Posted: February 26th, 2023

Teaching Defined

First, read the article, “Professionalizing the Audio-Visual Field.”

Next, answer the following:

  • Do you feel teaching can be defined as a profession based on the definition provided in this article?
  • Do you agree with this definition of profession?



The professionalization of the educational field is a concern of all educators. In
this article James D. Finn has undertaken the task of presenting a framework within
which audio-visual specialists can work toward such professionalization. It is the first of
a series of articles by members of the DAVI Committee on Professional Education on
different aspects of this problem.

Dr. Finn is Associate Professor of Education and Chairman of Audio-Visual
Education at the University of Southern California. He is also Chairman of the DAVI
Committee on Professional Education.

Specialization of occupation is a growing social factor in modern life. This factor
is as applicable to education as to any other field. Where once there were only teachers,
there are now administrators, psychologists, curriculum consultants, counselors, and
many other educational specialists. Each of these specialties is developing into a
profession within the general profession of education. Educators whose main
responsibility lies in the preparation, distribution, and use of audio-visual materials
represent another group of specialized personnel newly developed and integrated into
the field of education.

In addition to the fact that people working with audio-visual materials are
devoting the major share of their time to a specialized phase of education and are
developing special interests, techniques, etc., there is also the fact that the audio-visual
field itself is somewhat antique in that it embraces all branches of the communication
arts 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 educational
activity than, say, the teaching of reading.

In recent years audio-visual workers have become sensitive to the professional
problems of their specialty. Questions have been raised as to the possible degree of
professionalization of the movement; as to what, if any, certification requirements
should be set up for audio-visual directors, and as to the long-range professional
objectives 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 the
general problem of professionalization.

It is the purpose of a series of papers, of which this is the first, to present a study
of the problem of professionalization to the membership of DAVI from the Committee
on Professional Education. These papers will analyze the present status of the field to
determine, if possible, the degree of professionalization that has been developed, to
review the historical development of this status, and to suggest some problems that
must be met and some possible solutions that might be developed in order to move the
field further in the direction of a true profession.

It is hoped that these studies will stimulate the membership of DAVI and other
people 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 the
first 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, a
good 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) an
application of that technique to the practical affairs of man, (c) a period of long training
necessary before entering into the profession, (d) an association of the members of the
profession into a closely-knit group with a high quality of communication between
members, (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 a
profession is primarily intellectual in character can be readily seen by viewing the
activities of any profession; a doctor who did not reflectively think before prescribing is
inconceivable. That a profession applies its knowledge directly to the benefit of man is
also obvious.

The long periods of training necessary to develop specialists such as design
engineers or oral surgeons are common examples of the third characteristic.
Professional associations which began their evolution in the Middle Ages are a part of
every civilized society. They identify the members who have successfully passed
through the long training stage and, in fact, even control to a great degree the nature of
that training. Communication between members of the profession is carried on by
meetings, journals of high quality, consultations, and other means.

Architects, actuaries, engineers all have their codes of conduct or statements of
ethics and various forms of standards. Coupled with this ethical formulation is a means
of enforcing it in the more highly organized professions. Sometimes this enforcement
responsibility rests with the professional association, sometimes with the state as a
licensing body, and sometimes with both. Although there is much criticism of many
professions at this point and some evidence (11) that many codes are window dressing
to protect the profession from public interference and are not enforced except to the
advantage of the profession as against the public, the fact remains that the idea of an
ethic with the power of enforcement places a personal responsibility on each member
of a profession not associated with other types of occupations.

