Organizing Professionalism – New Elites, Stratification and Division of Labor

  • Johan Alvehus
  • Sanna Eklund
  • Gustaf KastbergEmail author
Open Access


The case in this study is the introduction of a new more prominent position for teachers. The aim is to contribute to the literature on stratification and organizing of professions. This is done by addressing the question how division of labor is affected by enhanced organization of a profession? The paper illustrates how stratification took place and a new division of labor emerged. Not much conflict was observed regarding the new division of labor and it is proposed that this is because the new division of labor did not challenge the dominance over the core domain of teachers or of principals. The increase in organization did not lead to an increase in control of the profession but an increase in control by the profession. In addition, stratification in fact led to a de-hybridization of the roles of teachers and principals.


Profession Teachers Stratification Organizing 


The case in this study is the introduction of a new more prominent position for teachers, First Teachers (FT). The introduction is regarded as an expression of an attempt to organize a profession. A reading of the literature on professions, professionalism and organization easily becomes a lecture in conflict. Professionalism is regarded as a system of practices founded in core values resulting in autonomous highly skilled workers making intricate decisions about cases without any interference by superiors or customers (Freidson 2001). The lack of interference of hierarchy, coordination, following up and the reliance on the competence and value infused identity has rendered the described situation as one of “occupational professionalism” (Evetts 2013) or just “pure” professionalism. Attempts to control, organize and subordinate the professional work force have oftentimes been treated as a threat, a challenge or a takeover. The result has been described as managerialism (Harlow et al. 2013), “organized professions” (Evetts 2013) or “controlled professions” (Noordegraaf 2015). The controlled professionalism is dominated by managers, rational legal authority, accountability, rules and regulation. Unlike the pure professionalism stemming from inside the profession, organized professionalism is ordered from above (Evetts 2013; Evans 2011). The underlying conflict is sometimes attributed to different values and sometimes to matters of power (Abbott 1988b).

A more limited but emerging literature takes a different stance. Instead of positing organization as an opposition or a threat to professionalism it views it as a feature of a developed professionalism with a potentially productive outcome (Freidson 1985; Waring 2014; Noordegraaf 2015). The label “organizing professionalism” has been used (Noordegraaf 2015; Schott et al. 2016) and “stratification” (Waring 2014; Freidson 1985). Stratification in this context involves fragmentizing of professions, where some professionals emerge into different kinds of elites. Instead of organizing and control from above, this would represent organizing and maintaining internal control of the profession.

Within the literature on organizing professionalism two different lines of reasoning can be observed. One line follows the idea that organizing answers to the need to coordinate and safeguard the performance and carrying out of work by the professional work force (Noordegraaf 2011, 2015). In order to accomplish work at high standards it needs to be organized. The other line follows the idea that organizing is an inherent dimension of professions. It is not the autonomy of the single professional worker that characterizes a (strong) profession but that they form part of a system (Freidson 1985, 2001). The maintenance and development of the system presupposes coordination and division of labor among professionals. Organizing might therefore be regarded as both a means to safeguard work processes and a means to safeguard the control over work.

Some studies indicate that strong professions have been successful in their internal organization and managed to meet new demands without losing influence (Ferlie et al. 1996; Jacobs 2005; Kastberg and Siverbo 2015; Kirkpatrick and Ackroyd 2003). Still, one might expect intra-professional conflict where some professionals gain influence while some experience a loss of autonomy. Some professional workers might be able to establish an elite position and become highly influential and dominate structuration of collegial work, while others become “rank and file” practitioners (Waring and Bishop 2013; Freidson 1985). There are studies indicating conflict (Currie et al. 2009) or isolation (Ingvarson and Chadbourne 1997) as a result whereas others show that control exercised by fellow colleagues might be accepted and does not need to result in conflict. (McDonald et al. 2009; Numerato et al. 2012).

How new challenges are met by more intensive organizing and stratification is still an emerging field and as illustrated the conclusions are inconclusive (Numerato et al. 2012). In addition, most studies are focusing the medical profession. The aim of this study is therefore to contribute to the emerging literature on stratification and organizing of professions. This is done by addressing the question how division of labor is affected by enhanced organization of a profession?

