PROFESSIONALIZING THE AUDIO-VISUAL FIELD
JAMES D. FINN
The professionalization of the educational field is a concern of all educators. Inthis article James D. Finn has undertaken the task of presenting a framework withinwhich audio-visual specialists can work toward such professionalization. It is the first ofa series of articles by members of the DAVI Committee on Professional Education ondifferent aspects of this problem.
Dr. Finn is Associate Professor of Education and Chairman of Audio-VisualEducation at the University of Southern California. He is also Chairman of the DAVICommittee on Professional Education.
Specialization of occupation is a growing social factor in modern life. This factoris as applicable to education as to any other field. Where once there were only teachers,there are now administrators, psychologists, curriculum consultants, counselors, andmany other educational specialists. Each of these specialties is developing into aprofession within the general profession of education. Educators whose mainresponsibility lies in the preparation, distribution, and use of audio-visual materialsrepresent another group of specialized personnel newly developed and integrated intothe field of education.
In addition to the fact that people working with audio-visual materials aredevoting the major share of their time to a specialized phase of education and aredeveloping special interests, techniques, etc., there is also the fact that the audio-visualfield itself is somewhat antique in that it embraces all branches of the communicationarts and technology and brings new disciplines to bear upon the problems of education.This second fact makes the audio-visual field even more of a specialized educationalactivity than, say, the teaching of reading.
In recent years audio-visual workers have become sensitive to the professionalproblems of their specialty. Questions have been raised as to the possible degree ofprofessionalization of the movement; as to what, if any, certification requirementsshould be set up for audio-visual directors, and as to the long-range professionalobjectives of associations such as the Department of Audio-Visual Instruction of the.NEA (DAVI). DAVI has set up a Committee on Professional Education to study thegeneral problem of professionalization.
It is the purpose of a series of papers, of which this is the first, to present a studyof the problem of professionalization to the membership of DAVI from the Committeeon Professional Education. These papers will analyze the present status of the field todetermine, if possible, the degree of professionalization that has been developed, toreview the historical development of this status, and to suggest some problems thatmust be met and some possible solutions that might be developed in order to move thefield further in the direction of a true profession.
It is hoped that these studies will stimulate the membership of DAVI and otherpeople working in the field to undertake appropriate action. It is very significant to the
Committee on Professional Education that this series of papers is inaugurated in thefirst issue of the professional magazine of the Department of Audio-Visual Instruction.
Tools of a Profession
In considering the audio-visual field as a possible area of professionalization, agood place to begin is with the question: What are the characteristics of a profession1?A profession has, at least, these characteristics: (a) an intellectual technique, b) anapplication of that technique to the practical affairs of man, (c) a period of long trainingnecessary before entering into the profession, (d) an association of the members of theprofession into a closely-knit group with a high quality of communication betweenmembers, (e) a series of standards and a statement of ethics which is enforced, and (f)an organized body of intellectual theory constantly expanding by research.
The statements identifying these characteristics need little comment. That aprofession is primarily intellectual in character can be readily seen by viewing theactivities of any profession; a doctor who did not reflectively think before prescribing isinconceivable. That a profession applies its knowledge directly to the benefit of man isalso obvious.
The long periods of training necessary to develop specialists such as designengineers or oral surgeons are common examples of the third characteristic.Professional associations which began their evolution in the Middle Ages are a part ofevery civilized society. They identify the members who have successfully passedthrough the long training stage and, in fact, even control to a great degree the nature ofthat training. Communication between members of the profession is carried on bymeetings, journals of high quality, consultations, and other means.
Architects, actuaries, engineers all have their codes of conduct or statements ofethics and various forms of standards. Coupled with this ethical formulation is a meansof enforcing it in the more highly organized professions. Sometimes this enforcementresponsibility rests with the professional association, sometimes with the state as alicensing body, and sometimes with both. Although there is much criticism of manyprofessions at this point and some evidence (11) that many codes are window dressingto protect the profession from public interference and are not enforced except to theadvantage of the profession as against the public, the fact remains that the idea of anethic with the power of enforcement places a personal responsibility on each memberof a profession not associated with other types of occupations.
