ERIC Identifier: ED284527
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Stark, Joan S. - And Others
for the Study of Higher Education.| ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher
Education Washington DC.
Professional Education. ERIC Digest.
Enrollments in college programs that prepare students for professional
occupations remain strong. At the undergraduate level, they now have surpassed
enrollments in liberal studies programs. It seems clear that students will
continue to select collegiate programs with promise of professional employment,
yet many educators believe such programs are inappropriately narrow and
specialized. In truth, few attempts have been made to examine the intended
outcomes of professional preparation programs to determine whether these beliefs
are justified. An initial step in bringing educational philosophies and
curricular outcomes into better alignment is to clarify the goals and dilemmas
of educators in professional programs.
--Is it true that professional educators concentrate on technical skills and
devalue broader aspects of their students' education? If so, is this posture
more characteristic of some fields than of others? --What commonalities and
distinctions of professional preparation programs are most important for faculty
members and administrators to understand? --Can better understanding of common
issues faced by professional educators help identify ways in which faculty and
administrators can foster educationally effective interprogram collaboration?
--What research models, with appropriate modifications, can be used to explore
the achievement of outcomes in diverse professional programs?
While this report does not answer all of these important questions, it takes
a first step toward improving understanding of intended outcomes in various
fields of professional preparation by identifying several competences and
attitudes that are generic outcomes of professional study. This is accomplished
by exploring the emphasis professional educators believe should be placed on
these outcomes, by summarizing outcome-related issues and trends common to
professional education in diverse fields, and by providing some recommendations
for the future.
The generic outcomes described in the report were derived from existng
literature about professional education. They include six aspects of
professional competence--conceptual competence, technical competence, contextual
competence, interpersonal communication competence, integrative competence, and
adaptive competence--and five attitudinal outcomes--career marketability,
professional identity, professional ethics, scholarly concern for improvement of
the profession, and motivation for continued learning.
The issues and trends concerning these outcomes identified in the report are
drawn primarily from recent articles in the educational journals of 12
professional fields: architecture, business administration, dentistry,
education, engineering, journalism, law, library science, medicine, nursing,
pharmacy, and social work.
The synthesis of the literature should be helpful to three audiences: (1)
college and university administrators seeking better comparative understanding
of professional preparation programs; (2) professional program and liberal arts
faculty members desiring to facilitate interprogram collaboration; and (3)
researchers seeking to address a variety of related issues, particularly
documentation of the outcomes of professional study.
WHAT ASPECTS OF PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE ARE EDUCATORS DISCUSSING?
Professional educators devote considerable attention to field-specific
aspects of professional competence, such as foundational knowledge and technical
skills. Yet, within these two areas, educators in diverse fields are addressing
some common issues. All fields are reviewing program purposes, curricular
validity, the role of foundational courses, and the volume of conceptual and
technical material students must learn. Such reviews have common origins in the
rapid growth of specialized knowledge, changing practice roles, including
application of new technologies and response to new socioeconomic conditions,
and increasing responsiveness to a broader range of clients. Across fields,
concern also is apparent for better ways to cultivate cognitive problem-solving
Although literature in the educational journals more heavily emphasizes the
development of technical competence, faculty members in professional fields
judge technical competence of graduates to be slightly less, rather than more,
deserving of emphasis than conceptual competence. Additionally, faculty strongly
believe that students should understand the social, cultural, and economic
context within which professional practice occurs. While such a contextual
emphasis is more widely espoused in "helping" and "informing" professional
programs than in "enterprising" programs (like business, architecture, and
engineering), all fields are questioning whether traditional liberal arts is the
best curricular vehicle for its achievement. Particularly as they attempt to
serve diverse client populations, the helping and informing programs are rapidly
infusing social science content into their professional courses to ensure its
relevance to professional concerns. Although traditional written and oral
communication remains important, communication skills required of new
professionals now are conceived more broadly to include interpersonal relations
with colleagues and relationships with clients. In four-year undergraduate
fields where expansion of the knowledge base has already crowded the curriculum,
this desire for broad education is difficult to implement.
