Jay Hertzog, D. Ed.

Dean Emeritus and Professor Secondary Education

In my previous blog for HH Events, I asked the question: Is Teaching a Trade or a Profession? I’d like to follow up with that theme in this writing.

We have been known to call “teaching” a “profession” – but are we really a profession? Here’s my take on it:

Back in the 1950s when I was in elementary school, I had several teachers who achieved their state certification through state “normal” schools. These individuals had gotten their licenses to teach by going through a two-year “teacher prep” program. In that approach, after successfully completing two years of post-secondary education/training, they became licensed to teach in the schools of Pennsylvania. Why did they have only two years of teacher training to become licensed, you may ask? Well, prior to the requirement for two years of training in a “normal” school, all a person needed to teach was a high school diploma; however, as knowledge increased and as legislators and the public insisted that teachers be better prepared to teach, the Pennsylvania Legislature realized that the teacher preparation at that time (high school diploma requirement) was inadequate. Therefore, in 1857, the Legislature passed the Normal School Act that created ten (later expanded to fourteen) state academies to prepare public school teachers with the first being located in Millersville, PA (explorepahistory.com).

Then, sometime after World War II, as knowledge continued to expand and pressure mounted for teachers to be better prepared to teach, it was determined that to be a certified, licensed teacher in the Commonwealth, a person needed to have a four-year degree with a major in one of the fields of teacher education. Once again, the driving force was the advancement of knowledge and technology that insisted that the two-year normal school degree was insufficient. Which brings me to the topic for this blog…”Is Teaching a Real Profession?” If so, perhaps we need to examine the proposal of having teacher certification at the graduate level only.

In my previous blog, I argued that we must decide if we are a profession or a trade noting that a trade has an apprenticeship along the lines of a plumber, carpenter, etc.; whereas a profession has a professional school where the “tools of the profession” are acquired through classroom as well as “in-field” experiences. In the world of a trade, a person enters a program with a desire to become licensed in a particular field, spends time reading about and learning about what is required in the trade, and then, as a capstone to becoming licensed, the person serves an apprenticeship with someone who is licensed in that particular field. Sounds a good deal like what we do in certifying teachers in Pennsylvania except we call the apprenticeship part Field Experience and Student Teaching. I also stated that, when individuals want to start a second career and become a teacher, we need to evaluate their transcripts and make certain that they have ALL the course work necessary to become a teacher…that they are taking no short cuts.

Professions, however, have the individual graduate with a bachelors degree in a content area and then apply to a professional graduate school where they are provided the content knowledge needed in that profession. The program includes various “in-field” experiences and concludes with an internship under the tutelage of a licensed professional followed by a licensure examination to assure that the candidate is knowledgeable in the field he/she intends to practice.

Well, I’m suggesting that, if we really want to become a profession and be called professionals, we do the following: a teacher candidate first will have to obtain an undergraduate degree in a content area at a college or university…not through a college or department of education, but rather, through one of the majors in the arts and sciences at the college/university. This person, upon graduating with the degree in one of the majors in the arts and sciences then applies to a PROFESSIONAL graduate school of education for his/her teaching certification/license. For the candidate to be accepted into this professional graduate school of education, various requirements need to be established…overall undergraduate GPA, GPA in major and a standardized test (MAT or GRE with admission scores set or some other form of testing to assure the individual is prepared for the program). This terminal degree that I am proposing is not at the masters level; rather, it’s a degree from a professional school much like those that prepare doctors and lawyers. The degree I am proposing would have the candidate graduate with a Doctor of Education Degree, similar to the JD of a lawyer, the MD of a physician or the DDS of a dentist. Within this professional school, candidates would be involved with fieldwork in every course they take, methods courses would be strengthened to include professional graduate school faculty overseeing the candidates in the field, and the year prior to graduation would include extensive in-field experiences complete with in-depth “action-research” on the level of an applied dissertation. Then, upon successful completion of the program of study, including the applied dissertation and field work, candidates would “sit” for their licensure examination that would be comprised of two parts…one of which would be on the content area for which the individual is seeking certification and the other a series of intense observations by equally degreed individuals to determine if, in fact, the individual is a “skilled professional.” Will everyone pass both parts of this evaluation? Absolutely not. Will that be a problem? Why would it be…it happens to those who sit for other professional licenses, teaching should be no different.

You may ask for the names of the courses, or what content should be in the courses, how to strengthen the methods courses, etc.; I must tell you, I’ve not gotten that far with this proposal.

You may also ask how such an approach, if adopted, will impact the teacher shortage we hear so much about? I’m not addressing that here. What I am presenting here is a proposal for a “professional school of education” for you to consider, for you to discuss, for your input if, in fact, we really mean what we say when we talk about our field of education as a profession.

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