9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN19 Sociology of Professions

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Changing Professional Skills and Competence Building I, Auditório 1

Practice Shock - Empirical and Theoretical Considerations

The transition from professional education to work is often referred to as a ?shock? of some form. The shock-metaphor is used to describe the tough and confusing realities the novice professional faces when the education is to be put to use. In this paper, this ?shock of practice? is discussed and empirically examined. We argue that the shock-metaphor is connected with the classical acquisitonal view of knowledge promoted in the sociological literature on the professions: knowledge is acquired during education and is to be activated in the following professional career. Potential problems with mastering the work as a novice professional are understood as insufficiencies in the professional education. However, the existence of the metaphor itself also implies an empirical critique of this understanding of professional knowledge. It is further argued that in line with the acquisitonal, cognitive, view of knowledge, the focus in the empirical research has been on individual mastery of professional work. There has been little or none emphasis on the important role played by social and contextual factors such as colleagues and management, and when acknowledged they have mainly been understood as factors external to the individual, and not something the individual itself can participate in and shape. Drawing on both qualitative interviews, observational data of novice teachers and quantitative survey data on novice and experienced teachers, novice teachers? job mastery (perceived certainty and perceived ability to make an impact in their classroom work (teacher self efficacy)) is examined. Novice teachers report to be somewhat less certain in their work, but do not have lower perceived self efficacy than the more experienced teachers. The indications of a shock of practice are therefore ambiguous. Furthermore, the analyses of the survey data reveal that support from colleagues, support from superiors, and binding collaboration with colleagues seems to be more important in predicting job mastery than being a novice teacher per se. The findings imply that the traditional understanding of knowledge and competence in the professional literature is insufficient and needs to be expanded by recognition of the role played by social and contextual factors.