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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Social Capital

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


July 18, 2016

Social capital is another type of professional capital and refers to the collective value of an organization’s "social networks," and the ability of these networks to effectively function internally and externally to produce quality work. In other words, social capital is how well groups can work collaboratively to achieve desired results. Social capital takes a staff with a gamut of skills, attitudes and dispositions and skillfully combines them to interact so that they can maximize their own improvement and be able to collaborate in ways that enhance and realize each one’s human capital. It is like taking the highest quality possible players along with good and improving ones and skillfully creating a winning team that plays well together. In schools, social capital develops from the frequency with which teachers and others engage in collaborative conversations about student work and teaching practices related to that work (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012). Social capital improves the teaching performance of all teachers because it opens up possibility for: information gathering; strategy seeking to utilize and maximize other capital; promotion of novel and innovative ideas; cultivating environments that build personal regard for others and benevolence; offering emotional support and, at the same time, promoting trust and cooperation; and reframing conflict in a positive productive light.

The human capital that teachers bring to their work includes talent and experience. Regardless of starting levels, human capital grows expansively and rapidly in tandem with social capital, and it does so in ways not possible through attention to individual teacher (human capital) development alone. In an isolated and solitary world, capital has no value; it is only through interaction in a community that a commodity gains worth.

Through coaching, the States of Mind of Interdependence, Flexibility, and Consciousness can be mediated in the “star” to increase collaboration.

Questions like these in the Planning Map, may help to mediate the star’s relationship to the group as a whole and increase social capital:

Clarify Goals:

• What might be some of the connections of this goal to the standards or to the school’s mission or to the shared curriculum? (Consciousness)

• How might this objective relate to the objectives of your team members? (Interdependence)

Anticipate strategies, approaches, decisions, and how to monitor them:

• What kind of help might be useful to you with this lesson? (Interdependence)

• How might some of your teammates support you with this lesson? (Interdependence)

• As you think about the members of your team, who might be a resource for you? (Interdependence, Consciousness)

• What effects might your plan have on others? (Flexibility)

• How might your collaboration with others be beneficial? (Interdependence, Consciousness)

Identify Personal Learning Focus

• What might you learn from this group? How might you know you have learned it? (Interdependence)

• What benefits might you gain from collaboration with your team? (Interdependence)

• How might you share this research with others in a way that would be productive and useful to your colleagues? (Interdependence)

Adaptive Schools with is Norms of Collaboration provides the tools of discourse and dispositions to the system. Social capital is enhanced when individuals check for understanding with a paraphrase or seek clarity with a mediative question. When group members utilize a pause to formulate their own thoughts or allow for refined thinking in a colleague, everyone benefits. The social capital of an organization increases when people in a system understand the difference between affective and cognitive conflict and they seek mutual understanding and common ground. Through assertive and not aggressive behaviors group members understand that the power of cognitive conflict to push through the easy answers and the quickest solutions will be worth it, in the long run.

Social capital increases the potential of the human and cognitive capital (collective intelligence) in a system; however, social capital alone may not be enough. Two parallel dimensions are related to professional capital and are complements to social capital and its effects on maximizing collective potential: decisional capital and cognitive capital.

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