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Lynch School of Education


eColloquia Newsletter

Professional Capital

“Without a strong and relentless focus on what we call ‘professional capital,’ U.S. policymakers will continue to miss lessons from other countries about how they produce teacher fulfillment and effectiveness, and to misread signs here at home,” Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education Andy Hargreaves and co-author Michael Fullan argue in their new book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, published by Teachers College Press in March. 

The book, which disregards conventional wisdom and standard approaches to education reform, recommends an across-the-board investment in teachers and teaching. It has attracted interest among education writers such as Huffington Post blogger and author C.M. Rubin, and the editors of Education Week, which recently published an op-ed piece by Hargreaves and Fullan based on their book.  

The titular phrase “professional capital” refers to teachers—a collective asset, the authors argue, that must be cultivated in every school.

“As we often see in sports, higher individual human capital—a few brilliant stars—does not necessarily improve the overall team,” Hargreaves and Fullan write.

Instead of “obsessing about the extremes in the field by celebrating the stars and dismissing the duds,” education reformers should nurture the profession of teaching, providing teachers with supportive professional communities and offering incentives that will encourage them to stay in the field of education over the long haul. Enticements, the authors argue, will attract and retain better teachers, and raise quality across the board. Teachers who fall short of the mark will leave the system organically, as their peers become more proud, professional, and demanding of excellence.

“When the vast majority of teachers come to exemplify the power of professional capital, they become smart and talented, committed and collegial, thoughtful and wise,” the authors write in the introduction to the book. “Their moral purpose is expressed in their relentless, expert-driven pursuit of serving their students and their communities and in learning, always learning, how to do that better.”

For Hargreaves, Professional Capital is a return to and expansion on themes he has addressed in earlier books, including The Fourth Way, Change Wars, and Sustainable Leadership. The Lynch School professor has received a number of honors for his previous titles, including awards from the American Educational Association, the American Libraries Association, and the National Staff Development Council.