In all fields, the nature and function of simulated or real experiences that
assist students to integrate concepts, skills, contextual knowledge, and
interpersonal skills into competent professional judgments are being actively
debated. Fields with formal field experiences are grappling with similar
problems of supplying appropriate field supervision, ensuring adequate role
modeling, providing feedback to students, and maintaining good relationships
with practitioners. Discussion of these curricular management issues appears to
overshadow the need to define more clearly the outcomes of field and clinical
placements. Perhaps because little is known about the learning process through
which integration takes place, professional educators seem to link quite loosely
the processes and intended outcomes of integrative field experiences.
WHAT ASPECTS OF PROFESSIONAL SOCIALIZATION ARE EDUCATORS DISCUSSING?
Development of accepted professional attitudes and commitment, that is,
professional socialization, is of greatest concern to educators in health and in
human and information service fields and of less importance to eduators in
fields like architecture, business, engineering, and law. Even when professional
educators express strong interest in fostering attitudes like long-term career
awareness, professional identity, and ethical standards, discussions primarily
focus on providing opportunities for these attitudes to develop. Articulating
and measuring such attitudes are discussed very little. Nonetheless, some
professional fields can provide useful examples for other educators. To
illustrate, educators in dentistry, accounting, and social work are developing
new models of career guidance; nursing educators pay particular attention to
making preservice students aware of needs for continuing education and research
to improve professional practice.
Writers in professional education journals exhort their colleagues concerning
the need for students to internalize accepted ethical standards. Despite such
rhetoric, little consensus is apparent in most fields about what these standards
are and how best to teach them. Social work, nursing, and law educators feel
they have incorporated professional ethics in their curricula, but at the same
time, law educators as well as journalism and business administration educators
believe agreed-upon standards or codes do not exist.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
This literature review and survey of professional education faculty found
little evidence to support the view that educational outcomes are narrow in
intent. On the contrary, professional education faculty are struggling to
maintain, and even to initiate, curricular breadth that is relevant to
developing professionals. Strong concerns aobut continually increasing
curricular volume and related time constraints are coupled with a sense of
unrest regarding the contribution of both traditional liberal arts courses and
traditional professional foundations courses. Thus, opportunities are excellent
for interprogram collaboration, particularly in courses that convey to students
the importance of the social context in which the professions are practiced, the
anticipated effect of technology on professional practice, and the need for
broader interpersonal communication skills. College administrators should
encourage such discussions of collaboration, as well as frank exchanges among
liberal and professional education faculty about mutual needs and services.
Joint problem solving among professional educators and between liberal arts and
professional faculty may be productive in devising solutions to mutual problems
of integrating theory and practice and in articulating more effectively the
outcomes and processes generally thought of as professional socialization.
Several outcomes of professional education seem amenable to measurement. Yet
because measurement largely has been restricted to field-specific conceptual and
technical competence, professional educators seem to have foregone opportunities
to demonstrate successful achievement of broad educational goals. The generic
outcome framework used in this synthesis of the literature provides one vehicle
that groups of professional educators might use for badly needed comparative
(This digest is a summary of RESPONSIVE PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: BALANCING
OUTCOMES AND OPPORTUNITIES by Joan S. Stark and others.)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Anderson, G. Lester. TRENDS IN EDUCATION FOR THE PROFESSIONS. AAHE-ERIC
Research Report No. 7. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher
Education, 1974. ED 096 889.
Bucher, R.; and J.G. Stelling. BECOMING PROFESSIONAL. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage
Mayhew, L.B.; and P.J. Ford. REFORM IN GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1974.
Schon, Donald. THE REFLECTIVE PRACTITIONER: HOW PROFESSIONALS THINK IN
ACTION. New York: Basic Books, 1983.
Stark, Joan S., Malcolm A. Lowther, Bonnie M.K. Hagerty, and Cynthia Orczyk.
"A Conceptual Framework for the Study of Preservice Professional Preparation in
Colleges and Universities." JOURNAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION 57 (1986): 231-258.
Stark, Joan S., and others. RESPONSIVE PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: BALANCING
OUTCOMES AND OPPORTUNITIES. ASHE-ERIC HIGHER EDUCATION REPORT NO. 3, 1986. ED