The study adds just a little bit by illustrating how stratification took place and a new division of labor emerged within a recognized “flat” profession; Swedish teachers. By the use of the concept of appropriation, it is described how established tasks were taken over, but also how novel issues were covered. Unlike many other studies not much conflict or resistance regarding the new division of labor were observed. It is proposed that this is because the new division of labor did not challenge the dominance over the core domain of teachers or of principals, but rather contributed to a de-hybridization, or polarization, in the sense that the different parties received less diversified tasks to deal with.

Calls have been made stressing the importance of widening the empirical focus and consider different sectors (Hendrikx and van Gestel 2017) and specifics of different organizational-professional intersections (Waring 2014). The case in this study is intriguing since it focuses on a reform where the state’s expressed ambition is to strengthen the teaching profession by creating a new kind of teachers, “First Teachers”. Since the initiative was state driven the case would resemble what Evetts (2013) label “demanded” professionalism. Unlike most professions, the Swedish teaching profession might be characterized as “flat” (Helgøy and Homme 2007) without an internal formal hierarchy except for principals.

The reform was initiated through national legislation; meanwhile it is the municipalities, private school companies and third sector organizations that act as principals. There was room for local actors to design and create a local strategy for the FT positions. The reform is an attempt to make new career pathways with a significant salary increase (60,000 SEK/yr., on average about 15–20% increase).

Professional Work and Organizing

Definitions of professions often rely on the relationship between professional knowledge, professional workers, and clients (Brante 2010), as professional work is about applying abstract professional knowledge to specific client problems (Abbott 1991). The autonomy of the individual professional worker in relation to the client case work is often stressed as a core characteristic of professional work. The complexity and the specificity of the individual cases leave little room for procedural control or ex post result control (Hofstede 1981).

Freidson (2001) puts an emphasis on how professional work is characterized by the exercise of collegial control within the profession. This can be contrasted with bureaucratic control where control resides in an administrative hierarchy or market control where clients ultimately decide. Moreover, professionalism depends on established jurisdictions within which professionals maintain monopoly in performing tasks. There are thus recognized boundaries between the professional workers’ sphere and other domains, like the bureaucratic one (Abbott 1988a). Apart from core professional work, then, Abbott (ibid.) identifies boundary maintenance and defense as relevant professional forms of work. Such boundary maintenance is directed towards extra-professional actors, protecting the monopoly of the profession; autonomy is not only upheld at the individual level but also on systemic level.

Both the recognition of the systemic dimension of professions and the work that has to be done in order to maintain or obtain autonomy stress the importance of recognizing that a profession is not only the sum of autonomous independent practitioners, but is also defined by the extent to which it manages to create and sustain an inherent order (Freidson 1985). Drawing on the empirical example of physicians, Freidson (1985) described how external pressure was handled through a re-stratification internal to the profession. With more internal hierarchy and with the help of an elite acting as advocates, the medical profession managed to safeguard its boundaries. Some practitioners lost autonomy, giving it up to the elite practitioners. However, this was “compensated” by the maintenance of the autonomy of the profession as a whole. While the basic argument is that the elite represents and strengthens the profession, this is not accomplished without tensions and conflict. Elites working on different levels and with different bases in knowledge and administration will tend to develop “macro” perspectives on different issues, while practitioners continue to be more oriented towards “micro” perspectives (Freidson 1985; Scott 1982).

Causes of enhanced organizing and internal stratification have been discussed and several driving factors have been identified (Waring and Bishop 2013; Noordegraaf 2015; Freidson 1985). Technological change has affected how work is carried out infusing it with a more complex technological dimension. The low-tech character of professional work (Mintzberg 1983) is therefore changing making co-operation with other expert staff more important. Technology also brings with it an enhanced transparency (“rank your doctor”) (Sahlin-Andersson 2006), which in turn changes the relationship to the clients. New and enhanced demands on efficiency have also caused a pressure for change. All in all, professional workers face new demands regarding the ability to be “connective” (Noordegraaf 2015) in the sense that they have to coordinate and co-operate more intensively within the profession and with other stakeholders and competencies.

