Teachers as Nation-Builders: The Power of Professional Capital


This article is adapted from a keynote address by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan, based on their book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School (Teachers College Press, 2012). 

Reposted from JSD:

“Professional capital has a fundamental connection to transforming teaching every day, and we’ve seen many examples of this at work in schools and school systems around the world. Here, we explore the powerful idea of capital and articulate its importance for professional work, professional capacity, and professional effectiveness. Systems that invest in professional capital recognize that education spending is an investment in developing human capital from early childhood to adulthood, leading to rewards of economic productivity and social cohesion in the next generation (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). Professional capital requires attention not only to political and societal investments in education but also to leadership actions and educator needs, contributions, and career stages.

To enact change faster and more effectively, to reduce variation in effective teaching in a school or between and among schools in terms of networks, our advice is to use social capital. Use the group to change the group. This means developing how teachers as a team or group can best identify and respond to the needs of individual students. Back this up with the human capital that comes with being able to attract the best people in the profession, develop them as they come in, and build on that to be effective. Continuous professional development pays. The best way you can support and motivate teachers is to create the conditions where they can be effective day after day, together.

As we state in our book, “Professional capital is about enacting more equal, higher-attaining, more healthy countries in just about every way that counts. This is why successful countries treat their teachers as nation builders, and how they come to yield high returns in prosperity, social cohesion, and social justice.” Professional capital has turned out to be a “sticky concept” – it resonates with where people are and what they see as a promising and necessary solution. What we need now is a committed effort to implement this powerful conception of the profession across the system. The responsibility is ours. Let’s make professional capital our primary investment.

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