Leading Quality Change – Michael Fullan

In October 2014, I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend a PD presented by Michael Fullan.  Michael was an absolutely fantastic speaker and had many great thoughts on leading quality change.  Here are some notes I jotted down:


Change needs to happen at the school level and the system level (micro and macro)
We need to DO change, not just talk about it.

Michael’s work in change is:
• Grounding in the doing
• Focuses on pedagogy linked with student achievement
• System focus

Types of change:

  • Top Down
  • Top Down AND Bottom Up
  • Preferred Strategy: Leadership from the Middle – Districts/Clusters

“Talk the walk” as opposed to “Walk the talk” – Your practice needs to flow off your tongue.

“We have a digital society but not digital schools.”


Module 1 – Effective Change Process

“Stuck with policy, but not mindset.”

You can take policy but implement it within your mindset.

“Get a “C” in compliance and an “A” in learning.”

Effective change process has to motivate the unmotivated
Your sophistication in being a leader is that you motivate the unmotivated

Effective change processes are voluntary but inevitable.

You go slow to go fast.
Build relationships – listen, where are people at.
Spend 6 months – 1 year, investing into people.


Module 2 – Success within Schools and Communities

Systemness: Intraschool systemness – moving away from “students in my class” to “students at our school”

Gives focus and coherence
Small group autonomy and larger group identity

The degree to which the principal participates in learning
Doesn’t mean that he/she is running the learning, or chair the learning,
When they participate as a learner, they are indirectly influencing the culture of the school. Explicitly nonetheless

The three keys of maximising impact:
– Leading Learning
– Change Agent
– System Player

What has a greater impact on teaching and learning?
• Teacher appraisal (individual but not intense enough)
• Professional Development (“PD: a great way to avoid change” – people go to PD but nothing happens afterwards)
• Collaborative Cultures

School Cultures
• Talented schools improve weak teachers
• Talented teachers leave weak schools
• Good collaboration reduces bad variation
• The sustainability of an organisation is a function of the quality of its lateral relationships
• The more you build lateral relationships, the more dispensable you are
• If you build a collaborative culture, it can sustain your departure

Shift from individualism and move to collaborative cultures.

If you want people to embrace the change:

• Reduce the Fear
• Participate in the Learning
• Use the group to change group (Each teacher hosted a class – they showed 2 things that they had been using in ICT and they moved around each class)
• Make the learner explicit/openly transparent
• “This is us – this is what we’re doing and why we’re doing.” When you talk the walk – you are becoming more explicit.
• Trust – “It’s ok to try things”
• Name it, model it, monitor it (E.g. “he says and he does it”)
• Timeline (“Schools that were boring become exciting.” – Year 1 build relationships, Year 2 should start to see momentum)

All effective leaders have a judicious nature of pushing and pulling.
Too pushy, back off
Too pully, be more assertive

7 Critical Competencies for Leadership
1. Challenges the status quo (e.g. “We’re not doing this right. We can do better.”)
2. Builds trust through clear communications and expectations
3. Creates a commonly owned plan for success (e.g. The size and prettiness of the plan has an inverse result of the effectiveness of the plan. The implementation plan is not for the planners, it is for the implementers.)
4. Focuses on team over self
5. Has a high sense of urgency for change and sustainable results in improving student achievement
6. Commitment to continuous improvement for self and organisation
7. Builds external networks/partnerships (Principals who spent time building external networks and linking ideas)


Module 3 – Leadership in a Digital Age
“If it’s going to get you anyway, move towards the danger.”

The better leader you are, the more assertive you can be.
Involve people in the unfolding of the idea.

To change relationships, particularly those who are resistant or negative:
1. Give the other party before they’ve earned it
2. Practise impressive empathy (Instead of pushing being right, you will be trying to get inside their head)
3. Love your employees
4. Use the group to change the group (Peer pressure is stronger than hierarchical pressure)
5. Deal firmly with what’s leftover


App Dependent or App Enabled

App Dependent: When we allow apps to restrict or determine our procedures, choices and goals
App Enabler: Apps that allow or encourage us to pursue new possibilities

The vast majority of apps promote superficial learning.


School Conditions for Digital Learning
1. Vision and Goals
2. Leading Deep Change
3. Creating a Learning Culture
4. Capacity Building
5. New Measures and Evaluation
6. Leveraging Digital


Module 4 – Networks and System Coherence
Schools and/or districts networking with focus Better partners upward and downward.

Systemness – commitment and action that grows from and contributes to the benefit of the network

Connect to other schools who want to be a part of this change
Don’t make it a club – How can others be welcomed and included?
Feel free to cross sector – it doesn’t have to be within your sector.

Lots of initiatives and changes occurring in the areas of Curriculum, Pedagogy, Assessment, Technology.
We are fairly ordinary with the sharing/collaboration of ideas – How can we improve this as an industry?
How can we shift our professional practice?

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