Division of Labor and Intra-Professional Hierarchy

The discussion this far provides a foundation for a more specific discussion on division of work, roles and stratification. The basic line of reasoning is that professional work has to be understood as consisting of layers or hierarchical levels and different kinds of tasks. While there of course is no definite order several scholars have pointed at two or three layers in their conceptualization (Waring 2014; Freidson 1985; Helgøy and Homme 2007; Noordegraaf 2015; Frostenson 2015; Alvehus 2017). At each of these layers professional staff might control it and hence obtain autonomy. Professional workers might dominate both content and context and representatives might take on administrative tasks and “buffer” (Ferlie et al. 1996; Jacobs 2005). Another outcome is of course that other actor groups, administrators, politicians or customers exercise control, challenge the autonomy of the professional workers and “colonize” (Neu 2006) the professional domain. Professional workers might end up “co-opted” or “hybridized” (Kurunmäki 2004; Bejerot and Hasselbladh 2011).

Noordegraaf (2015) relates the levels to the professional client case work, or “treating cases”, as the starting point, the “treating of the treatment” as a second dimension and the “treating of the treatment of case treatment” as a third. Although tongue-twisting, it illustrates the need for organizing and structuring professional work beyond the direct professional-client relation. In a similar manner Waring (2014), building on Freidson (1985) discusses work, managerial/administrative and policy levels of professional work. The use of the concept of policy level adds a dimension through pointing out the importance of recognizing the work with relating the professional work to societal concerns. At each level professional work is both related to the immediate client related work and the administrative work of coordinating, maintaining and developing the profession as a system. By taking control over administration professionals take control over the context of professional work, and by taking control over knowledge production they take control over the content of professional work (Waring 2014). Both knowledge production and administration are important for the carrying out of work, yet distant from the actual professional client relationship. Still forming part of the professional system, some professionals might take on tasks related to administration or to knowledge production/implementation and thereby safeguard the profession and buffer attempts to control the profession. The systematization of knowledge production and knowledge transmission presupposes a hierarchy (Mintzberg 1983). The recognition of hierarchy indicates internal boundaries that need to be considered, as developments within a profession may lead to new divisions of labor. For example, if a certain part of a profession’s work becomes routinized, it may be “hived off” from the professional core. Simpler tasks, sometimes referred to as “scut work” might be delegated to persons not belonging to the profession (Huising 2015).

Regarding work level a focal issue is to what extent the professional worker plans and conducts day-to-day activities in an autonomous way, owning decisions on measures to take and efficient strategies to cope with specific situations. Although not often recognized in the literature, also the client related every day work needs to be coordinated, related to other competencies and administrated. When it comes to the teaching profession, the work level has been described as rather autonomous: teachers have owned the class room practice (Hargreaves 2000; Helsby 1995).

It is often when the collegial/organizational level is focused that the context of professional work is highlighted. At this level the single treatment of cases is replaced with a concern of a wider range of practitioners. Professional work in this setting has to be related to overall planning, strategies and mutual adaption to rules forming part of the organizational environment, but also regarding the conduct of the execution of professional work, introduction of new techniques and exploration and exploitation of new knowledge. For teachers this means having to relate to curriculum, budget practices and coordination of activities (Frostenson 2015). At this level one find what Waring labels managerial elites (2014). The principal is a typical example of a managerial elite. Some will be steadily founded in the profession, while others might lose the connection to the profession and gain new managerial identities or get stuck in an identity confusion (Croft et al. 2015). Professionals mainly occupied with content and knowledge related tasks at this level forms part of what have been called “knowledge elites” (Waring 2014). Their activities are related to knowledge dissemination and the safeguarding of standards and hence be more firmly rooted in the profession. While they might “chase” (McDonald et al. 2009) colleagues in order to advance and develop professional work they also buffer and restrict managerial initiatives (Waring 2014; Scott 1982; Kastberg and Siverbo 2015).

