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Mapping professional expertise: old tensions revisited

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The slow uptake of National Vocational Qualifications among the professions is noted. It is suggested that the idea of a profession contains values, beliefs and assumptions, just as competence-based systems of analysis do. Enduring tensions in the idea of a profession are examined to illuminate contemporary discussion of competence-based analysis, in the belief that the issues are closely connected. The range of ways in which the idea of a profession has been defined is reviewed and the social significance that the term may be held to have is considered. This entails an exploration of rationalist definitions of professionalism, which are then contrasted with sociologically-based interpretations and with social market views. The significance of a Ć¢–˜practical scienceĆ¢–™ view of expertise is then considered. Conclusions are drawn concerning the enduring nature of a profession. It is suggested that the complexity of describing professional practice, together with the self-interest of professional groups will continue to limit the uptake of competence-based assessment at higher levels.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom

Publication date: March 1, 1999

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