Change in teacher professionalism in further education : a case study
This study explores the effect of policy and funding changes in the further education (FE) sector on the nature of teacher professionalism and the general vocational curriculum. In the last decade there has been tremendous change in the FE sector. It has been argued that this has been the result of fundamental alterations in the organization and distribution of work. The consequence has been that much governmental attention has been paid to the post-school sector. The recent White Paper Learning to Succeed (DfEE, 1999b) has been one of a number of attempts to redress the perceived failure of the sector to provide a skilled workforce for the needs of industry. My thesis seeks to reflect upon the effects of policy and funding changes in one further education college. It concentrates on changes in general vocational education and training. It reflects on the impact of those changes upon teacher professionalism in further education. The research took place in a college of further education using case study methods. The data for my findings are derived from participant observation techniques and semi-structured interviews with teaching staff. It utilized a qualitative critical ethnographic methodology with the aim of giving a voice to those most affected by the changes. Lecturers believe that significant changes to the sector were initiated by the Incorporation of colleges (April, 1993) and have accelerated since. The fieldwork took place in the academic year 1998-99. The literature review part of my research found that, in order to advance the government's vision for a 'learning society', it opined that alterations in the general vocational curriculum were necessary. I believe that changes to the professional lives of college lecturers were required in order to implement that end. It is my conviction that the changes are instrumental. They are about preparing young people for the needs of industry alone. The lecturers in my study believe such changes have had a negative effect on their definitions of the concept of professionalism. Further to this, they feel that the new qualifications and the way they had to be taught, to the backdrop of, for example, cuts in class contact hours, have had a detrimental effect on the education and training of students. These developments, they maintain, will militate against any evolution of a true 'learning society', if such a society would have the aim of producing a future citizenry (not just workers) in a 'reflective participatory democracy'.