Notes on Fullan (2001) ‘The meaning of educational change’

Below are the notes (not critical review or equivalent) I took on a chapter by Fullan on Educational change for my MA.

Fullan, M. (2001) ‘The meaning of educational change’ in M. Fullan The New Meaning of Educational Change, London: Routledge.

The main message I took from this read is that every school leader should read it because it casts a strong light on aggregated evidence of the impact and implementation of change in schools. In fact, it makes me wonder about leadership and whether to not, like politicians, individuals set out with great intentions and end up conforming to stereotypes through the pressures of leadership.

Fullan sets out his method:

  1. meaning of individual change for society at large
  2. subjective meaning of change for individuals in education
  3. a description of the objective meaning of change
  4. critical related issues of shared meaning and program coherence

There is a great tension in education organisations about reform and initiatives that set out with the best intentions but are not successfully integrated or applied. The reformers are always convinced what they are recommending is the right thing but they have been through an active process of learning about the subject of the reform, but when this initiative is passed on to others, they are not afforded the same time and journey, and often they do not want it.

restructuring (which can be done by fiat) occurs time and time again, whereas reculturing (how teachers come to question and change their beliefs and habits) is what is needed.’ P34

Classroom Press (P33) is a clever synopsis of the pressures faced by the average teacher which presents a reality check when considering context for change and the daily framework the advocates operate in:

  1. immediacy and concreteness: 200,000 interchanges a year;
  2. multidimensionality and simultaneity: carry out a range of operations simultaneously;
  3. adapting to ever-changing conditions or unpredictability: in schools anything can happen;
  4. personal involvement with students: develop and maintain personal relationships.

Stigler and Hiebert’s The Teaching Gap (1999): 231 Videotaped Maths lessons. 100 in Germany, 50 in Japan, 81 in USA. Results showed 89% of USA lessons contained low-level content, with only 34% in Germany and 11% in Japan. Despite proactive reform to address these very standards in USA via a ‘well-developed’ vision of Maths teaching, the videos showed that the reform drive was not being realised  in the classroom and ‘might actually be worse than what they were doing previously… Teachers can misinterpret reform and change surface features.’ P35

Reform can quite easily lead to the dilution of standards within an organisation. ‘Oakes (1999) observes that educators often rush to adopt new structures and strategies without considering the deeper implications…So everybody jumps on the bandwagon and does [the change] without really thinking about the process of change and how do we make that happen?’ P35/6

So, if a teacher is not given the opportunity to understand why change might be important or helpful in achieving their goals, then why will they implement change to their working practices? Why would they be passive recipients of others supposed wisdom

Change in education is really a change in practice; an innovation or new method. Fullan attempts to explain a necessary tripartite structure (P39) for understanding how educational change works. All three must be addressed. They are:

  1. new or revised curriculum materials (materials)
  2. new teaching approaches (behaviour)
  3. alteration of beliefs/or assumptions (beliefs)

Change involves these three dimensions and all of them must apply. Many teachers subject to reform will take on a combination of the three, or indeed none, but even if a teacher does ‘use some of the materials and alter some teaching behaviours [they may not come] to grips with the conceptions or beliefs underlying the change.’ P39

He then argues that ‘real change involves changes in conceptions and role behaviour, which is why it is so difficult to achieve.’ P40

P41-44, Fullan analyses three studies that illustrate the three dimensional structure as necessary. However, he then goes on to argue that ‘changes in beliefs and understanding are the foundation of achieving lasting reform.’ P45. And goes on to contend that there needs to be an ongoing discussion of the within the community of practice.

Fullan concludes this discussion by reiterating that all three dimensions must be addressed – ‘what people think and do – are essential if the intended outcome is to be achieved.’ P46

He concludes the chapter with a prologue to exploring ‘meaning’. P48 ‘The problem of meaning in relation to the content of innovations…that individuals and groups working together have to become clear about new educational practices that they wish (and/or someone else wishes them) to implement.’

This article is an attempt to analyse the process of achieving lasting reform. It reduces the complex and sophisticated discipline of change management into a manageable structure for discussion by establishing three dimensions of educational change that must be addressed. And it insists that this must happen for every individual who is instrumental to that change being implemented: only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. But also, most importantly, Fullan brings our attention to the fact that participants in the change must understand the reasons for change to implement it. Simply adopting the physical materials or behaviours associated with the change is not sufficient to make ‘it’ happen.

Teaching Learning and Assessment Conference in March

There are so many things to do as a teacher – things beyond your core workflow.

Well, maybe this conference should be one of them? The Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference hosted by Berkhamsted School in March promises to be a valuable day for any teacher for £40.00. It’s on a Saturday so no cover is required. It’s just off the M25 so convenient for many to travel a fair distance to. Despite being hosted by an independent school, the line-up of teachers presenting is an excellent mix from state and independent schools. It is not for profit.

The line-up of practitioners is really very impressive. I read nearly all of their blogs as they share their work and ideas. I am flattered – read: I am not worthy – to be among them.

