in a Large Scale Design for Improvement

Josh Glazer.

This paper describes a theoretical framework and preliminary findings of a multi-year research project into educational professionalism and large scale instructional improvement. The paper outlines a model of educational professionalism that is rooted in instructional work and applies that model to a major design for instructional improvement. The purpose is to reveal the dynamics and tradeoffs inherent in scaling-up instructional improvement and professionalizing teaching. The paper is divided into three sections: The first section addresses definitions of professionalism in the current education research literature, arguing that the literature on professionalism, while important and useful, has focused more on organization and social context variables than it has on instruction, and that this has constrained analysis.

The second section sketches an alternative model of professionalism derived from research in sociology and cognitive psychology. The model highlights connections among professional work, the professional knowledge entailed in performing that work, and organizational structures that develop knowledge among teachers. A priority of this section is to explicate the connection between large scale improvement efforts and professionalism. A core argument is that large scale designs for improvement represent an effort to institutionalize instructional expertise, and that to ask what makes professions more or less successful at institutionalizing their expertise is a valuable approach to analyzing large scale improvement efforts.

The third section describes the empirical component of the study, which is the comprehensive school reform program, America’s Choice. The purpose of this section is to illuminate the key dynamics, tradeoffs, and dilemmas entailed in America's Choice attempt to professionalize American teaching. Central to analysis is the way in which the conceptualization of instruction- both in terms of content and pedagogy- bears on efforts to create effective and consistent practice across diverse contexts.

The final discussion highlights a central dilemma of instructional professionalism; if high quality instruction is responsive to the needs of specific classrooms and students, how is it possible to institutionalize expert practice? The closing argument is that if professionalism is to be a meaningful concept in education, it must confront this core dilemma.


Josh Glazer  (United States)
Research Associate
School of Education
University of Michigan

Doctoral Student at the University of Michigan, and researcher on the Study of Instructional Improvement. Mentor: David Cohen. Areas of expertise: Instructional improvement, educational professionalism, comprehensive school design. Àá

  • Professionalism
  • Instructional Improvement
  • Reform

(30 min Conference Paper, English)