Dental-elites and the pedagogised career: narrative accounts to inform the professionalisation of aspiring dental occupations

Reed, Deborah Pearl (2020) Dental-elites and the pedagogised career: narrative accounts to inform the professionalisation of aspiring dental occupations. EdD thesis, University of Nottingham.

[img] PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Repository staff only - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (12MB)


This thesis seeks to demonstrate how professional journeys within the dental sector are restricted or enabled by educational and pedagogic strategies and tools. Professions and the position of occupational groups within them are always in flux; dentistry is no exception. Increasingly, there are occupational groups within the dental professions, who pursue professional parity and an equivalent opportunity to influence the dental sector. The research focuses on understanding the elites’ positioning within the dental sector from the perspective of theories of professionalisation and knowledge acquisition. The sociology of the professions provides a background which shows how occupations differentiate, some acquiring professional status and others not. The research is located within the sociology of education using the concepts of Basil Bernstein to analyse professional enculturation, in terms of what is transferred during exclusive dental-elite professional educational exchanges, with peers and superiors, which steer knowledge gathering over the course of a professional lifetime. The practical aim of the research is to inform the professional journeys of other aspiring dental occupations seeking to achieve elite, that is to say, influential positions in the future. The research questions were: (1) How are the professional journeys of influential dental sector elites characterised? (2) What typifies the relationship between powerful and dominant agents/ agencies that influence the formation, distribution and communication of professional knowledge in dentistry and those who go on to establish elite professional positions within the dental sector? (3) What are the implications of a Bernsteinian analysis for the emerging professionalising dental occupations? These questions were generated from my own experiences, both as a registered dental professional and as a researcher and also from a consideration of social theories which align with my beliefs, assumptions and values.

The questions were addressed by qualitative exploration of the educational and professional lives of nine influential elite professionals working within the dental sector. Influential elites who have held positions of national influence within the National Health Service, the Department of Health or other government office, or have been the national representative of one of the registered dental professional bodies in a role related to the development of the dental workforce and dental workforce strategy. A narrative methodology underpinned the data, generated by interviews and life-grids. Additionally, to provide a sense of the wider-sector background narrative, I analysed key historical dental records and policy-related documents.

The findings revealed influential elites within the dental sector to be continuous learners, committed to the principle of a ‘pedagogised career’: that is, a career routinely and regularly littered with educational encounters, in the form of teaching and learning interactions and activities networks, the media for the transmission of knowledge. Fitting together fragments of knowledge into a coherent scheme is a curriculum, which has an underlying thread, transmitting a range of deeply-embedded messages which are both open and concealed, accessible to some but not others. The findings showed that such messages influenced the receiver of education, conveying to the influential dental-elite, when in the role of learner, a sense of who they were and their limits in terms of options as to what they were permitted to do. Moreover, while specific knowledge might fade or be replaced, the relationship with teachers and other students through which the knowledge was acquired, were enduring and relied upon by the influential dental-elite to gather further knowledge in the future. This is how system of practices, norms, values, and worldviews that the professional curriculum conveys are presented.

This thesis argues that those who control and transmit knowledges exert powerful influences on those with whom they come into frequent and prolonged contact and who hear and receive messages transmitted through educational exchanges. It is through these repeated and prevailing educational interactions and encounters that relationships are formed and bond individuals into intensely cohesive groups. These groups are intentionally pervasive, functioning to ensure the group’s mutual interests and influence are projected and preserved, to the exclusion of others outside the group. The lesson for other dental occupational groups is offered in the form of a conceptual model of the Journey of Dental-elite Acquisition of Knowledge against which their own pedagogic structures might be evaluated, with a view to identifying how these structures might be strengthened to support those who wish to achieve positions of influence within the dental sector of the future.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (EdD)
Supervisors: McLean, Monica
Holford, John
Keywords: Dental personnel; Pedagogised Career; Narrative Accounts; Professionalisation; Occupations
Subjects: R Medicine > RK Dentistry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 61138
Depositing User: Reed, Deborah
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2021 15:45
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2021 15:45

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View