I have the pleasure of presenting a workshop on how we are teaching KS3 ICT at my school this year – through other subjects. I will give detailed insight into, what I call, ICT in Subjects. This project brings the end of discrete ICT lessons in my school, and instead delivers the ICT curriculum in other subjects, team-taught with the subject specialist teacher and the ICT teacher. It is possible that all the National Curriculum reviews, in full flow as I write, might bring this type of cross-curricular ICT into every school.

As part of the research for my MA, I am evaluating the success of the project; so my findings are supported by data collected from the pupils and teachers involved. So far this year, we have worked with Geography, English, RE, Music and PE. A lot of the work has been ambitious in using Google Apps for collaborative website-based projects. Groups have been allocated specific roles – e.g. content manager, functionality manager, time manager, project manager – as well as every pupil choosing independent lines of enquiry within their group. A lot of obstacles have been hit head-on and lessons learned.

The aims of the ICT in Subjects are as follows:

  • to deliver the ICT curriculum;
  • to embed ICT into other subjects;
  • to disseminate ICT skills to as many teachers as possible;
  • to reflect the penetration of ICT into all walks of life.

If you are available March 16th, I hope to see you at the conference.

MA Project – What do YOU think? (please)

Image attribution: CC Flickr: EganSnow

I am in the second term of my MA entitled ‘Leading Innovation and Change’ at St Mary’s University College in Twickenham. This module is called ‘Research Methods for Project Enquiry’ and requires I choose a pilot project as a test bed for my ultimate project in the second year. No problem, except I am not sure what to do. As Head of ICT, both discrete and across the curriculum, I have a great opportunity to take one strain of my role and use my MA to focus on it to greater depth. Great, but I cannot decide what to do. I thought people I work with online (you) might be able to help me decide. My choices are all the usual ed tech suspects. Here’s a basic list:

  1. VLE. We use Moodle at the moment. I could do various aspects of this:
    1. Choosing a new VLE. I failed to share the VLE decision with my colleagues and pupils. I could do a project that documented the process of including the opinion of all parties into the decision-making process as we evaluated the more costly solutions of Frog and Open Hive and an improved Moodle.
    2. Training teacher(s) to use Moodle and evaluating the impact it has on their teaching and learning.
    3. Implementing and evaluating the impact of using a VLE to deliver and assess teaching and learning.
  2. The use of various technologies to engage pupils and improve teaching and learning:
    1. cameras
    2. web2.0 tool(s)
    3. voting systems
    4. podcasting
  3. Our recent inspection identified an area for improvement in our Library by providing more opportunities to access independent learning using ICT. This could lead to an interesting line of inquiry examining independent learning as well as how ICT can be used to promote and support this within the context of my school.
  4. Using an online service in the classroom. Possibilities:
    1. Edmodo
    2. Twitter
    3. Blogging (posterous, wordpress multi-user)
    4. Collaborative mind-mapping
    5. Google Apps for Education
  5. Developing a Professional Learning Network as teaching CPD.

So, you can see there are lots of possibilities and I would like your help in choosing one to focus on. What do you think would be worthwhile? What would be of interest to you? What would be most useful to the development of educational technology?

Any ideas, thoughts and comments most welcome. All my work will be shared online via this blog.

MA Notes: Halliday, J. (2002) ‘Researching Values in Education’

MA Article Notes

Halliday, J. (2002) ‘Researching Values in Education’ British Educational Research Journal. Vol. 28, No. 1, 2002

I found this article hard going. Read it over a period of time (holidays) and had to work hard to follow its arguments. Ultimately I have written this with close reference to the conclusion where Halliday generously summarises his method. I have also included definitions from wikipedia for terms I am unfamiliar with and the links to their source pages. My text/thoughts are in bold to distinguish them from Halliday’s, because I found it difficult to re-write what he is saying.

My conclusions:

For us doing the masters, I think the reason we are reading this is to introduce us to the importance of the impact of our methodology on our research projects. I don’t find that Halliday gives us any answers here. He drags the whole debate into question by saying that we (researchers and educational institutions in general) do not have the means at our disposal to test the conclusions of others research, and, there is a tendency for research to compete to assert correct practice. In this, I think, he is saying that we must explore whatever research has been done into our chosen research area and, if at all possible, to build on that rather than branch off and do our research for it’s own self-serving sake in a maverick-style context. Instead of seeing other research as competition, we are to acknowledge and embrace in the interests of furthering the value position in a particular field. Therefore, our research will become part of the wider fabric of research into that area.

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MA – Critical Commentary: Distributed Leadership

The conference at St Mary’s University College in October was a big event for me. It brought home the significance I felt about embarking on a Masters course and going back to university after fourteen years away. No-one had asked me to do it. I am not certain it will bring financial reward or move me on in my career. I wanted to know more. I was excited to hear Professor Dame Pat Collarbone was presenting the keynote. As one of the fore-runners at the National College of School Leadership, which I had visited in the summer, I anticipated an insight to school leadership national on a national scale. Having worked in many schools, I have evaluated many leaders, in my own way believing I knew enough to judge who was doing a good job. Now I was being invited to evaluate a leader of leaders. Continue reading