Professional Learning - "A Cost or an Investment"

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We are all familiar with capital when we talk about money. We know that we can earn it, spend it, save it and invest it. Some people are experts in helping other grow their 'wealth'. Many people accept they have a responsibility to share their wealth with others less fortunate. Nations accept global responsibility to support other nations in times of need.

How is this relevant in schools? What is the nature of capital in schools? It would seem reasonable to argue that professional learning can se seen in much the same way as cash. The way professional learning is structured, valued and accessed in schools will look very different depending on whether it is seen as an investment in individuals or groups.

In schools where there is a focus on staff attending seminars, going to workshops or completing academic certification then their is a clear investment in the intellectual capital of individuals. There will be a increase, hopefully, in the intellectual capacity of the individual, there may be some transfer of this capacity to other members of staff but this is unlikely. In other words individual teachers practice may be enhanced but the collective capacity of the whole staff of a school is only impacted on around the fringes. In the professional learning activity is a one off and not related to the context of the learning program within the school then its impact will be further diminished. When teams of teachers attend workshops seminars and bring their knowledge back to school and support each other in implementing new learning then there is likely to be significant impact.

However in schools where PLC's operate there is a clear investment in building professional capital, a mix between social capital( belonging to the group) and human capital (belonging to the individual). The social capital built through teamwork and collaboration is the glue that holds people together and ensures they all work towards a common vision or goal. Individuals bring there own intellectual capital to the table and share it with others. Groups identify what they need to learn in order to achieve their goals. Individuals investing their time both to help others but also in self improvement. Critical friends enable people to reflect on their practice aiming at continuous improvement and professional growth.

We all know the importance of relationships in schools. Professional learning communities, collaborative teams and learning networks all explicitly build trustful relationships as a precursor to improving the quality of teaching.

There is nothing more powerful in human nature than a shared vision.

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