Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Professional capital and collaborative inquiry networks for educational equity and improvement?

What is this?

​This paper draws on the findings from the School Improvement Partnership Programme, a Scottish development and research project designed to improve outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It focuses on the building of professional capital, human capital, social capital and decisional capital through collaborative inquiry based approaches and outlines some of the impact of the approach on children and young people.

Who is this for?

​This paper is relevant to practitioners, teachers, headteachers and local authority staff.

Link to full research article

Professional capital and collaborative inquiry networks for educational equity and improvement? article on the Emerald | Insight website.

​About this research

The project is underpinned by a number of core principles that lay at the heart of the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

  • partnership working across schools and local authorities with a focus on exploring specific issues relating to educational inequity;
  • the use of collaborative inquiry and evidence to identify key challenges, experiment with innovative practices and monitor developments;
  • the creation of leadership opportunities and professional learning of staff at all levels;
  • a commitment to reciprocity and mutual benefit to all involved;
  • the development of arrangements to support long-term collaboration and new approaches to capacity building;
  • explicit links to strategic improvement planning in schools and local authorities; and
  • the involvement of a diverse range of partners including schools, local authorities, Education Scotland and other agencies.

How was the research carried out?

The research was carried using mixed methods data drawn from across eight case study school partnerships across 14 associated schools groups.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

Mixed methods designs combine qualitative and quantitative research methods. These designs aim to use the strengths of different methods and to triangulate findings to produce more balanced results and a deeper understanding of the issues.

What is the context for this research?

This research is based in Scottish schools across 14 school associated schools groups.

Reflective questions

On reading the paper you may find it useful to reflect on:

  1. the steps you and your school are taking to build professional capital; and
  2. how you might strengthen collaboration within your school, between individuals and classrooms; between your school and other schools and beyond your school with other partners, families and communities in order to tackle the attainment gap.

About the author (s)

The authors are Christopher Chapman, Hannah Chestnutt, Niamh Friel, Stuart Hall, Kevin Lowden from the Robert Owen Centre For Educational Change at Glasgow University.


This research was not commissioned by Education Scotland and the findings, recommendations and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views of Education Scotland.

Full reference

Chapman. C , Chestnutt. H , Friel. N , Hall. S , Lowden. K, (2016) "Professional capital and collaborative inquiry networks for educational equity and improvement?", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 1 Iss: 3, pp.178 - 197.