Professionalizing Early Childhood Education: What’s the Difference Between “Occupation” and “Profession”? | Policy [M]atters, Episode 6

by Stacie Goffin and Teri Talan

Policy Matters is a quarterly video chat series between Teri Talan of the McCormick Center and a guest author in early childhood policy. Our guest author for Episodes 5-8 is Stacie Goffin. Want to catch up or revisit the series? Explore previous chats and topics here.

The topic of Episode 6 was inspired by a comment posted on Episode 5, in which Kate Tarrant wrote, “I hear you talking about a real paradigm shift in which the complex and important work of nurturing young children’s whole selves is valued and aspiring educators enter into our field with high expectations and capacity to support children and families. So much of our systems are set up to compensate for not getting this right from the start. What thoughts do you have related to getting us from here to there?”

In Episode 6, Stacie Goffin and Teri Talan lay the foundation for addressing this question by solidifying the distinction between occupation and profession. Stacie’s ideas are largely based on drawing parallels to other fields—medicine, architecture, and law, to name a few—that transformed from occupations to professions. Teri expands on these ideas by sharing findings from Finnish Lessons, a book by Pasi Sahlberg, which details the remarkable results obtained when Finland implemented educational reforms, including strengthening the teaching profession.

The second half of the chat, which will be published as Episode 7 in January, used these parallels from other fields and Finland to address Kate’s specific question of how do we get from here to there? Stay tuned!

What’s your perspective on ‘occupation’ vs. ‘profession’? What questions or comments do you have for Teri and Stacie? What feedback do you have on the Policy [M]atters series? Share them in the comments section below.

Dr. Teri Talan is the Michael W. Louis Chair at the McCormick Center and Professor of Early Childhood Education at National Louis University. She is co-author of the Program Administration ScaleBusiness Administration Scale for Family Child CareEscala de Evaluación de la Administración de Negocios, and Who’s Caring for the Kids? The Status of the Early Childhood Workforce in Illinois.

A recognized leader and author in early childhood education, Stacie Goffin has led change initiatives spanning higher education, local, state, and national organizations; organizational development; and advocacy, resulting in change for systems, policy, and practice. Stacie is a member of the McCormick Center’s Advisory Board and is a frequent presenter at the McCormick Center’s Leadership Connections national conference.
Stacie has authored several books, including: Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, Early Childhood Education for a New Era: Leading for Our Profession,and Ready or Not: Leadership Choices in Early Care and Education, which was co-authored Valora Washington.