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Fullan’s seminal ideas on educational change

Michael Fullan is a (or perhaps the) world leading authority on educational change. So when he identifies 'seminal ideas' on educational change it is worth engaging with them. Here is a summary of his 12 seminal ideas, which he identified in his auto-biography.

Seminal idea from Fullan (2018) Unpacking the idea (My interpretation)
1: Implementation is the sine qua non of educational change (p. 18). An idea is only of any use if you actually use it.
2: At the heart of educational change is personal and collective meaning (p. 23). People have to make sense of and own changes - they will adapt them to fit with their own values, beliefs and practices.
3: All real change is action oriented (p. 25). Meaning comes through doing something - you learn what it means as you try to do it. Fullan goes on to say that you therefore shouldn't take too long planning change - you should get on with implementing it.
4: Be as assertive as you can get away with; including the kicker, but only if they thank you afterward (p. 31). I take this to mean - aim very high, be outspoken, but also listen and adapt.
5: A leader is only as good as the team s/he builds and interacts with.
Trust and interact[ion] is the key to mutual efficacy (p. 42).
Teams are critical - they are created through working together and trusting each other.
6: My ideas come from a mixture of doing change, reading, and writing (p. 48). Fullan explicitly says that his best ideas do NOT come from research. This is the argument for acting like engineers rather than scientists - scientists disprove theories, engineers tweak things to make them work better. Reading gives you new ideas. Writing helps clarify your thinking.
7: When you are in conflict with someone who has good ideas, and good values, build don’t burn bridges (p. 60). Avoid group think. Look from different perspectives. Listen to critics. Be prepared to reflect, adapt and integrate ideas. Don't alienate people because you never know when you will need to work with them in the future.
8: Autonomy is not isolation. You need collaboration to be effective autonomously, and visa versa. Collaborative professionalism honors both the individual and the collective (p. 63). You need to make an individual contribution, but working with others is essential if you want to change systems. Reminds me of my vision for education: Individual fulfillment  and Universal well-being.
9: Eighty percent of your best ideas come from your leading customers (p. 66). Fullan's leading customers are lead practitioners (aka teachers) rather than academics. This links back to Seminal Idea 6. In addition, nothing is totally original - and that is OK.
10: Successful change processes are a function of shaping and reshaping good ideas as they build capacity and ownership (p. 67). Change is a process - you can’t transfer practice unproblematically between contexts – you have to adapt it to fit in the new context – and the people implementing it have to feel they have ownership (which in part comes through their contributing to its adaptation for their context). That process builds capacity – you all learn through the process if you do it well..
11: Be a lead learner and use the group to change the group (p. 76). This is about developing a collaborative culture (trust, action, discussion, empowerment). It leads into the next idea ...
12: As a leader, develop a collaborative culture of other leaders over a five to six-year period to the point where you become dispensable (p. 77). Fullan makes the point that “When people are doing something meaningful with others, and that something has impact, they can’t wait to do more.” (p. 81).

 

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