1The best quick soure on the nature and development of the professions with special reference tothe teaching profession may be found in Smith (16). Part Four of this Volume, "The Nature andStatus of the Teaching Profession," contains pertinent articles by A. M. Carr-Saunders, AbrahamFlexner, A. N. Whitehead, and William 0. Stanley. Many of Flexner's other works also considerthis problem. See also articles relating to the professionalization in the Encyclopedia of SocialSciences. A good idea of the development of a profession to a status closely resembling medicinemay be obtained by studying the last four or five years of the American Psychologist. In this,journal reports of committees on standards, ethics, training, etc., are particularly revealing.
Finally, the most fundamental and most important characteristic of a professionis that the skills involved are founded upon a body of intellectual theory and research.Furthermore, this systematic theory is constantly being expanded by research andthinking within the profession. As Whitehead says, ". . . the practice of a professioncannot be disjoined from its theoretical understanding or vice versa…. The antitheses toa profession is an avocation based upon customary activities and modified by the trialand error of individual practice. Such an avocation is a Craft …." (16:557) The differencebetween the bricklayer and the architect lies right here.
Professional Status of Audio-Visual Education
We can now examine the present status of audio-visual education whenmeasured by these six tests of a profession. Are audio-visual personnel, in fact,professionals? By audio-visual personnel is meant, for the moment, those individualswho spend fifty per cent or more of their time working with audio-visual programs inschools and colleges as directors, supervisors, producers, consultants, etc., or those whoengage in in-service ; and pre-service teacher training or research in this area.
An intellectual -technique. First, the audio-visual worker does possess anintellectual technique. He has to think reflectively in such varied areas as the criticalevaluation of materials, the visualization of abstract concepts, the improvement ofinstruction, and in many aspects of planning and administration. Audio-visualpersonnel, as a group, meet this criterion fairly well.
Practical application of the technique. Second: audio-visual techniques and materialsjustify their existence only as they become operative in classroom communication.Hence the test of practical application is completely met. Here the personnel of the fieldis at its best. The practical problems of classroom design, equipment, and materials arethe meat and drink of most audio-visual people. As will be indicated below. there is,perhaps, even an overemphasis on this point.
Long period of training, The test of a high degree of professionalization of theaudio-visual field, however, breaks down completely against the third criterion, a longperiod of rigorous training for the members of a profession. Most professions not onlyrequire this long period of training but are also in substantial agreement as to thenature of this training. This results in the professional associations specifying the natureof the training either through state regulation of some sort or through a system ofaccrediting training institutions,
The teaching profession as a whole does maintain training standards. But specifictraining for audio-visual directors and other personnel, with few exceptions, is still inthe thinking stage. Although there have been directors of programs since before WorldWar I, McClusky's bibliography lists only fifteen articles in the literature which discussthe requirements for audio-visual personnel (14). .An examination of these articlesreveals that only four are pertinent (6, 7, 12, 15). The others are devoted toadministrative relationships and duties of principals, building coordinators, students,and miscellaneous problems. There has been practically no thoughtful consideration ofthis problem by audio-visual people and no attempt to develop standards.
The history of all professions reveals that the lengthy and rigorous trainingprograms came after a long period of evolution. So it is not surprising to find that theaudio-visual field has not made an organized effort as yet to develop such a program.The audio-visual field has developed rapidly and has surmounted many professionalproblems without showing all the required characteristics of a profession. Now, in 1953,the field is really, for the first time, in a position to take a good look at the problem ofprofessional training. The State of Indiana has already taken action, and proposals havebeen published in other states as to the training necessary for an audio-visual directorand pointing to some form of certification. The Committee on Professional Education ofDAVI has this as one of its direct concerns.
The nature and content of professional education for audio-visual directors andother workers presents many problems that must be solved before audio-visualeducation can claim the status of a profession. The system of apprenticeship trainingthat has been in operation is no longer adequate. Trained audio-visual personnel willnot stay in their present jobs forever, and there is no longer the reservoir of service-experienced people to draw upon. Obviously, a graduate program that can provide thecompetencies generated by service and industrial experience coupled with a bettertheoretical background is required immediately. The audio-visual field cannot beupgraded into a profession until this occurs. Other unsolved problems include thenature of certification standards, admission standards and practices, and placement.
Association and communication between members. The fourth criterion of aprofession – a closely-knit association with a high quality of communication betweenmembers – is another point at which the audio-visual field does not measure-up.Considering, first, professional association, the best that can be said at present is that aprofessional association is in the process of becoming and will someday emerge.
For many years DAVI was a comparatively weak organization held together bya small group of stalwarts. DAVI went through several re-organizations and managedto survive a depression and a war, but only in the last two or three years has theorganization shown anything like the potential it can develop. The presentarrangement which ties in the organization with the NEA through its executivesecretary, with working national committees dealing with important problems, andwith an increasing and interested membership promises much for the future.
