This week, I have chosen to talk about Michael Fullan’s six secrets of change and the potential roadblocks involved with them. Michael Fullan, a leading expert in change, outlines the following secrets of change: love your employees, connect peers with purpose, capacity building prevails, learning is the work, transparency rules, and systems learn.
Fullan’s first secret of change is to love your employees. You are loving your employees when you are supporting them so that they are comfortable enough to take risks and continue their own learning and education. For teachers, one of the best ways to do this is to foster an environment in which they can be successful (Thiers, 2017).
One way to create this environment is Fullan’s second secret: connect peers with purpose. Building a professional learning environment within the school and finding connections for teachers that can help them be successful is imperative. “Student learning and achievement increase substantially when teachers work in learning communities supported by school leaders who focus on improvement” (Scheninger, 2019, Fullan Change Secret 2: Connect Peers With Purpose). Once your school has an environment conducive to growth and learning, it’s time to do some capacity building. The three components to focus on and continuously develop are competencies, resources, and motivation (Scheninger, 2019).
Another key part of change and an educational environment is professional learning; this is also Fullan’s fourth secret to change – learning is the work. Scheninger (2019) states that “successful growth itself is accomplished when the culture of the school supports the day-to-day learning of teachers engaged in improving what they do in the classroom and school” (Fullan Change Secret 4: Learning Is the Work). Teachers should be models of what lifelong learning looks like, and they should be able to see the same in their leaders. “The best leaders are the best learners” (Scheninger, 2019 Fullan Change Secret 4: Learning Is the Work).
A part of being a lifelong learner is the use of feedback, sharing innovations, observations by coaches, and embracing the use of digital tools (Scheninger 2019). Fullan’s fifth secret, transparency rules, is all about sharing the work that is being done to stakeholders, parents, and the community. The type of continuous learning environment we have discussed requires “developing many leaders in the school in order to enhance continuity” (Scheninger, 2019, Fullan Change Secret 6: Systems Learn). However, those leaders, and the system as a whole, need to be open to new, innovating ideas. (Scheninger, 2019). In this way, the system is also learning and adapting, hence Fullan’s last secret – systems learn
Even with these secrets Fullan described, there will always be roadblocks and resistance to change. Scheninger (2019) identified several roadblocks to change that employees may bring up. They include bad employee attitudes, a lack of collaboration, a directive leader who isn’t modeling the change, the hierarchy within the school, no support, a fear of change, naysayers and antagonists, poor professional learning, and, finally, frivolous purchases. However, all of these roadblocks can be overcome quickly and efficiently if they are “identified and addressed appropriately” (Scheninger, 2019, Overcoming Potential Roadblocks to Change, para. 1).
In the past, I worked as a technical trainer for staff and faculty at a university. One of my jobs was to teach the faculty how to use their new school issued laptops with Blackboard and the new smart classrooms. My main focus when teaching one of these classes was to connect with and support the faculty to make learning easier. I would prepare printouts that they could take home with them, and provide my email address if they had further questions after the training. I believe this aligns well with Fullan’s first secret of change – love your employees; in this case my faculty. Many of the faculty members were not used to using laptops while teaching in the classroom, but by breaking things down and offering on-level instruction, I feel that I was able to support them while they learned this new technology.
I’d like to end this video with a quote I found during my research. Ryan Christopoulos (2016) said, “Education is a service profession. We serve our students and our communities, but as leaders, we must also serve the people we work with. As a member of the leadership team I must choose to go above and beyond to ensure they are getting the most out of their profession, similar to how I approach my students each day” (para. 12).
Christopoulos, R. (2016). “The Six Secrets of Change” Offers Straightforward Leadership Approach. Retrieved from https://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/msed/theory-practice/articles/2016/The_Six_Secrets_of_Change_What_the_Best_Leaders_Do_to_Help_Their_Organizations_Survive_and_Thrive_by_Michael_Fullan.html
Sheninger, E. C. (2019). Digital leadership: changing paradigms for changing times (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Thiers, N. (2017). Making Progress Possible: A Conversation with Michael Fullan. Educational Leadership, 74(9), 8–14. Retrieved from https://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Michael-Fullan-Educational-Leadership-Six-Secrets-Interview.pdf