Article – Leopard-Print Leggins and iPhones In Class: How Do We Teach Professionalism?

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This Guardian has an interesting article on professionalism in higher education.  It is by a anonymous PhD student who works in a clinical setting teaching undergraduates.  He is concerned about how we are providing training in professionalism and finds it troubling that his students show up to clinical settings, late, “wearing platform, open-toed shoes accompanied by leopard print leggings,” play with their cell phones, and address patients in a too informal way.

One of his concerns is research showing adverse outcomes related to unprofessional behavior (like not dressing appropriately).  Also he points to research showing patient perceptions  of professional competence was associate with professional attire and behavior.  While his concerns are in the dental field, it is clearly an issue throughout the working world.

He indicates that although he, his students, and their patients might have differing views of professionalism, there is research that indicates that students’ perception of professionalism is influence by role models in the field.  Although he finds it troubling the way his student act unprofessional, he concludes: “Perhaps I should stop worrying about how students are dressed or if they’re using their mobiles, and instead pour my energies into providing them with the best role model they can learn from.”


Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, and heads an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.

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