The New Meaning of Educational Change
When Michael Fullan published the first edition of this seminal work in 1982, he revolutionized the theory and practice of education reform. Now, a quarter of a century later, his new fourth edition promises to be equally influential for radical reform in the 21st century. Capturing the dilemmas and leading ideas for successful large-scale systemic reform, Fullan bases his text on practical and fundamental work with education systems in several countries. The New Meaning of Educational Change is your definitive compendium to all aspects of the management of educational change-a powerful resource for everyone involved in school reform.
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Quite a disappointing read in too many ways. As my first foray into management in education the book was probably a poor choice as it is not about management in practice nor about theories of management.
The entire book (ideas, research, anecdotes etc.) is entirely derived from three countries, Canada (more precisely Ontario), the US and England, which is a great shame as, although far from homogeneous, these regions share a common ‘vision’ of the world due to their common modern history and language. I understand that it is hard to conduct research across cultures and languages but Fullan does not even attempt to remediate this lacuna nor sufficiently acknowledge the therefore intrinsic limitations of his findings.
It explains, at too much length and in many ways beating around the bush, its two main tenets:
-reform meaning must be shared to generate motivation and long lasting changes (I really don’t like that word ‘meaning’ employed here, buy-in?);
-change in culture is necessary to allow for collegiality, capacity building and learning communities.
I have very little to disagree with these points, I just don’t see why 300 odd pages were necessary to make them.
In a way, he advocates a process approach rather than a product one. Context and self-motivation are so important that meaningful, deep and long lasting reforms can only be brought about by ground work supported by the relevant external agents within the context of global, performance oriented, goals.
The book is very well researched but quotes from reports after reports too much and too often. Fullan has a fondness for listing in bullet form the actions, or findings of others in a way that bulks the book without adding much to it.
I would have preferred a shorter, more direct book: you can get a very good take-away gist of the book by reading carefully the last, 5 pages-long, Chapter on ‘The Future of Educational Change’.
In fairness, the form of the text indirectly conveys well the complexities of modern education and hence of the challenges of trying to reform it. It is a good eye opener of pre-university education and gives a good overview of the many recent reformed embarked by the three representative Anglo-Saxon countries.