1The best quick soure on the nature and development of the professions with special reference to
the teaching profession may be found in Smith (16). Part Four of this Volume, “The Nature and
Status of the Teaching Profession,” contains pertinent articles by A. M. Carr-Saunders, Abraham
Flexner, A. N. Whitehead, and William 0. Stanley. Many of Flexner’s other works also consider
this problem. See also articles relating to the professionalization in the Encyclopedia of Social
Sciences. A good idea of the development of a profession to a status closely resembling medicine
may 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 profession
is that the skills involved are founded upon a body of intellectual theory and research.
Furthermore, this systematic theory is constantly being expanded by research and
thinking within the profession. As Whitehead says, “. . . the practice of a profession
cannot be disjoined from its theoretical understanding or vice versa…. The antitheses to
a profession is an avocation based upon customary activities and modified by the trial
and error of individual practice. Such an avocation is a Craft ….” (16:557) The difference
between 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 when
measured by these six tests of a profession. Are audio-visual personnel, in fact,
professionals? By audio-visual personnel is meant, for the moment, those individuals
who spend fifty per cent or more of their time working with audio-visual programs in
schools and colleges as directors, supervisors, producers, consultants, etc., or those who
engage in in-service ; and pre-service teacher training or research in this area.

An intellectual -technique. First, the audio-visual worker does possess an
intellectual technique. He has to think reflectively in such varied areas as the critical
evaluation of materials, the visualization of abstract concepts, the improvement of
instruction, and in many aspects of planning and administration. Audio-visual
personnel, as a group, meet this criterion fairly well.

Practical application of the technique. Second: audio-visual techniques and materials
justify their existence only as they become operative in classroom communication.
Hence the test of practical application is completely met. Here the personnel of the field
is at its best. The practical problems of classroom design, equipment, and materials are
the 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 the
audio-visual field, however, breaks down completely against the third criterion, a long
period of rigorous training for the members of a profession. Most professions not only
require this long period of training but are also in substantial agreement as to the
nature of this training. This results in the professional associations specifying the nature
of the training either through state regulation of some sort or through a system of
accrediting training institutions,

The teaching profession as a whole does maintain training standards. But specific
training for audio-visual directors and other personnel, with few exceptions, is still in
the thinking stage. Although there have been directors of programs since before World
War I, McClusky’s bibliography lists only fifteen articles in the literature which discuss
the requirements for audio-visual personnel (14). .An examination of these articles
reveals that only four are pertinent (6, 7, 12, 15). The others are devoted to
administrative relationships and duties of principals, building coordinators, students,
and miscellaneous problems. There has been practically no thoughtful consideration of
this problem by audio-visual people and no attempt to develop standards.

The history of all professions reveals that the lengthy and rigorous training
programs came after a long period of evolution. So it is not surprising to find that the
audio-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 professional
problems 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 of
professional training. The State of Indiana has already taken action, and proposals have
been published in other states as to the training necessary for an audio-visual director
and pointing to some form of certification. The Committee on Professional Education of
DAVI has this as one of its direct concerns.

The nature and content of professional education for audio-visual directors and
other workers presents many problems that must be solved before audio-visual
education can claim the status of a profession. The system of apprenticeship training
that has been in operation is no longer adequate. Trained audio-visual personnel will
not 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 the
competencies generated by service and industrial experience coupled with a better
theoretical background is required immediately. The audio-visual field cannot be
upgraded into a profession until this occurs. Other unsolved problems include the
nature of certification standards, admission standards and practices, and placement.

Association and communication between members. The fourth criterion of a
profession – a closely-knit association with a high quality of communication between
members – 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 a
professional association is in the process of becoming and will someday emerge.

For many years DAVI was a comparatively weak organization held together by
a small group of stalwarts. DAVI went through several re-organizations and managed
to survive a depression and a war, but only in the last two or three years has the
organization shown anything like the potential it can develop. The present
arrangement which ties in the organization with the NEA through its executive
secretary, with working national committees dealing with important problems, and
with an increasing and interested membership promises much for the future.

The audio-visual field has also suffered from too many organizations. It is a
moot question whether the organizations which represent special applications of the
field such as The Association for Education by Radio-Television (AERT), the Educational
Film Library Association (EFLA), and the Film Council of America (FCA) should remain
outside of the main stream of the DAVI or become divisions within it in order to
develop the best possible organization for the profession. The men and women who
founded and carried on these organizations deserve nothing but commendation for
their continual struggle and achievements, but the field as a profession would probably
benefit more by merger than by continual separation. At least this possibility should be
thoroughly explored.