The audio-visual field has also suffered from too many organizations. It is amoot question whether the organizations which represent special applications of thefield such as The Association for Education by Radio-Television (AERT), the EducationalFilm Library Association (EFLA), and the Film Council of America (FCA) should remainoutside of the main stream of the DAVI or become divisions within it in order todevelop the best possible organization for the profession. The men and women whofounded and carried on these organizations deserve nothing but commendation fortheir continual struggle and achievements, but the field as a profession would probablybenefit more by merger than by continual separation. At least this possibility should bethoroughly explored.
At the state and local levels, the structure of audio-visual organization has notyet even approached the professional. There are some fine state units, to be sure. The
Audio-Visual Education Association of California, one of the oldest and strongest, is aprofessional organization in every sense of the word. AVID of Indiana has achievednational recognition, and AVDO of Ohio is rapidly growing in strength. And there areothers. But much work remains to be done on the state and local levels.
It is at the other half of the concept of association – the idea of a high quality ofcommunication between members – that the audio-visual movement as a whole hadfailed until the decision was made to publish the journal in which this paper appears.With the exception of Edgar Dale 's Newsletter, all of the journals serving the field haddifficulty presenting professional content. This was true of Educational Screen, Audio-visual World, See and Hear, Audio -Visual Guide, Business Screen, The Journal of the AERT,Film News, and all the rest. Most of the time these magazines were not able to printthorough and scholarly papers on the theoretical bases of audio-visual education;research studies for the most part were ignored and left to journals outside the field.When compared to the Psychological Review, The American Journal 0f Sociology or ahundred other professional periodicals, the audiovisual magazines have simply notmeasured up professionally. There were good and sufficient reasons for this, but thefact remains.
This is not to say that these other audio-visual journals have failed to contributeas the audio-visual field struggled through its infancy. They have done their share indeveloping the field. In particular, Nelson Greene made a great contribution throughthe years with the Educational Screen. Greene was a scholar and had an intensiveinterest in professionalizing audio-visual education. Some examples of this interest werethe publication of Krows' somewhat dull but important account of the development ofthe non-theatrical film, carried serially over two years; David Goodman's abortivecolumn on research abstracts; and an attempt to carry a column which criticallyreviewed the literature of the field.
In general, the journals until now have made a contribution by carryinginformation on materials and equipment, occasionally publishing an article ofprofessional merit, and everlastingly promoting and crusading for things audio-visual.This is a sign of the childhood and adolescence of the audio-visual movement. Audio-visual education is here to stay. Promotion and profesisionalization, while both arenecessary, are not the same things. The time has come to add the dimension ofprofessional content to the field's joules and it is hoped that the Audio-VisualCommunication Review will fill the gap.
Professional communication is also carried on in meetings and Conferences. Thesame criticisms leveled at the quality of the journals can apply to the quality of mostaudio-visual meetings. The meeting agenda seem to be of two types. One is a typedesigned to appeal to the practicing teacher and consists of a rehash of one or morechapters of Dale, Hoban, or Kinder carried on for two or three days! To the audio-visual professional, this type of meeting is about as intellectually stimulating as aplateful of unsalted grits would be to Oscar of the Waldorf. The other type appeals tothe ever-present gadgeteer in audio-visual circles and, while it may not be concernedany more with the "F-value" of lenses, the topics have merely changed to more efficientbooking forms, The JAN projector, or the heat and pressure necessary to laminate a 20x 24 print.
The writer is not arguing for the elimination of meetings designed primarily forteachers nor for the abolishing of the technical problems of the audio-visual field fromconsideration. Certainly thousands of teachers need help with the elementary conceptsof audio-visual instruction2 certainly the audio-visual field will always be plagued withtechnical problems which must be solved. But professional meetings are notprofessional meetings if they are limited to these two areas. The first can be best dealtwith in regular gatherings of teachers rather than at audio-visual meetings, and thesecond area should be reduced to a section or two of professional audio-visualconferences to restore perspective
Again, improvement in recent years has been noted. The agenda for the Bostonand St. Louis meetings of DAVI showed many signs of professionalization not presentat earlier meetings. Many state meetings have been improving programs.Nevertheless, the improvement of audio. visual conferences has a long way to go.
