Professionalism means sacrificing some autonomy

I went along to meeting this afternoon to find out more about the Standard Council for Community Learning and Development. (CLD)

The new council will have three main functions:

• to approve professional qualifications and courses for everyone involved in CLD

• to offer a registration system for everyone delivering community learning and development

• to support induction to the profession and provide access to continuous professional development

My old friend Rory McLeod led the session and explored in more depth the three functions of the council.

As is my habit I scribbled down some thoughts as he was speaking and raised them in the discussion group which followed Rory’s presentation.

One of the many challenges facing CLD is how they develop an inclusive approach towards their standards, i.e. how do you impose standards upon volunteers? Perhaps the answer doesn’t lie in imposition but more in the development of a culture where the full time professionals model the kind of behaviour which would be characterised as “professional'”- such behaviour might then be replicated by volunteers oif they are to be associated with professional groups.

The second area of interest for me was the idea that some people in CLD – although if today was anything to go by a very small number of people – are uncomfortable with the concept of themselves as professionals.

I think I was able to link this to what Richard Elmore had been talking about in the summer where he suggested that autonomy does not equate with professionalism.  Just as there are many teachers who believe their practice is their own business and that they should be free to practise as they please,  so there are some in CLD who believe that it should be their own personal judgement about what constitutes ‘good’ practice and that this is a matter for them and them alone.

I suggested in the group that becoming a professional means giving up some of your personal autonomy in order to adhere to a set of agreed principles, values and behaviours. In fact as I thought about this further it is, ironically, this giving up of personal autonomy that gives the professional body more autonomy from political or external interference. For example, lawyers, accountants, dentists and even teachers are, and have become,  much stronger and independent groups through the establishment of a body which sets out the agreed standards to which members must adhere.

The challenge for CLD is to wrestle with the baseline expectations which they might expect from any “professional” in the field.