Promoting Collaboration Toolset
for equity and learning

Stakeholders improving schools' social capital. Lessons from Portugal

Informal networking and study groups
Informal networking is observed in dynamic and innovative schools. Beyond formal teachers' meetings, Studygroups. Photo by  Dick Vos, see conducted by the heads of curricular departments to plan and discuss the curriculum management and related teaching and learning issues, small informal groups of teachers organize themselves in study groups, to learn from each other, to share materials and experiences, to overcome difficulties, to discuss and find solutions to their classroom challenges, focusing on learning issues, behaviour, or just to relax and enjoy confidence, trust and learning.

The School of Parents
These initiatives have inspired some principals to organize together with parents' associations, a set of discussion sessions specifically for parents, led by different experts in psychology, health and parenthood, or family issues, in a format they called "School of Parents". The so-called "School of Parents" became a true school community organization gathering several parents living in the local community, as well as teachers and other staff which regularly attend to the debate sessions. The "School of Parents" turned into a space for information and discussion of common problems in the education of children, for sharing concerns and learning on how to follow and help their children in their studies. The Parents' Associations showed to be an excellent partner in the organization of this initiative, in promoting meaningful discussions and enabling parents for further interventions in school life (Oliveira, 2013).

The cases presented above constitute examples of how leaders in different ways influence their peers may contribute to promote professional development and improve teachers' quality through mutual support, on creating professional networks and on "creating value from relationships" (Minckler, 2014, p.658). It means that teachers can create social networks (even including parents) to mobilize knowledge resources and to expand their "social capital" to be defined as "the resources available to and used by a teacher by virtue of membership of social networks, to produce outcomes that are beneficial to the teacher, her/his students and ultimately to the school community as a whole" (Minckler, 2011; in Minckler, 2014, p.658). According to this author, "the key to understanding social capital is in recognizing that relationships have value, and that this value may be considered a form of capital. Relationships have value to the individual when his or her association accomplish two major goals:

help the individual accomplish things he or she cannot do alone (task or instrumental outcomes); and
satisfy the individual's belonging needs (an expressive outcome).

To accomplish the task or instrumental outcomes, participants in the relationship share or exchange both tangible (teaching materials) and intangible resources (information)??? (Minckler, 2014, p.658).

Discussion and study groups gather colleagues from other school units, to share views and solutions, to establish a dialogue centred on education and on specific learning and teaching needs and to broaden the circle of peer learners.

Does international experience impact students' learning? An interview with Ramiro Sousa, D. Jo??o II High school Principal, Set??bal, Portugal.
Created by Maria do Carmo Cl??maco Oliveira and Ana Paula Silva, Universidade Lus??fona de Humanidades e Tecnologias (ULUT).

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