Professional Capital as Accountability


  • Michael Fullan Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Santiago Rincón-Gallardo Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Andy Hargreaves Lynch School of Education, Boston College



professional capital, accountability, teachers, professional standards


This paper seeks to clarify and spells out the responsibilities of policy makers to create the conditions for an effective accountability system that produces substantial improvements in student learning, strengthens the teaching profession, and provides transparency of results to the public. The authors point out that U.S. policy makers will need to make a major shift from a heavy reliance on external accountability and superficial structural solutions (e.g., professional standards of practice) to investing in and building the professional capital of all teachers and leaders throughout the system. The article draws key lessons from highly effective school systems in the United States and internationally to argue that the priority for policy makers should be to lead with creating the conditions for internal accountability, that is, the collective responsibility within the teaching profession for the continuous improvement and success of all students. This approach is based on the development and circulation of professional capital that consists of three components: individual human capital, social capital (where teachers learn from each other), and decisional capital (developing judgment and expertise over time). In this new professional accountability model, the external accountability that reassures the public that the system is performing in line with societal expectations continues to be an important role of educational systems, but it is nurtured and sustained by the development of strong internal accountability.


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Author Biographies

Michael Fullan, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Michael Fullan, OC (Order of Canada) is Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. He currently serves as adviser to the Premier, and the Minister of Education of Ontario. He was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada in 2012. His book, with Andy Hargreaves, The Professional Capital of Teachers, was selected by AACTE as book of the year in 2013, and was awarded the $100,000 Grawemeyer prize for 2015. His latest books include Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy and Change Knowledge, The Principal: Three Keys for Maximizing Impact, and Freedom to Change. His books, articles and other resources can be found at

Santiago Rincón-Gallardo, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Santiago Rincón-Gallardo is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and Chief Research Officer at Michael Fullan's international consulting team. His research examines how effective pedagogy can be disseminated on a large scale in educational systems. He has led, studied, and consulted a movement that has turned thousands of Mexican public schools into learning communities. He holds an Ed.D. from Harvard. 

Andy Hargreaves, Lynch School of Education, Boston College

Andrew Hargreaves is Brennan Chair at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College and adviser to the Premier and Minister of Education of Ontario. He is the winner of the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Education. 




How to Cite

Fullan, M., Rincón-Gallardo, S., & Hargreaves, A. (2015). Professional Capital as Accountability. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23, 15.



A New Paradigm for Educational Accountability