Forget about top down reform and the technocratic accountability system that has emerged in recent years. Educational reformer Dr. Michael Fullan, who spoke at the LHRIC’s successful Tech Expo 2011, believes today’s educational leaders can bring about change through improved relationships and enhanced values.
In his hour-long talk titled “Leading in a Culture of Change,” the professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the author of “Leading in a Culture of Change” said the key player is the principal of a school building who, in Fullan’s opinion, can turn the learning environment into one that is learning-enriched.
Fullan’s advice for today’s leaders includes the following:
- Pay attention to relationships. This is especially true for newly hired administrators taking charge of new districts. If you move too fast with change, “your culture will leave town,” warns Fullan. “If you move too slowly, you’ll get absorbed by the status quo.” Instead, listen and learn from those who have been there before you, and engage in fact-finding and joint problem-solving.
- Honor the “implementation dip” – leaders must have thick skins. Be resilient; do not take things too personally. At the beginning of your tenure, you won’t get the positive rewards you crave until change starts to sink in.
- Beware of “fat plans,” says Fullan. The size and prettiness of the plan is inversely related to the quality of action and the impact on student learning. Fullan has seen plans that are 31 pages long and that he considers “unwieldy.” They’ll work only if they’re action-oriented and if the words within them inspire others. However, if you choose the “skinny plan,” remember to make it memorable and actionable.
- Behaviors before beliefs – most people only change their beliefs after they’ve had some new experiences. Give them the new experiences, but don’t talk them into to it either.
- Communication during implementation is paramount – this is far more important than communication prior to implementation. Why? “Because communication in the abstract, in the absence of action, means almost nothing,” says Fullan.
- Excitement prior to implementation is fragile – we all know good leaders who are energizing, but who are often annoying, says Fullan. “You have to figure out how to be contagiously enthusiastic.” Fullan suggests you spread the good word through pep talks.
- Take risks and learn – good leaders should create a climate that encourages action and learning from mistakes.
To find out more about Fullan’s philosophy on educational reform, visit his website at www.michaelfullan.ca.