Professional capital and teacher retainment

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By Adam Steiner, @steineredtech

Inspired by Professional Capital by Andy Hargreaves (@HargreavesBC) and Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1)

Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan applied the concept of professional capital to school improvement as an alternative to the business capital approach to education that emphasizes the use of data to homogenize teaching. Professional capital instead recognizes that teaching cannot be scripted and emphasizes collective responsibility and shared success as key to school success.

Professional capital consists of three strands: human capital, social capital, and decisional capital. Human capital is all about the individuals that make up our school communities, social capital defines the interactions between them, and decisional capital is all about the key decisions that teachers and school administrators make every day.

The lessons of Professional Capital also point to several key factors in recruiting and retaining the best teachers:

Human capital:

  1. The bottom line in some ways is the bottom line. We need to pay our teachers more. Though the vast majority of teachers are not in it for the money, many talented individuals do not consider teaching or leave the profession because we underpay our teachers for the amount of training and dedication it requires.
  2. Pay attention to teacher health and well-being. There is a reason why so many teachers leave after 1-2 years. Teaching is a stressful job and it takes great teacher several years to get comfortable. We need to provide support to help them get through those tough first few years.
  3. Provide adequate teacher support for all students. We demand more of teachers in terms of class size and individualized instruction, but personnel has not kept pace. Classrooms that were co-taught because of unique challenges are now often led by a single teacher and that is not fair to students or teachers.

Social capital:

  1. Use technology to connect teachers with one another and to build relationships around common interests. Too often the influx of technology in schools is being used only for teacher evaluation, assessment, and data management.
  2. Embrace unions rather than attack them. Unions provide a foundation for teacher to connect with one another and a source of cohesive.
  3. Let teachers have time to process. Our teachers spend a much greater percentage of their workday in front of students than higher performing nations. We need to give teachers an opportunity to plan, to meet, and to process their work.

Decisional capital:

  1. Establish induction programs that seek to empower teachers with universal design for learning (UDL) rather than to standardize. UDL gives students the flexibility to demonstrate learning in a way that matches them best – and gives teachers flexibility in assessing students.
  2. Empower teachers to demonstrate their passions through their teaching. Maintain a curriculum that insures a foundation of student knowledge, but offers some flexibility.
  3. Create pathways for experienced teachers to take on leadership responsibilities. Distributed leadership can pay off for schools, but it takes courageous administrators who are comfortable sharing responsibility for decisions.


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