Professional Identity Formation and Transformation across the Life Span

  • Muriel J. Bebeau
  • Verna E. Monson
Part of the Innovation and Change in Professional Education book series (ICPE, volume 7)


Examining the foundational elements of professional identity formation and its relation to unmet health needs in society is at a critical juncture. Professions today are under assault from multiple sources that weaken or undermine the individual’s or the collective profession’s commitment to the profession’s public purposes. This chapter draws together evidence from multiple sources that support constructivists’ theoretical understanding of a developmental continuum of identity that proceeds from self-interest and concreteness of thought to more other-oriented and abstract ways of making sense of the self (Kegan, 1982, The evolving self. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Blasi, 1984, in W. M. Kurtines & J. L. Gewirtz (Eds.), Morality, moral behavior, and moral development (pp. 129–139). New York: Wiley). At more advanced levels of professional identity formation, the exemplary professional’s personal and moral values are fully integrated and consistent across context and situation. They are able to articulate the public duties of the profession, integrate them with personal value frameworks, and regularly and consistently engage in socially responsible actions. The identity of such exemplary professionals is contrasted with the identities of entering students, entering professionals, and professionals who have been disciplined by a licensing board. Methods are suggested for supporting learning and improving commitment to professional values.


Moral Judgment Identity Formation Professional Identity Professional School Dental Student 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Primary Dental Care, School of DentistryUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St Thomas School of LawMinneapolisUSA

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