The policy level highlights a profession’s involvement in overarching questions such as legislative concerns, legitimacy and rights to conduct the professional work. For the teaching profession, specific issues regard national curriculum, clients’ right to choose schools, grading systems, and decisions regarding entrance to the profession (Frostenson 2015). Other professions have been described as more proactive and influential both on national and international levels. For example, several studies have described how the accounting profession, through national and international associations, has been successful in dominating the policy level (Caramanis 2005; Cooper and Robson 2006; Suddaby et al. 2007). The administrative elites are typically involved in policy processes, political settings and professional associations at this level. Professionals at the policy level might also play a significant role in the restructuring of professional work in a way that allows further hierarchical bureaucratic control (Bejerot and Hasselbladh 2011).

The aim of this study was described as to be about advancing our knowledge about stratification and organizing of professions and this by addressing how division of labor is ordered and/or reordered. Tensions might emerge within professions as a consequence of shift in power when new professional elites are created and also as a consequence of the introduction of new and different perspectives. Still, at each level autonomy of the profession can be expected to be challenged from other actor groups and professional workers might challenge others. The discussion on different levels will be used as a basis for the presentation of the empirical material and analysis focusing: work, collegial/organizational and policy level.


The phenomenon in focus is a new position, FTs, within the Swedish school system. The introduction meant introducing a new career step. Before, the only way to make a career was to become principal, hence the description of the Swedish teaching profession as “flat” (Helgøy and Homme 2007). The ambition in this study is to explicate practice (Llewelyn 2003) and the aim is to examine what FTs do focusing division of labor. The novelty of the situation makes it suitable to approach the empirical phenomenon without readymade explanations to test or expectations about outcomes. A study was designed where each school was followed over time (between 6 and 17 months).

Empirical data was gathered by a multi-methods approach. In the initial phase of each case, several interviews were made in order to get an overarching understanding of the case. Following this, subjects willing to allow themselves to be shadowed were identified (12 teachers for approximately one week each). Consecutive interviews with teachers, FTs, principals and administrative and managerial staff were held, and in the cases where access was granted, follow-up observations were made. (For an overview of empirical data, see Table 1.) The selection of schools and respondents was made to capture a broad and nuanced picture. The schools represented different socio-economical areas and size and the teachers, both ordinary and first teachers, represented different subjects and grades.
Table 1

Overview of data


Number of interviews





Shadowing (no of weeks)

Observations (no)









































Following the qualitative approach the interviews were open ended and lasted between one and two hours. All interviews were transcribed verbatim. In analysis, the NVivo software was employed. The material was coded in order to create a broad categorization of the large volume of data. Some of these codes were determined beforehand and other emerged in the analytical process. One significant code was “activities”. A second step was to create broader categories indicating the character of the activities. In this phase, the authors categorized the activities as content- or context-oriented. A typical context-oriented activity would be taking part in a recruitment process and a typical content-oriented activity would be tutoring colleagues in grading practices. In a third step the broader categories were related to the three levels outlined. The result, with examples, are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2

Summary of findings


Work level:

Collegial/organizational level

Policy level


Actions are related to practicing teaching and concern the individual practitioner and fellow colleagues. Hence it is a locally situated work-related context. Typically, it relates to everyday work and specific client issues.

Actions on a more general level and are often related to several “local contexts”. Typically, actions revolve around systematization, standardization, planning, coordination and adherence to strategic changes.

Actions relating school matters to other societal concerns, questions regarding accreditation, priorities, knowledge production and more general directions within the field.



-Ordering books/equipment

-Handling national tests

-Head teacher teams

-Specific assignments: e.g. issuing equality plan

-Coordination: scheduling, staff planning, recruiting

-Member of school management team

-Taking part in work aiming at a more equal school

-Advancing systematic quality work

-Project involvement: e.g. internationalization, handling school drop-outs

-Provision of official statement

-Engaging in ordering and refining of FT position



-Continuing being an excellent teacher

-Generating/enhancing personal skills: e.g. courses, fairs, paying attention to/taking part in research

-Handling specific clients (tough classes, special needs)

-Tutoring (formal/informal)

-Head teacher (subject)

-Scanning, updating and mediating knowledge

-Pedagogical leadership (e.g. Montessori orientation, formative assessment, inclusion)

-Specifying grading guidelines

-Creating platform for specific topics (like reading comprehension)

-Instructing colleagues

-Managing and executing skills development programs

-Developing strategies for collegial learning

-Active role in municipal, regional and national networks

-Research projects

Empirical Observations

An ambition with the reform was to strengthen the teaching profession and make the job more attractive. The actual introduction of the position became a task for principals and local administrators to organize. A focal part of this was to concretize the content of FT positions.

