The traditional way to increase the human capital of a school is through professional development outside the organization, using external resources. However, global experience shows that it works well only in undeveloped education systems, where education is traditionally weak and the staff are poorly qualified. The more complex the educational goals, the less effective is the use of traditional professional development, and the organization need to employ more effective ways of achieving school improvement.
What interactions should we consider as social capital that influences the professionalism of teachers and the quality of education?
Usually, it seems that teachers already have enough interactions with each other: they gather in groups and vigorously discuss different topics during breaks and events, they are involved in the staff, school meetings and prepare the activities, etc. But in reality, it is not enough and often not covering all aspects. The lessons are, and will be for a long time, the basis of the educational process at school. During the lesson, students receive the main educational input of knowledge and skills.
Interaction and communication are significant elements of the teaching activities in the classroom!
This collaboration will not necessarily happen automatically and will not be the result of top-down directives, because it is complex and requires time and effort. Collaboration involves confrontations, compromises, presenting an opinion.
Collaboration arises when there are common goals, that are specific, such as «focus more on productive skills rather than reproductive skills during lessons», or «half the time taken to manage discipline during the lesson» rather than «improving the quality of education».
However, the appearance of such goals in the classroom is not in itself sufficient to build social capital. Each teacher needs a «mirror» – feedback from a colleague who can a) record problems and progress in overcoming them, and b) work together to find solutions. And this is the social capital of the school: teachers discuss professional issues, observe activities of each other, inevitably change their practices, and learn from each other. But, only, if the interactions are regular, at least once a week.
Cooperation requires trust in each other – this gives the staff confidence to takes risks, admit difficulties, be honest about their practice, safe in the knowledge that this will help them improve, rather than it been used against them in a judgemental fashion. The learning that comes from such a process increases the professionalism of all involved.
Intensive professional interactions (or their absence) certainly are reflected in the real structure of the organization. The evaluation tool captures connections and levels of trust and helps make evidence-based decisions.