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.

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!  

Most Recent: November 15, 2012

Describing effects of mobilizing social capital

I believe in collaboration and in networks as agents for change, based on my personal and professional experience and on research. As teams in the Exchange describe their work, I hope they will include how the process of collaboration changes their thinking and actions AND how the collaboration affects their students or others with whom they are working. I'd like the Exchange to be able to generate new knowledge about collaborative practices AND to provide evidence that mobilizing social capital leads to describable outcomes.


The value of mobilizing social capital

The grouping of teams in your article is helpful in thinking about the variety of constituted teams in the Exchange. Will you track the effects of mobilizing social capital in various groupings so that NCLE can learn more about how the environmental conditions contribute to or interfere with team efficacy?