Contextualizing Actions and Whereabouts

It is difficult to identify a unified strategic pattern regarding the FT positions that spans schools and municipalities and is consistent over time. In some cases, there was a rather clear description of the meaning of the position, although oftentimes not, and sometimes the lack of description was matched with an attitude from the FT that nothing in addition to ordinary teacher work was to be expected if the teaching duty was not lowered. The latter also illustrates that it differed a lot between the FTs what the ambitions were and how much effort they were willing to put into realizing their ambitions. The municipalities observed introduced the reform in different ways which affected how the FTs could influence the content of their role. At some schools, the teachers were told to describe in their applications what they would want to do and realize as FTs, as described in the quote below:

“… they announced two positions that we were to fill with content, what do you want to do in order to improve the school? ... And then I specified my application towards Swedish language.”(FT)

Some FTs did not express any specific agenda for the FT work. They viewed it as recognition of an excellent teaching effort. However, most did express an agenda. Based on the interviews, two main categories of ambitions among the FTs were identified. One expressed ambition was to become more engaged in the development of teaching. For some this regarded subject-matter knowledge and for others pedagogical knowledge. The other category was an ambition to get a more prominent role in the management of the school and to work with the strategic dimension. This could be about forming part of the school management team.

What the FTs Actually Do

In this section the interest is turned to the more specific actions of the FTs and how labor was divided and relate it to the three different levels discussed in the theoretical section (the findings are summarized in Table 2).

Work level: One activity for all FTs was a continuation of teaching. This was also one of the prerequisites in the state initiative. A few respondents motivated their FT position arguing that they had special teaching assignments. For example, one teacher with a track record of handling “tough classes” regarded this as the main part of the FT work, and another teacher with skills handling special needs pointed this out as the core of the FT work. Others argued that the FT position would be an opportunity to enhance one’s own skills, for example within a social subject. Still, most teachers did not perceive their teaching as example of FT actions. In relation to the work carried out before the FT appointments teaching did not differ, which might have added to the perception that this alone was not part of the FT reform.

Some activities pointed out could be categorized as administrative at the work level. At some schools the position was tied to the heading of teacher teams, often leaning more towards administration than content of work. However, several respondents described an ambition to turn these team meetings into more pedagogically oriented meetings. Other examples of administrative tasks on work level were administrating national tests, ordering teaching material and coordinating the local group of teachers. One FT described how she felt obliged to take on tasks to legitimize the FT position: “colleagues will give you the evil eye unless you sign up at the top of the list when there’s something that needs to be done. The quote indicates that FTs to some extent took on tasks less desirable among teachers. Content-oriented tasks were also observed at the work level like FTs participating in courses and projects in order to enhance their own skills as teachers. While shadowing FTs it was also observed that they instructed colleagues and were often approached by colleagues regarding specific issues within their expertise. They tutored, often informally and during chats in the hallway or canteen for example about issues concerning teaching material, technology, teaching strategies or how to handle incidents.

Collegial/organizational level: One category of activities at the collegial/organizational level was about relating different activities to each other and could hence be labeled coordination. Many of the FTs were appointed to the school management teams, headed by the principal. The analysis points out the work in the school management team as an administrative task in itself. Based on the observations of meetings the issues dealt with at the meetings were also categorized. This exercise indicates that coordination was one of the main issues dealt with. It included undertakings like scheduling, planning activities not part of the everyday school day and staffing. More pure administrative issues like budgeting was not discussed. Some FTs had also previously been part of the management team, but several were appointed based on their promotion to FT. In one of the studied schools, they did not use to have a school management team, but introduced it as a consequence of the reform.

Policy formulation, another extensive category of activities at the collegial/organizational level, is about turning specific issues into planned action. The observations of meetings indicated that this was one of the main issues discussed. Examples were decisions on rules regarding excursions, when children are allowed to leave school and the use of teacher cell phones. Policy formulation also concerned knowledge- and content-oriented issues such as content of skills development programs, interpretation of new grading systems, standardization of assessments and devising the FTs’ role.

