Professional Capital

May 30, 2012

I recently attended the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) Leadership conference (in Vienna). The opening speaker for the conference was Andy Hargreaves who discussed the research and findings related to his latest book.

  • Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. London, UK & New York, NY: Routledge.

He defined professional capital as a function of human capital (personal skills and competencies), social capital (interpersonal relationships), and decisional capital (the ability to make discretionary judgments.) It is my opinion that human capital is vital to develop a flourishing national and/or global society, but without social capital it does not get used and further developed. Having now started to read Hargraeve and Fullan’s discussion on developing professional capital, I believe they have identified an important theme in educational reform and renewal: if the system is going to grow and develop it will be because the professionals who lead and work in the educational system grow and develop.

A second issue discussed by Hargreaves related to the current treatment of professional capital in the USA.  Based on his research, he stated the national approach is exactly the opposite of what his research shows to be best practice. He describes the USA as using a “business capital” approach that is focused on short-term maximum gains (read that profits) with a heavy turnover of staff (50% of those who start teaching with proper academic credentials leave within 5 years; 80% of start with alternative credentials; Huitt, 2006).

A “professional capital” approach takes a more long-term approach and works to develop human, social, and decisional capital throughout the organization. Hargraeves identified schools in Finland as doing an excellent job in this regard and provided specific methods they use to do so.

I highly recommend the book as well as reviewing his website (see Hargraeves next book, The Global Fourth Way, will expand on his 2009 book, The Fourth Way, and should be of special interest to those with a focus in international education.