No Pay, No Profession? Why Aren’t Educational Expedition Leaders Professional?

Hampson, Thomas Clifford Mark Peter Ray (2022) No Pay, No Profession? Why Aren’t Educational Expedition Leaders Professional? Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Professionalism is a social construct with multiple definitions across a variety of occupations. Meaning, it is concept that has been created and widely accepted by society; the central point of inquiry for this research being, does the educational expedition sector have a definition of professionalism? Briefly, the educational expedition sector is a subsect of the outdoor industry which specialises in the delivery of experiential education and education in remote wilderness environments.

The predominant understanding of professionalism seemingly refers to the accepted behaviours within an occupation. Previous research has often relied on the examination of these behaviours along with characteristics and attributes demonstrated by the individual and accepted by the wider occupational field. Consequently, researchers typically develop a list of what they interpret to be professional while alluding to three common conceptions: 1. a preference for professionalism to be founded in traditionalism; 2. ambition for professional status enforces a power differential among the occupations at varying sociological levels; 3. how professional identities are affected by the internalisation and an unconscious assimilation to professional ideals enforced by an occupation. However, though the lists and literature share some commonalities, there is no fixed definition of
professionalism. Further, the contextualised investigation of professionalism as a sociological phenomenon is more commonly conducted within more traditional professions (medicine, law, accountancy, education etc.) as opposed to occupations which may strive for similar recognition and status.

Therefore, through phenomenological principles this thesis aims to achieve three objectives with the purpose of informing the current understanding of professionalism and professional practice within the educational expedition sector. These are: 1. to examine the interpretations of professionalism adopted by experienced educational expedition leaders who have worked for the British ExploringSociety (BES) as they have the potential to influence the definition of the outdoor professional; 2. to explore competing definitions of professionalism taken from established professions, thus informing differing interpretations of professional identity; 3. to develop a learning model that demonstrates a strategy informing notions of professionalism that could be accepted within a scheme of Higher Education (HE). By analysing competing interpretations from established professions, it is hoped that this research project may begin to assist the educational expedition sector to move away from traditionalised methods of professionalism and begin modernising its commonly held principles. That is, to take a step towards becoming known as a profession, and not pejoratively as an ‘industry’, or ‘sector’, or trade. To achieve the aims a qualitative methodological approach was used. Data had been collected via field observations, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews. Due to the Covid-19
pandemic, expedition-based field observations could not be conducted, yet the premise and potential influence of this method is still discussed.

Contrary to previous research, this study refrained from developing a strict definition of professionalism, as might be derived from the data collected. Instead, it concentrated on exploring concepts pertinent to its understanding within the educational expedition sector. The key findings were: 1. The existence and potential implications of the hidden curriculum on aspiring leaders; 2. The effects of an implicit struggle for status, prestige and sociological hierarchy enforced by meritocracy; 3. The development of a learning model illustrating the socialisation of aspiring leaders, and the effects of the aforementioned common conceptions on their professional identities.

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