At the state and local levels, the structure of audio-visual organization has not
yet 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 a
professional organization in every sense of the word. AVID of Indiana has achieved
national recognition, and AVDO of Ohio is rapidly growing in strength. And there are
others. 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 of
communication between members – that the audio-visual movement as a whole had
failed 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 had
difficulty 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 print
thorough 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 a
hundred other professional periodicals, the audiovisual magazines have simply not
measured up professionally. There were good and sufficient reasons for this, but the
fact remains.

This is not to say that these other audio-visual journals have failed to contribute
as the audio-visual field struggled through its infancy. They have done their share in
developing the field. In particular, Nelson Greene made a great contribution through
the years with the Educational Screen. Greene was a scholar and had an intensive
interest in professionalizing audio-visual education. Some examples of this interest were
the publication of Krows’ somewhat dull but important account of the development of
the non-theatrical film, carried serially over two years; David Goodman’s abortive
column on research abstracts; and an attempt to carry a column which critically
reviewed the literature of the field.

In general, the journals until now have made a contribution by carrying
information on materials and equipment, occasionally publishing an article of
professional 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 are
necessary, are not the same things. The time has come to add the dimension of
professional content to the field’s joules and it is hoped that the Audio-Visual
Communication Review will fill the gap.

Professional communication is also carried on in meetings and Conferences. The
same criticisms leveled at the quality of the journals can apply to the quality of most
audio-visual meetings. The meeting agenda seem to be of two types. One is a type
designed to appeal to the practicing teacher and consists of a rehash of one or more
chapters 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 a
plateful of unsalted grits would be to Oscar of the Waldorf. The other type appeals to
the ever-present gadgeteer in audio-visual circles and, while it may not be concerned
any more with the “F-value” of lenses, the topics have merely changed to more efficient
booking forms, The JAN projector, or the heat and pressure necessary to laminate a 20
x 24 print.

The writer is not arguing for the elimination of meetings designed primarily for
teachers nor for the abolishing of the technical problems of the audio-visual field from
consideration. Certainly thousands of teachers need help with the elementary concepts
of audio-visual instruction2 certainly the audio-visual field will always be plagued with
technical problems which must be solved. But professional meetings are not
professional meetings if they are limited to these two areas. The first can be best dealt
with in regular gatherings of teachers rather than at audio-visual meetings, and the
second area should be reduced to a section or two of professional audio-visual
conferences to restore perspective

Again, improvement in recent years has been noted. The agenda for the Boston
and St. Louis meetings of DAVI showed many signs of professionalization not present
at 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-visual
movement needs to develop a strong and creative association at the national and state
and local levels; it needs to develop true professional journals, and it needs to improve
conferences and meetings. When these things are done, audio-visual personnel can say
they have met the requirements of the fourth criterion – the criterion of association and

Code of ethics and standards. The fifth measuring point, ethics, standards and their
enforcement, is a function of the fourth, a strong association. Statements of ethics and
publications of standards are developed by professional associations. Audio-visual
personnel, as members of the teacher profession, are subject to the ethics of the
profession. As yet, nothing has been done to develop a separate code of ethics for the
audio-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 itself
guarantees nothing. Professionalization occurs when enforcement is possible and
vigorous. Thus, the American Medical Association wages war on quacks and
malpractice; engineers and architects write building standards into the law, and the
courts can disbar a lawyer for illegal practice.

Enforcement is closely tied in with admission to the profession by a licensing
system (a function of criterion three – training), with placement which assures that
licensed personnel are hired, and, most fundamentally, with an obligation on the part of
each professional to the ethics and standards of his profession.