In summary, then, to achieve a real professional status, the audio-visualmovement needs to develop a strong and creative association at the national and stateand local levels; it needs to develop true professional journals, and it needs to improveconferences and meetings. When these things are done, audio-visual personnel can saythey have met the requirements of the fourth criterion – the criterion of association andcommunication.
Code of ethics and standards. The fifth measuring point, ethics, standards and theirenforcement, is a function of the fourth, a strong association. Statements of ethics andpublications of standards are developed by professional associations. Audio-visualpersonnel, as members of the teacher profession, are subject to the ethics of theprofession. As yet, nothing has been done to develop a separate code of ethics for theaudio-visual movement.
In the field of standards, there are signs that professionalization is under way.The Committee on Buildings and Equipment of DAVI is studying standards in its field,and has produced an excellent publication. (i17)
However, the publication of codes of ethics and manuals of standards in itselfguarantees nothing. Professionalization occurs when enforcement is possible andvigorous. Thus, the American Medical Association wages war on quacks andmalpractice; engineers and architects write building standards into the law, and thecourts can disbar a lawyer for illegal practice.
Enforcement is closely tied in with admission to the profession by a licensingsystem (a function of criterion three – training), with placement which assures thatlicensed personnel are hired, and, most fundamentally, with an obligation on the part ofeach professional to the ethics and standards of his profession.
2 See, for example, the recording Edgar Dale and James D. Finn, "The Improvement ot TeachingThrough Audio-Visual Materials," Educational Recording Services, Los Angeles, 1951, an aid forteachers' meetings, illustrating the position of the writer on this point.
In view of the fact that the entire education profession has not met this criterionto the degree that the other professions have, it is questionable whether the audio-visual group will ever completely measure up to this point. And it is even questionablewhether such a rigorous arrangement is either necessary or desirable. However, theaudio-visual movement will at least have to reach the state where it has a well definedcode of ethics, a series of standards based upon fundamental research, and a form ofcertification somewhat related to them. At the moment the field is not at this stage anddoes not meet criterion five.
Intellectual Theory and Research. As was indicated in the introductory phase of thispaper, the most important characteristic of a profession was the sixth and last, that thetechnique of a profession is founded upon a body of systematic theory and researchconstantly being expanded by research and thinking within the profession. When theaudio-visual field is measured against this characteristic, again the conclusion must bereached that professional status has not been attained.
Audio-visual workers have put a premium on "practicality" and have beencriticized for this by colleagues within the field of education and by the literati fromwithout. There is some merit to this criticism. For years, even at audio-visual meetings,someone has always been taking cracks at the "gadgeteers. " As the writer has indicatedabove, it is his position that the audio-visual field is a result of the fruits of technologyapplied to the educational process and a certain amount of gadgeteering will always benecessary. Too much, however, reveals a poverty of thought.
The audio-visual field has never been too clear on the point that theory andpractice must constantly interact in any intellectual activity of man. In line with someother mistaken educators, many audio-visual people have insisted that they want to be"practical" and not "theoretical," and that "experience" is the thing. This is, in part, anhonest reaction against an older viewpoint that placed theory up somewhere near theMilky Way where it had no relation to practice except to cause aesthetic chills to chaseup the spine of some professor.
This attitude, however, also represents a complete misunderstanding of thenature of reflective thinking, scientific progress, and the well-springs of humanbehavior. As Dewey (4) has said, ". . . we find that experience when it is experimentaldoes not signify the absence of large and far-reaching ideas and purposes. It isdependent upon them at every point." Without these large and far-reaching ideas anyfield, and this is particularly true of the audio-visual field, can go only so far and thenhas to stop.
Many of the criticisms listed above, lack of content at meetings, journals withlittle intellectual meat, etc., are merely symptoms of this greater trouble – lack oftheoretical direction. Without a theory which produces hypotheses for research, therecan be no expanding of knowledge and technique. And without a constant attempt toassess practice so that the theoretical implications may be teased out, there can be noinsurance that we will ever have a theory or that our practice will make sense .
The audio-visual movement is new and growing, but it is in danger of becomingstunted if it is left to its present theoretical formulations. The present theory guiding themovement can be summed up in three references (2, 8, I0). The basic concept aroundwhich all three have been oriented is the notion of the concrete-abstract relationship inlearning. This is perhaps most thoroughly explored in Hoban. Dale adds material onretention and forgetting with a brief historical section, and Kinder expands to a veryshort history of communication and deals slightly with perception and imagery. All alsoemphasize the gamut of materials approach to learning, the concept of utilization, theexperience theory of learning, and the strengths and weaknesses of the various aids.
