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The acquisition of professional competence.

Cheetham, Graham (1999) The acquisition of professional competence. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The research began by examining professions, both historically and as they are today. It went on to investigate the nature of professional practice and professional competence. In particular, it attempted to throw fresh light on how professional competence is acquired and maintained. The research consisted of an extensive literature study and empirical work which included in- depth interviews with practitioners from 20 different professions. This was followed by a series of larger-scale postal surveys across six of these. The chosen professions ranged from traditional ones, including the Church, the Bar and Medicine, to newer professional-type occupations, such as Training, Personnel Management and Information Technology Consultancy. A total of 80 people were interviewed and a further 372 completed survey questionnaires. Following a review of existing models of competence, a new, 'provisional model of professional competence' was developed. This drew on a number of earlier models and related concepts, and was influenced by both reflective practitioner and competence based approaches to professional development. The new model was exposed to expert and academic criticism through a series of conference and journal papers, comments being received from a total of 70 people. The model was also tested empirically, after which a revised version was developed. The empirical stage of the research had a number of strands, in addition to being used for testing the model. It examined the nature of modem professions and tested the validity of certain characteristics traditionally associated with professions - altruism, autonomy, self- regulation, etc. It also examined the nature of professional practice and tested the validity of two competing epistemologies - 'technical-rationality' and 'knowing-in-action' (reflective practice). It investigated how professional competence is acquired, examining the contribution made by both formal development programmes and various kinds of informal experience to which practitioners are exposed. It sought to identify the conditions and environments that are important to professional learning, especially in early practice. Finally, it looked at how professionals maintain their competence through personal learning and continuing professional development (CPD). Both qualitative and quantitative methods were employed throughout. Analysis of results led to the identification of 12 general learning processes or 'learning mechanisms'. These formed the basis of a taxonomy which was used to classify the range of informal learning experiences and events reported by respondents. Outputs from the research included: "a new model of professional competence; "a taxonomy of informal professional learning methods; "a proposed new (or modified) epistemology of professional practice; "a proposed new paradigm of professional development, together with a linked self- development paradigm; an exemplar professional development model; and "a number of practical suggestions for improving professional development programmes. The research has contributed to knowledge by throwing new light on the nature of both professional practice and professional competence, and providing insights into the ways in which people become effective in their professional roles

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: CPD; Professions; Learning processes; Mechanisms
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
Other academic unit: Division of Adult Continuing Education
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.310631
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2013 11:19
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:52
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3487

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