2 See, for example, the recording Edgar Dale and James D. Finn, “The Improvement ot Teaching
Through Audio-Visual Materials,” Educational Recording Services, Los Angeles, 1951, an aid for
teachers’ meetings, illustrating the position of the writer on this point.

In view of the fact that the entire education profession has not met this criterion
to 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 questionable
whether such a rigorous arrangement is either necessary or desirable. However, the
audio-visual movement will at least have to reach the state where it has a well defined
code of ethics, a series of standards based upon fundamental research, and a form of
certification somewhat related to them. At the moment the field is not at this stage and
does not meet criterion five.

Intellectual Theory and Research. As was indicated in the introductory phase of this
paper, the most important characteristic of a profession was the sixth and last, that the
technique of a profession is founded upon a body of systematic theory and research
constantly being expanded by research and thinking within the profession. When the
audio-visual field is measured against this characteristic, again the conclusion must be
reached that professional status has not been attained.

Audio-visual workers have put a premium on “practicality” and have been
criticized for this by colleagues within the field of education and by the literati from
without. 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 indicated
above, it is his position that the audio-visual field is a result of the fruits of technology
applied to the educational process and a certain amount of gadgeteering will always be
necessary. Too much, however, reveals a poverty of thought.

The audio-visual field has never been too clear on the point that theory and
practice must constantly interact in any intellectual activity of man. In line with some
other 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, an
honest reaction against an older viewpoint that placed theory up somewhere near the
Milky Way where it had no relation to practice except to cause aesthetic chills to chase
up the spine of some professor.

This attitude, however, also represents a complete misunderstanding of the
nature of reflective thinking, scientific progress, and the well-springs of human
behavior. As Dewey (4) has said, “. . . we find that experience when it is experimental
does not signify the absence of large and far-reaching ideas and purposes. It is
dependent upon them at every point.” Without these large and far-reaching ideas any
field, and this is particularly true of the audio-visual field, can go only so far and then
has to stop.

Many of the criticisms listed above, lack of content at meetings, journals with
little intellectual meat, etc., are merely symptoms of this greater trouble – lack of
theoretical direction. Without a theory which produces hypotheses for research, there
can be no expanding of knowledge and technique. And without a constant attempt to
assess practice so that the theoretical implications may be teased out, there can be no
insurance 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 becoming
stunted if it is left to its present theoretical formulations. The present theory guiding the
movement can be summed up in three references (2, 8, I0). The basic concept around
which all three have been oriented is the notion of the concrete-abstract relationship in
learning. This is perhaps most thoroughly explored in Hoban. Dale adds material on
retention and forgetting with a brief historical section, and Kinder expands to a very
short history of communication and deals slightly with perception and imagery. All also
emphasize the gamut of materials approach to learning, the concept of utilization, the
experience 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 somewhat
unique fashion; Brooker (1) began a line of thinking of promise in his discussion of
communication 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 but
examples of the scattering of notions throughout audio-visual literature which, when
brought together, might constitute a beginning of a fruitful theory.

To these examples, of course, much more would have to be added: most of the
writings of Hoban, many of Dale’s essays in the Newsletter, reports on the proceedings
of conferences, generalizations derived from successful practice, generalizations derived
from research, etc. The audio-visual field cannot rest its theoretical formulation on the
contents 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 not
confined 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 of
educational method and curriculum; there is the literature of educational psychology, of
social 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 visual
experiments of Samuel Renshaw, and the communication philosophy of Susanne

Viewed in this light, most people in the audio-visual field are still guided by a
theory which is fragmentary; theory as now guiding the field (the generalizations held
by many of the workers) is not even inclusive of the notions contained in audio-visual
literature; it has never worked in most of the pertinent generalizations available from
outside these narrow limits.

On the important test of theory the audio-visual field does not meet professional
standards. Its workers are craftsmen, not professionals, in the majority of instances
because they are operating, in Whitehead’s words, on “customary activities modified by
the trial and error of individual practice.” Absolutely fundamental to the development
of 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 and
guide practice and base research. Once this is done many of the other criticisms stated
above will no longer be valid because their source will have disappeared.

