ERIC Number: ED393998
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1994
Reference Count: N/A
Toward an Emic Understanding of Professionalism among Technical Workers. EQW Working Papers WP29.
Nelsen, Bonalyn J.; Barley, Stephen R.
In a continuation of research on the technical labor force that was initiated in 1990 at a large northeastern university, professionalism among technical workers was examined from an emic perspective. (Emics are conceptual strategies that explain phenomena in terms meaningful to the people being studied, whereas etics explain phenomena in terms meaningful to the observers.) The research centered on a series of coordinated ethnographic studies of technical occupations. Each study involved 6-12 months of field work in the form of a participant observation and unstructured interviews on a variety of subjects tailored to the occupation under investigation. The field notes from each study were then systematically searched for explicit emically based references to professionalism. The analysis focused on three aspects of professionalism: expertise, attitude, and presentation. In general, the technicians' talk of professionalism did not reflect a concern for power or status but rather an insistence that their expertise and contribution to the work process be respected within the professional division of labor. It was concluded that substantial discrepancies do in fact exist between etic and emic interpretations of professional rhetoric and that etically based conceptions of "profession" present only a partial and, at least in the case of professional rhetoric, inaccurate understanding of the social phenomenon of rhetoric. (Contains 52 references.) (MN)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce, Philadelphia, PA.