The Value of Social Capital
When I think about the Literacy in Learning Exchange, my thoughts often drift to Carrie Leana’s research around professional networks and student achievement. I'm a big fan of her 2011 article The Missing Link in School Reform, in which she says,
In trying to improve American public schools, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists are overselling the role of the highly skilled individual teacher and undervaluing the benefits that come from teacher collaborations that strengthen skills, competence, and a school's overall social capital.
Where current rhetoric around reform tends to focus on the measure of individual teacher knowledge and expertise (a.k.a. human capital), it’s the measure of professional collaboration and networking (social capital), that requires as much--and maybe more--attention to truly make a difference. Leana puts the researcher-spin on what I was saying last week. Great lessons and practices in a single classroom impact the students while they are in that classroom. But what about after the students graduate from that classroom or when that teacher moves away? Without a network of professional learners who share their practices with one another, there can be no spread of innovation.
Last week, I shared a list of learning teams who are not only strengthening the network ties within their group, but increasing their social capital by opening their arms to welcome group followers. By allowing followers and inviting comment from outside of the group, the professional network expands.
This week, I want to highlight a set of Literacy in Learning Exchange groups who demonstrate an understanding that professional community and social capital play an important role for leaders. These groups focus on the learning and learning processes of the adults in the schools.
Groups of instructional leaders and teacher leaders discussing practices from across multiple sites:
- Rowland Unified School District School Instructional Leadership (SIL) Teams: a district learning team focused on understanding and improving the use of data to guide school-level initiatives
- Eastern Michigan Writing Project Teacher Researchers: a cross-district and cross-grade team that comes together to share their independent classroom research questions and findings
Nevada Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant: for district and school-site leaders to learn with and from one another as they implement their literacy plans
Groups and organizations focused on improving and maintaining effective professional learning experiences for staff and educators:
- Prairie Elementary: a school team interested in improving its collaborative culture
- Ebinger Learning Community: a group using “Safe Practice Days” to encourage innovation in the classroom
- ACTELA CIT: a state-level English/Language Arts organization in which the leadership team wants to demonstrate the effectiveness of collaborative inquiry for professional development
Rowland School District’s Literacy Partners: a community of practice for district educators focused on balanced literacy teaching and learning
Higher education faculty and students focused on high-quality preservice and graduate learning experiences:
- Secondary English at CU Boulder: the course instructor, Anne DiPardo, wants to introduce her students to the idea of “studio space”
- Arkansas State University Excellence in Literacy Team: a team of faculty members working together to develop their literacy practices and knowledge, with a goal of developing a new PhD program in Literacy Studies
- Secondary Education at Florida State University: a space being developed by students for use by students and faculty to share literacy questions, resources, and practices
As I said last week, this list is not comprehensive. Groups are continuing to join the Exchange and to engage in a variety of ways–some more actively, some less so. Regardless of the amount of group artifacts available, consider posting inquiries and messages of encouragement to any group or individual group member whose work piques your interest.
We are all here to learn from and with one another. As we expand the depth and breadth of our engagement with others on the Exchange, our students benefit the most from the increased social and human capital that results.
Stay tuned as I continue to share information and stories about the important work of groups within the Literacy in Learning Exchange network. Some of these groups will soon be recognized by NCLE as Centers for Literacy Education. I look forward to celebrating their achievements in my next post!