Andy Hargreaves & Michael Fullan PROFESSIONAL CAPITAL—Transforming Teaching in Every School
Where is there a match with Hargreaves & Fullan’s thinking for my work as a school leader?
This was the question just recently asked in my educational leadership class as we finished Hargreaves & Fullan’s book Professional Capital. The content of my answer provides a quick summary of the book’s content, which provides clear thinking for those who are engaged in transforming teaching and learning in your school.
As a school leader facilitating a large federally funded school improvement grant my immediate focus in on student achievement. In order to create an equitable platform for learning, evidence based systems needed to be established and implemented based on what works research. Mandates from the top down are always in the forefront of my thinking.
Although in order to facilitate the change needed for each student to achieve their grade level outcome goals, it became evident rather quickly this was not possible for one principal to achieve alone. What I learned early on, aligned with Hargreaves and Fullan’s work on the value and importance of developing the professional capital of teachers and staff. They listed several guidelines that connected everything back to the student, which as John Hattie would say is an impactful practice.
In chapter seven, the first recommendation they suggested for school and district leaders was to develop professional capital vigorously and courageously. In order to reach our ultimate goal of equitable and sustainable student achievement, we needed to develop a culture that values collective collaboration rather than individual attempts. To begin we created a school leadership team as our first step of shared ownership on our school improvement journey.
With the development of a school leadership team we utilized the talents and skills of individual teachers. Team members were selected for their willingness to reflect on their impact on student learning, and enthusiasm for equitable achievement for each of our students. They were willing to change systems and routines to create a student centered learning environment. Hargreaves and Fullan define human capital as “having and developing the requisite knowledge and skills” (pg. 89). Together we are learning we are more effective together than with individual efforts.
Next we had to learn to work together as a group, and develop our own social capital. Norms and protocols were part of our process and we learned to listen and observe the skills and knowledge of each other. Together we are focusing on what is needed to create a sustainable system focused on student learning and ownership. This continues to be the hardest part of our journey together. Change is hard. Moving away from what we know and have always done takes courage. Learning for teachers and leaders is messy, and calls for owning our own biases and ineffectiveness. “Learning is the work, and social capital is the fuel” (p. 92).
Finally, we make decisions collectively. With high stakes accountability as our framework, this continues to be our most difficult challenge. The ultimate goal is to change the trajectory of learning for our school system and build sustainability for our future. “Our decisional capital is enhanced by drawing on the insights and experiences of colleagues in forming judgement over many occasions” (pg. 94). Making the leadership team part of the decisional capital has had the biggest impact to date on our school learning culture.
“Culture trumps strategy” (Bill Daggett, 2016). A culture with professional capital that includes the convergence of human, social, and decisional capital can create a school community where teachers and leaders are valued and respected for their individual skills and expertise. Teachers have a voice and can speak to support the collective to make decisions. This not only impacts student learning, but teachers as professionals. This is not to say we do not have challenges or great obstacles to achieve, or even have perfect union. It does say we understand we get to do this work together.