The place for professional capital and community

Andy Hargreaves (Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA)

Journal of Professional Capital and Community

ISSN: 2056-9548

Article publication date: 11 January 2016



Hargreaves, A. (2016), "The place for professional capital and community", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 1 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The place for professional capital and community

Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Volume 1, Issue 1.

I am greatly honored to be the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Professional Capital and Community and to be supported by one of the most accomplished, prestigious and most diverse international boards in the field of educational and organizational research in order to fulfill this responsibility.

This new journal is concerned with the quality and capital of professions and professional communities – mainly, in the first instance, in relation to the education profession. Its launch through this inaugural issue comes at a time when, on a global scale, the quality of teaching and leadership in the education profession has never been more prominent as a policy priority. The journal also provides a single and special forum for addressing and exploring the rapidly expanding range of research questions, findings and controversies that are surrounding the nature and future of the education profession worldwide.

We are living in an era when the world has achieved striking successes in moving toward universal access to primary and basic education for all children; ones that were unimaginable just a decade ago. The next, even more formidable challenge will be to secure widespread and then universal access to high-quality education for all girls and boys, from poor and as well as privileged communities, in developed and emerging economies alike. Access to high-quality education can certainly be enhanced by the provision of adequate buildings and infrastructure, and it can often be improved by free and open access to a quality curriculum, including through online resources and the increasing availability of low-cost digital technologies. But at present, and for the foreseeable future, the most significant in-school factor affecting the quality of students’ learning and achievement will continue to be the quality of teachers.

Teachers truly do matter. It is teachers, not academics or policy-makers, that young people spend most of their time with in school. Behind the classroom door, the teacher is more powerful than the secretary of education, or the minister. But what defines quality teachers and teaching? How do we recruit, select, develop, recognize, reward and retain quality teachers? Do our ideas about high-quality teachers and how to get them vary across systems, contexts, countries and cultures, or are there universal benchmarks and standards that can and should apply to all teachers everywhere? Does high quality in teaching call for teachers who are proficient, or inspirational, or both these things? Should teachers be regarded as high quality only if they are capable of having a positive impact on all kinds of students – elite and impoverished, homogeneous or diverse, with learning disabilities and without – or does quality count even when teachers can only meet the needs of some of their students rather than all of them? Is quality teaching evidence-based and data-driven or does it derive more from practical experience and reflective judgment?

So what makes a good or truly great teacher and how do we get millions of good and great teachers for all learners, everywhere? These are the questions that comprise the basic issue of human capital in education. Human capital in any and every profession consists of the individual knowledge, skill and capabilities that enable members of a profession to execute effective judgments and actions in situations where evidence, research, regulations and agreed procedures are insufficient to determine the courses of action that need to be taken.

Especially in the USA, but also elsewhere, the research of leading economists of education, such as Eric Hanushek in this volume, is determining policies and strategies of teacher remuneration, recognition and evaluation through their various claims about what factors determine teachers’ effectiveness in terms of impacting students’ learning and achievement. At the same time, international policy organizations, consultancies and researchers address human capital in broader ways by identifying how different systems and societies select their teachers, reward them, build their self-confidence, and assign higher or lower status to the teaching profession in high-performing systems like Singapore and Finland (Sahlberg, 2015). Human capital in teaching is important and its nature and impact are hotly debated. Human capital, however, is also not the only kind of capital that matters, in teaching or any other profession.

A second aspect of professional capital, decisional capital, refers to the wisdom, judgment and expertise that teachers develop over time throughout the course of their careers. Is it worthwhile to insist on or expect that all teachers should acquire masters degrees as part of their certification? What is the quantity and quality of professional development that leads to the greatest growth in professional competence and confidence? And do some career structures and pathways have a more positive impact than others on the effectiveness of educators over time? These questions of expertise and judgment are addressed in this first issue of the journal by Mireille Hubers in her analysis of the kinds of judgments that teachers make when they participate in data teams to solve problems together; and by Brown, Daly and Liou in their blind control study and accompanying analysis of how teachers make use of research evidence to inform their practice.

There are generative differences in research and policy analysis regarding the nature and effects of decisional capital. For example, in the USA, economists such as Hanushek in this issue of the journal point to how years of teacher experience after about four years in the job amount to depreciated value or at least no added value for teachers’ effectiveness and therefore do not, in themselves, merit further financial reward. By contrast, OECD’s (2014) results from its 2013 TALIS study of teachers’ work and working conditions internationally highlights how teachers, on average, increase their effectiveness through the middle years of their careers. These kinds of issues highlighted by international and comparative research on the teaching profession are the very ones that merit further attention through the research that will be reported in this journal.

The impact of professional effectiveness is not only individual but also collective. Teachers make a difference or not to students’ learning, achievement and development by the impact they exert from working together, not just by the impact each may have on their own. This is the power of social capital in addition to human capital. Social capital encompasses the significant impact teachers have on their students through the accumulated effects of their professional practice. Social capital includes, among other activities, collaborative working; shared decision-making; joint teaching; collective responsibility for all students’ success across grades, schools and classrooms; mutual trust and assistance; distributed leadership; data teams; professional learning communities; professional networks and federations; and many kinds of collaborative inquiry. Some researchers have compellingly argued that social capital has an even greater effect than human capital on teacher quality (Leana, 2011). Others point to how only some kinds of collaboration and social capital have positive implications for students’ results (Chapman and Muijs, 2014). Until now, in this journal, there has been no one place where these issues of professional collaboration and their implications for pedagogy, policy and leadership can be concentrated in one intellectual space. The paper in this issue by Priestley and Drew emphasizes the way that collaborative enquiry among teachers has and has not contributed to the implementation of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. Rincón-Gallardo and Fullan ’s paper in this volume draws on the authors’ international research and policy development to examine how social capital operates across schools as well as within them, through professional networks for improvement and innovation.

The three subsets analyzed here – human, decisional and social capital – make up what Michael Fullan and I have termed professional capital (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012). The goal of developing a quality education for all will depend, in many respects, on how much and how well educational systems and their societies invest in the professional capital of their teachers. The best ways to make that investment can and should be guided by research of all kinds, across many contexts, of when and how teacher professionalism and teachers’ professional communities are at their most effective. The purpose of the Journal of Professional Capital and Community is to create the space and focus where this urgently needed expression and exploration of relevant educational research can and will occur.

Andy Hargreaves


Chapman, C. and Muijs, D. (2014), "Does school-to-school collaboration promote school improvement? A study of the impact of school federations on student outcomes", School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 351-393

Hargreaves, A. and Fullan, M. (2012), Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, Teachers College Press, New York, NY

Leana, C. (2011), "The missing link in school reform", Stanford Social Innovation Review, Leland Stanford Junior University, Palo Alto, CA

OECD (2014), TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris

Sahlberg, P. (2015), Finnish Lessons 2.0, Teachers College Press, New York, NY

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