Postprint of: Johnston, JL in 2015, 'Issues of professionalism and teachers: critical observations from research and the literature', Australian Educational Researcher, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 299-317.
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The concept of ‘professionalism’ has become more evident in discourse about teacher quality in recent years. In fact, in some contexts ‘professionalism’ is used as a euphemism for quality and reform. This critical essay applies a critical theory perspective and discusses notions of educational professionalism from the academic literature. It draws on research findings about teachers’ understandings of the diverse ways the term ‘professionalism’ is used in discussions of teacher quality, and highlights three key assumptions that appear to underpin contemporary ‘professionalism’ discourses. It suggests that the reification of ‘professionalism’ may have had a number of regrettable consequences for teachers, and challenges the apparent lack of evidence that links ‘professionalism’, however it might be defined, with quality educational outcomes. The essay concludes by arguing that the emergence of ‘professionalism’ as a signifier of quality has served to obscure and confuse many other important issues concerning the quality of teaching.