The Social construction of teaching as a profession: A phenomenological perspective of Teachers in Lusaka Urban

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Mapulanga, Daniel
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There have been heated controversies on the definition and construction of teaching as a profession. The trait model school of thought presents a list of defining features of trait that every occupation ought to possess in order to be classified as a profession, but it ignores the social actors’ accounts or constructions.The study was set to construct the concept profession from the lenses of the actors, amidst positivist thinking and determine the extent to which the modified Millersonian and Wilenskian trait models of professionalism apply. This was an exploratory and descriptive mixed study design informed by rationalism and idealism. A sum of 5,613, teachers was randomised to yield 382 units of analysis for quantitative paradigm in this study. Quantitative data was collected by way of self administered structured questionnaire. For the qualitative sample, data was collected through Focus Group Discussions, and the number of Focus Group Discussions was determined ‘until saturation’ was attained as informed by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS version 17 and qualitative data was analysed using qualitative descriptive analysis (QDA) which is embraced within phenomenology. The results generally show that on all Millersonian professional traits teachers hold the view that they are professionals (n = 302, 79%), except on the two variables which are (i) teaching fails to meet the attributes of a profession because teachers easily leave their careers to take up other jobs (ii) teaching is not a profession because teachers take up this occupation as employment of the last resort after unsuccessful attempts at other careers of choice. As for Wilenskian traits on the other hand, teaching emphatically qualifies as a profession (n=356 (93.19%). Comparing the two trait models to verify which one had more explanatory power on teaching as a profession, the statistics show that respondents believed Wilensky n=356, (93.19%) defined teaching as a profession better than Millerson, n=302,79%).While teachers agreed with the Wilenskian and Millersonian traits that they were professionals, their social constructions had similar and dissimilar descriptions. These descriptions were elaborate. The descriptions can be broadly classified in three (a) defining positive traits (b) defining negative traits and attempts to attain professional status. Based on the themes, teachers constructed teaching as a profession, but recognized that the occupation hosted a lot of negative attributes that militated against its professional claim. Government attempts have focussed on passing legislation toward recognising teaching as a profession, while advocacy has been influenced by accelerated agitation by teachers towards purifying the occupation against negative attributes with a view to attaining professional status. It has been established that teaching is a profession from a positivist approach and that it is also a profession from an anti positivist or constructivist approach but amidst controversy that it is or it is not. The research unveils that the term profession is a social construction whose defining features are internally situated in the inclinations of the social actors. Professionalism has emerged to be the quality of practice and service to the client, and not the status of the advocates. The fact that teachers do not live in plush neighbourhoods in Zambia does not subtract from the reality that they are in fact the frame under which national development hinges. Annihilate education (teachers) then the whole nation is dead. This is how teaching is contextualised as a profession. It is about functional relevance to society. This study recommends that teaching be legislated as a profession and run on self regulated principles, in order that the occupation is underpinned on professional culture.
Teachers-Zambia , Teaching-Vocational Guidance-Zambia