It was also observed how knowledge generation was an activity at the collegial/organizational level. The difference compared to the work level is that the ambition was that the generation of new knowledge was not only about enhancing personal skills, but about providing a foundation for advancement among colleagues. It spanned from being head teacher with a clear focus on a specific subject, to pedagogical leadership like heading Montessori pedagogy or leading the work with a formative assessment approach. Some of the FTs were also connected to universities. Others were commissioned to scan for new knowledge within certain areas in order to guarantee that the schools were up to date regarding knowledge and policies issued by the National Agency for Education.

Instructing was described at the work level and was also observed at the collegial/organizational level. FTs participated and led activities like skills programs, subject-oriented activities and pedagogical practice guidance. Several of the teachers had an express ambition to instruct and coach colleagues, since they had special interests in certain areas like computer assisted teaching, Montessori pedagogy or reading comprehension.

In relation to principals, the FTs took on a position that in most cases can be described as alleviating, for example regarding the principals’ commission to be pedagogical leaders. However, in many cases this was not that much about taking over tasks as actually making certain that someone cared about it. The principal’s position was often described as rather burdened with administration and that you hardly ever “find the principal in a classroom”.

Policy level: Policy formulation did sometimes stretch to the policy level above the school level, but hardly ever to the level above the municipality. Teachers, for example, were involved in policy formulation which concerned all schools within the municipality. In some cases, FTs were very active on the municipal level. For example, they took part in creating a network for FTs within the municipality or they were responsible for skills development programs.

To some extent, knowledge generation was also related to the policy level. An example of this was teachers participating in research projects located at universities and conducting investigative work on the overall municipal level on the behalf of the political board. Another example would be teachers with a special interest, being active in a national network of colleagues with the same interest. But as stated, most activities were on the level between national and school level when it comes to policy orientation.

The observation of the rather few FT activities on the more overarching policy level, mirrors well the observations in other studies where it has been concluded that Swedish teachers have a weak representation on the national policy level (Helgøy and Homme 2007).

Discussion and Conclusions

The empirical account has been straightforward and descriptive. One general observation is that there is a great variety when it comes to the activities the FT:s get engaged in. The study observes a new division of labor emerging. In the following discussion, it is argued that what is observed is a stratification of the teacher profession.

Stratification and Appropriation

The categorization of actions shows how the FTs’ activities to a great extent were related to the collegial/organizational level. As described, they formed part of the school management teams, they headed teacher teams, provided guidelines and coordinated activities. These tasks were to a great extent performed earlier as well, but now the FTs took on a more prominent role in their execution. It meant taking over tasks from principals, but also from other teachers. Appropriation therefore in these cases meant moving into established areas and arenas. However, to some extent it was also about defining and performing new tasks (create a FT network), dealing with things that had not been dealt with properly before (pedagogic leadership) and about establishing new arenas (school management teams were introduced). The interpretation made is therefore that the introduction of the FT position, although it varies to extent and degree, meant that the appointed teachers formed part of a new elite in the sense that they to some extent replaced ordinary teachers and hence became “spokespersons” for the profession. The empirical categorization also shows that appropriation both concerned administrative tasks and knowledge- and content-oriented tasks, although the content-oriented tasks dominated.

The observations are interpreted as a process of stratification: the FTs became an elite. The introduction of FTs led to a hierarchization of the acknowledged flat profession of teachers (Helgøy and Homme 2007). Still, the observations must not be understood as a zero-sum game within the profession. The conducted study underpins the conclusion that the teaching profession at large advanced its positions. The observed decrease in the teaching profession’s power and autonomy (Marks and Nance 2007; Jarl et al. 2012) seems to have halted. The discussion of the empirical observations shows two dimensions of the stratification process that is worth highlighting in relation to existing literature. The first regards the relationship between the teaching profession, principals and the administration. The second regards how the introduction of an elite affected ordinary teachers.

