Teacher regulation and agency through the lens of Durkheim’s professional ethics

Louise Campbell (Lead / Corresponding author)

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In discussions of the regulation of teaching, there are a number of issues which arise concerning how teachers understand the professional expectations upon them and the role that such standards play in supporting and maintaining the ethical dimensions of teachers’ practice. Arguably, teachers’ professional standards evolve to meet the needs of the societies in which they exist. Consequently, they provide a locus for analysis of the desires, aspirations and philosophical perspectives of the social and educational systems to which they belong. Durkheim’s ideas about professional ethics provide a means of making sense of the complex and varied landscape of teacher regulation. They provide a way of seeing teacher professional standards as not constrained by neoliberal conceptions of regulation in which the fear of sanction may limit imaginative engagement with the profession. Instead, even within highly managerial systems, we begin to see professional standards as a prompt to engaged and ethical action for the greater good. In this sense, Durkheim’s work facilitates a way of seeing professional standards as having the capacity to magnify teachers’ innate potential for positive social impact regardless of the context in which they work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalEthics and Education
Issue number1
Early online date21 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Durkheim
  • Professional standards
  • autonomy
  • ethics
  • teacher agency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy


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