The remainder of audio-visual theory is scattered throughout the literature.McClusky (13) has related audio-visual techniques to learning theory in a somewhatunique fashion; Brooker (1) began a line of thinking of promise in his discussion ofcommunication which remains to be explored; Exton (5) contribution of the concept of"optimum synthesis" has not received the attention it merits. All of these are butexamples of the scattering of notions throughout audio-visual literature which, whenbrought together, might constitute a beginning of a fruitful theory.
To these examples, of course, much more would have to be added: most of thewritings of Hoban, many of Dale's essays in the Newsletter, reports on the proceedingsof conferences, generalizations derived from successful practice, generalizations derivedfrom research, etc. The audio-visual field cannot rest its theoretical formulation on thecontents of several textbooks designed for teacher training that do not include even all''the useful theory to be found in audio-visual literature.
Because of the nature of the audio-visual field, however, useful theory is notconfined to its own literature. As most workers realize, there is a literature of the film,of photography, of the museum, of dramatization, etc.; there is also the literature ofeducational method and curriculum; there is the literature of educational psychology, ofsocial psychology, of social anthropology; there is the literature of art and design;finally and perhaps most important, there is the growing literature of communication.In fact, research and thinking in some parts of the physical sciences (neurology,physiology, acoustics, etc.), the social sciences (social communication and control,learning theory, etc.), and the humanities (art, music, etc.) are each pertinent to the field.We need to understand the filmic expression ideas of Slovack Vorkapich, the visualexperiments of Samuel Renshaw, and the communication philosophy of SusanneLanger.
Viewed in this light, most people in the audio-visual field are still guided by atheory which is fragmentary; theory as now guiding the field (the generalizations heldby many of the workers) is not even inclusive of the notions contained in audio-visualliterature; it has never worked in most of the pertinent generalizations available fromoutside these narrow limits.
On the important test of theory the audio-visual field does not meet professionalstandards. Its workers are craftsmen, not professionals, in the majority of instancesbecause they are operating, in Whitehead's words, on "customary activities modified bythe trial and error of individual practice." Absolutely fundamental to the developmentof audiovisual education as a profession in the sense that DAVI is now using the term is
the prior development of an all-inclusive body of theory upon which to assess andguide practice and base research. Once this is done many of the other criticisms statedabove will no longer be valid because their source will have disappeared.
The status of audio-visual research also reflects on professionalization. Not thatresearch does not exist or that it is not being pursued. Recent bibliography (3) lists 163titles through 1946, and this is by no means all-inclusive. Because of the journal policydiscussed above, research pertinent to audio-visual education is published throughoutthe literature of the social sciences and needs a staff of detectives to trace it down. Verylittle of it has been reported in audio-visual meetings. This means that many audio-visual workers must be "flying blind" – a black mark for professionalization.
The post-war years have brought an increase in research activities in audio-visualeducation and related areas. Much of this research is government sponsored andfinanced, but it is being published in pamphlet form, in psychological journals, or inother places more or less inaccessible to the practicing worker in the audio-visual field.A true profession, such as medicine, makes this information more easily available to itspractitioners. Furthermore, outside of the volume by Hoban and Van Ormer (9), thereis not much evidence that research is influencing the formulation of theory. Many of thehypotheses not being tested have been derived from learning theory and the "socialperception" theories which have been developed by a number of social psychologists.The audio-visual field is in the peculiar position of having, much of its research carried on byworkers in other disciplines using hypotheses unknown tomany audiovisual workers, and reporting results in journals that audio-visual people do not readand at meetings that audio-visual people do not attend. While the research is expanding theintellectual background of the profession it seems to be having little effect. Atremendous amount of integration is necessary before this part of the criterion six canbe met.
In summary, then, of the six criteria set forth in this paper: (a) intellectualtechnique, (b) application of technique to practice, (c) long training period, (d)association of members with a high quality of communication, (e) a series of standardsand an enforced statement of ethics, and (f) an organized body of intellectual theoryconstantly expanding by research, audio-visual personnel meet only the first andsecond completely. The fourth and fifth are met to a degree which is not satisfactorybut which is improving. And the third and sixth tests rate such low scores that failure isthe only possible grade. This adds up, in the opinion of the writer, to the simply stated factthat the audio-visual field is not yet a profession. .
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