To start with the relationship to principals and administration, a clearer division between administration and profession is observed. In the introduction it was described how principals in the Swedish context have made efforts in order to establish themselves as a profession on their own, distancing them from teachers (Jarl et al. 2012). Since the analysis illustrated how FTs have taken on more pedagogical leadership tasks and how they also are more involved in the coordination of day-to-day activities at the schools, one conclusion is that this is a step towards a more distant principal role in relation to the ongoing everyday work of teachers. The teaching profession, through the FTs, handle more of their own content-oriented issues and to some extent context-oriented tasks, while principals act on a more general and administrative level. What is being observed is rather a re-professionalization, instead of a de-professionalization (Codd 2005; Evetts 2003), and because of the content orientation of the tasks, it is also hard to describe the new elite position as a hybridization (Noordegraaf 2015) or as co-optation (Waring 2014; Harrison 2009; Coburn et al. 1997). On the contrary, the taking on of some administrative tasks more resembled the expansion of the domain where administration was subordinated, or for that matter co-opted. For principals, the role became less of a hybrid as well. They focus more on pure administrative tasks. Rather than a merger and hybridization the case illustrates a polarization (Jacobs 2005).

What about the effects of the stratification on the profession? According to the stratification thesis there is an obvious risk for ordinary teachers to turn into a more routine-oriented “rank and file” position (McDonald et al. 2009; Waring and Bishop 2013). However, this is not observed. Since FTs take on both more strategic positions on the collegial level together with simpler “scut work”, what remains for ordinary teachers is the core of teaching: classroom practice. In line with the description of how teachers tend to own their own classroom practice and manage to keep reformers out and “teach in a box” (Hargreaves 2000; Helsby 1995), the result of the FT reform seems to be that ordinary teachers can keep on teaching with less disturbances. The FTs take on the buffering role observed in studies of other contexts (Ferlie et al. 1996; Jacobs 2005). Whereas FTs formulate instructions regarding grading, give seminars on pedagogical matters and participate in board meetings the empirical study did not indicate enhanced top-down authority being exercised through more rules and following up of the teachers everyday life.


In the introduction the aim was described to be to contribute to the emerging literature on stratification and organizing of professions. The ambition here is to clarify our contribution by discussing the results in relation to our theoretical framing. A new division of labor emerging has been described and as an effect, an enhanced capacity to organize the profession. Whereas the teacher profession in Sweden has failed to have an impact on policy level (for example curriculum matters), the study observes the entrance of FTs strengthened their local position at schools and within municipalities.

These observations are in line with Freidson’s (1985) argument that stratification is a way for a profession to strengthen their position in relation to other professions and domains. The increase in organization did not lead to an increase in control of the profession but an increase in control by the profession. In addition, stratification in fact led to a de-hybridization of the roles of teachers and principals. Whereas stratification has mostly been described as potentially causing internal conflicts, tensions (Waring 2014; Freidson 1985; Currie et al. 2009) and possible conflicting roles of elites torn between professional and administrative logics (Waring 2014), the present study indicates a more relieving outcome. There were criticism regarding the idea of the reform and that some teachers were rewarded with higher pay, but the empirical investigation does not indicate that this was mirrored in the perception of the new division of labor; jurisdiction over tasks did not give rise to tension and conflict. This has also been observed in studies of the medical profession (McDonald et al. 2013).

The analysis does not provide answers to why there is a lack of conflict regarding the new division of labor. However, one might speculate that a contributing reason is that the introduction of FTs for teachers and principals may have caused more focused and less hybridized roles; de-hybridization would mean less “confusion” (Schott et al. 2016). More so, it did not challenge the dominance over the core domain of teachers (classroom practice) or of principals (administration). An overall conclusion would then be in line with Waring’s (2014) observation that it is important to take into consideration the locally situated point of departure when studying processes of stratification. A speculation about why the outcome was less conflict and de-hybridization might be that what was observed was a profession that was under-coordinated, with ordinary teachers performing a too wide range of tasks and principals overwhelmed by administration lacking the capacity to perform pedagogical leadership. This would be in line with the idea of organizing professionalism (Noordegraaf 2015) and the need to recognize that organization is an inherent and important dimension of performing professional work.



The project is co-funded by Forte (dnr: 20140983) and the Swedish Research Council (dnr: 2014–1397).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Service Management and Service StudiesLund UniversityHelsingborgSweden
  2. 2.School of Public AdministrationUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

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