The status of audio-visual research also reflects on professionalization. Not that
research does not exist or that it is not being pursued. Recent bibliography (3) lists 163
titles through 1946, and this is by no means all-inclusive. Because of the journal policy
discussed above, research pertinent to audio-visual education is published throughout
the literature of the social sciences and needs a staff of detectives to trace it down. Very
little 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-visual
education and related areas. Much of this research is government sponsored and
financed, but it is being published in pamphlet form, in psychological journals, or in
other 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 its
practitioners. Furthermore, outside of the volume by Hoban and Van Ormer (9), there
is not much evidence that research is influencing the formulation of theory. Many of the
hypotheses not being tested have been derived from learning theory and the “social
perception” 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 by
workers in other disciplines using hypotheses unknown to
many audiovisual workers, and reporting results in journals that audio-visual people do not read
and at meetings that audio-visual people do not attend. While the research is expanding the
intellectual background of the profession it seems to be having little effect. A
tremendous amount of integration is necessary before this part of the criterion six can
be met.


In summary, then, of the six criteria set forth in this paper: (a) intellectual
technique, (b) application of technique to practice, (c) long training period, (d)
association of members with a high quality of communication, (e) a series of standards
and an enforced statement of ethics, and (f) an organized body of intellectual theory
constantly expanding by research, audio-visual personnel meet only the first and
second completely. The fourth and fifth are met to a degree which is not satisfactory
but which is improving. And the third and sixth tests rate such low scores that failure is
the only possible grade. This adds up, in the opinion of the writer, to the simply stated fact
that the audio-visual field is not yet a profession. .


1. Brooke, F. Communication in the modern world. In Audio-visual materials of
instruction. 48th Yearbook, Part I. Chicago: National Society for the Study of
Education, 1948. Pp. 4-27.

2. Dale, E. Audi-visual methods in teaching. New York: Dryden Press, 1946.
3. Dale, E., Finn, J. D., and Hoban, C. F. Research on audio-visual materials. In

Audi-visual materials of instruction. 48th Yearbook, Part I. Chicago: National
Society for the Study of Education, 1948. pp. 253-293.

4. Dewey, J. The quest for certainty. New York: Minton, Balch, 1929.
5. Exton, W., Jr. audio-visual aids to instruction. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947.
6. Finn, J. D. Adequate training for a director of audio visual education. Education.

1941, 61, Pp. 337-343
7. Frazier, A. How much does the audio-visual director need to know? School

Review, 1949, 57, Pp. 416-424.
8. Hoban, C. F., Hoban, C. F., Jr., and Zisman, S. B. Visualizing the curriculum. New

York: Cordon, 1937.
9. Hoban, C. F., Jr., and van Ormer, E. B. Instructional film research 1918-1950. Port

Washington, Long Island, New York: Special Devices Center, U.S. navy, 1951.
10. Kinder, J. D. Audio-visual materials and techniques. New York: American Book

Co., 1950.
11. Landis, B. Y. Professional codes: a sociological analysis to determine applications to the

teaching profession. Contribution to Education, No. 267, New York: Teachers
College, Columbia University, 1927.

12. Lewin, W. (Ed.) Duties of school audio-visual coordinators. Film and radio guide.
13, 1947, Pp. 10-11.

13. McClusky, F. D. Audio-visual teaching techniques. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown
Co., 1949.

14. McClusky, F. D. The A-V bibliography. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Co., 1950.
15. Shreve, R. The superintendent hires an A-V supervisor. See and hear. 1950, 5, P.

16. Smith, B. O., et al. Readings in the social aspects of education. Danville, Illinois:

Interstate Printers and Publishers, 1951.
17. Planning schools for use of audio-visual materials. No. 1, Classrooms. Washington:

Department of Audio-Visual Instruction, National Education Association, 1952.

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