• Constructing professional identity: the role of postgraduate professional development in asserting the identity of the career practitioner

      Poultney, Val; Davies, David; Neary, Siobhan (University of DerbyInternational Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), 2014-08-15)
      The professional identity of career practitioners in the UK has become increasingly challenged in recent decades due to the influence of government policy and the dominance of work-based qualifications. Privatisation, multi-professional working and workforce realignment have all contributed to a reshaping of the career guidance professional. This research examines the views of a group of practitioners all undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) in the form of a postgraduate award. The participants were all UK based practitioners working in a career related role; all were either currently on programme, had completed or stepped off with an interim award within a masters programme. The research explored practitioners’ views at a time of significant upheaval, of themselves as professionals, their professional identity and the extent to which postgraduate CPD contributed to this. The research utilised a case study approach employing document analysis, questionnaire, in-depth interviews and narrative biographies. These tools were specifically selected to enable sequential analysis of data allowing findings from each stage to be rigorously tested out by the next research tool. Applications from potential students were initially analysed helping to establish motivation for undertaking a programme of this type, an on-line survey explored practitioners views of themselves as professionals, motivation for postgraduate study and potential outcomes for themselves, their organisation and their profession. In-depth interviews and narrative biographies provided a voice allowing participants to explore their personal journey with their studies and how this engagement contributed to the establishment, maintenance or enhancement of their practitioner professional identity. Continuing professional development was classified as consisting of three types, operational, experiential and formal. Findings suggested participants predominantly valued formal CPD with operational being perceived as only meeting employer contractual compliance. Postgraduate level CPD contributed to professional identity through engagement with reflection, theory, policy and academic study. Ethics and client focus were central to the professional identity of the career practitioner. Postgraduate study was perceived to empower practitioners and to contribute to the professionalisation of the sector and give parity with other public sector professions. The research contributes to both the limited body of knowledge addressing professional identity within the career guidance context and discourse addressing professionalisation of new professions. It offers a shared professional perspective that can inform the evolving policy debate aiming to professionalise the career and allied workforces. The research offers a unique insight into a profession in transition and the voice of practitioners who have experienced successive waves of government policy, which has been often internalised as de-professionalisation.