Teacher Trainer

12. Occupational Identity

Key Concept: Occupational knowledge & Occupational identity

Subject-specialist pedagogy helps develop occupational identity. It does so explicitly by teaching the behaviour and codes of conduct expected in particular professional settings. It also does so implicitly, by using the types of learning processes that are strongly characteristic of the specialism. For example, workshops or labs are used not only to develop knowledge and skills but also to instil attitudes and orientations suitable to occupational roles in science, engineering and technology.

As a result, the learner develops a particular world view: what does the job consist of, and what makes the 'right' person for the job? The right person is characterised by a mix of how someone in a specific occupation should feel, look and act as well as what values, attitudes and beliefs they should have. However, it is important to note that this view may perpetuate undesirable class, ethnic and gender-based roles. Consequently, those who are not seen to 'fit' an occupation could feel excluded – a female engineer or a male midwife, for instance. A teacher might want to challenge rather than reproduce such learning processes.

The concept of 'what makes the right person for the job' has been described as vocational habitus. This is based on two concepts from the work of social theorist Pierre Bourdieu. The first, habitus, the idea that there is an interplay in every individual between their personal dispositions and the predispositions shaped by the society they live in – their class, race and gender, for instance. The second concept is field, which is the setting people are operating in – for instance, the classroom or the workplace. It is argued that people act differently depending on the context they are in.

The following video presented by Professor Kevin Orr introduces the key concept of occupational identity.


Where would you access guidance on legislation, occupational standards and regulations, as well as on prescribed codes of conduct within your particular specialism?

Which professional bodies exist within your specialist area?

Watch the animation below, which sets out the concept of vocational identity, How does this help you analyse the teaching that you have seen in the videos? How might it help you organise your own teaching?

With your own role and duties in mind, what procedures are there that promote inclusivity in your occupational area, or on your courses?