The New Meaning of Educational Change


Michael Fullan focused on human participation in education when writing about education change. This is evidenced in his fourth edition book about change in education where he reexamined the existing knowledge of the change system.

According to Fullan, there are particular factors that initiate change. For instance, the relevance of relationship, motivation and meaning in the sustained and effective educational change are among the factors that must be taken into consideration when planning to bring change in the education system. The success in education change process will be made a reality or not by functions/ non-functioning of individuals at different levels within the education systems. In this case, Fullan established five levels through which the change process would be influenced or hindered. These include the teacher’s, the principal’s, the student’s, the parent’s, the community and district’s administrative level of operations and management, of which they will reviewed and critical evaluated in this paper.

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The teacher

As mentioned earlier in the introductory portion of this evaluative process of Fullan’s works, there are several stakeholders engaged in the formulation and implementation of reform process in any education system. The teacher is one of the crucial stakeholders involved in the process of bring a change in the education system.

The reformation in education system is not solely borne by the teaching staffs as many individuals probably think of. While Fullan talks about bringing change in the learning and education systems, he not finds a teacher to be of great significance in facilitating the change process. In this connection, he asks several questions which a teacher should asks himself/herself concerning the causes of change in education and learning systems. While focusing on teacher as change agents in the education system, Fullan believes that teachers can only influence the success of education system partially. This perhaps is true to a certain extent.

Well, the reason for this view is that teachers’ mainly responsibility is teaching of students. They therefore concentrates in delivering the content that leading the students to acquiring good or excellent grades as their profession mandates that they cover the set piece of work within a certain time duration. Furthermore, a teacher has several other limitations in chance of bring change in the education systems. S/he can positively influence or transform the learning and education system by imposing his/her authority to the students whom are under his/her charge. In this particular case, the teacher is able to impact positively or negatively the students’ behavior and academic performances through knowledge delivery. However, due to set pathways, such impacts also appear to be not easily achievable due to deadline of work coverage. Accordingly to Fullan’s work, the teacher’s potential is not fully exploited in many ways as the exercising of the potentials borne by teachers is constrained severally.

Despite the fact that teachers occupy a central position of influence where they can link with several other stakeholders, the flexibility to influence the education and learning systems is limited structurally and legally. For instance, teachers are not only less involved in the development of the materials they have to use in their profession such as the development of the curriculum, but they also work under rule and regulations with some demanding too much loyalty than necessary, hence, quenching the teacher’s power to influence those above him. In short, though teachers have great opportunity to influence the education system through their hard work in the improvement of grades, Fullan’s work tries to challenge teachers find ways through which the can penetrate the different areas or fields and bring change in the system.

The principal

According to Fullan, the principal is at the point of bringing change in the education system. Though overloaded with a lot of work of overseeing the overall operation and management of the learning institution, it does imply that as a stakeholder of system, s/he has a lot of meaning to the successful implementation of change. The principals, or the vice principals who do act on behalf of the principal, that is in the principal’s capacity in times of his absence, are crucial factors in the running of the learning institutions.

According to Fullan’s view, principals seem to be overworked/ overloaded in the same way as their fellow teachers under lower ranks of education system. However, they are not being tensed with teaching overloads but they are stressed by a different type of work, and more specifically those duties and responsibilities of management. The author expresses the principal’s position as a unique one which is centrally placed more or less in same way as that of a teacher, but which bears more weight than the teacher’s position. Truly, the principal’s responsibilities and duties are far much beyond those of a normal teacher whose responsibilities is concerned more on delivering the content of the syllabus; the principal’s duties and responsibilities involves dealing with and handling of many issues of management. These are not the only things the principals would deal with, or manage as they also act as the central ministers and controllers of sophisticated disciplinary issues emanating from fellow staff members, the students body and other external sources. The argument of the author at this point would be taken to depict that principals are attacked and bombarded heavily from all direction as it may be symbolized by the mentioning of Bermuda triangle. However, this is a very significant position in the acquisition of the needed data and information since the principal’s office banks all the information from all the links or bodies in the education system.

From a closer scrutiny of the source of principals’ problems, it’s apparent that Fullan does not support the idea and claim attacks of stress experienced by the principals are fully as a result of external sources, but they are mainly brought about by their maintaining of the old ideologies and state of institutional managerial approaches. To end stress and stop the indulgency of principals into vice of drug abuse like alcoholic drinking as well as other misbehaviors/ misconducts, Fullan urges principals to cease thinking of themselves as the only initiators and facilitators of school improvement projects. He therefore pushes for a proper collaboration with the different departments and individuals who would aid in carrying out the change process to completion. That is to say principals must be transformed in minds and in the way of their thinking on their duties and responsibilities of their leadership position; whereby they will have to close down the old chapters of smooth running and grade search through employment of pressuring methods on teachers holding junior positions. He advocates that a transformed principal is the one, who has already accepted there is need for a change, and s/he can make the change come to be a reality in motivation and persuasion of all other people in the entire system. Fullan advises principals to teach the people involved about the importance of the anticipated change.

According to him, educating the people about the essence of the anticipated change is the only way of making them belief in the change

The students

The student is another group which must be considered in the process of carrying out education change. The writer of the book ‘The new meaning of education change’ apparently appears to a less extent consent with others on the idea/opinion that student should act as a consumer of change results in the process of educational innovation and change process. He strongly refute the habit of many adult individuals who think of students as useless in the early stages of change initiation, but makes them to be the key target of the final products or service of the entire change.

First and foremost, the student has a lot to contribute towards the initiation and subsequent steps of education change. However, the successful initiation and implementation of change in the learning and educational systems had been mired by the masking of anti-democratic environments in the system, and more especially the infringement of the students’ rights and privileges by almost the entire range of adult individuals at different level in the system and whom are mandated to take of care of them and create a favorable learning environment. Fullan blames leaders in the learning institutions for establishing of hierarchy of leadership that bring about in-equitability among individuals, hence, resulting to the widening/broadening of the social interactivity gap between the students and the other groups in the educational system. In this connection, the author does not support the habit and practices of teachers not seeking the student’s stance, ideas and opinions on different issues. He further writes against behavior of head of schools not paying attention to their students. In brief, the author of the book believe that success in educational and learning system cannot be attained without proper consideration of the student as key player from the birth of the idea of change to end of it. He therefore urges the adults to ensure that there is true provision democracy to the young student, especially during the process of setting the base for educational change; since, it is through this that the student would acquire diverse skills and knowledge like critical thinking, understanding and comprehension of complex things which are skills needed during his/her learning and academic studies, and that will also help the student after the completion of schooling.

The parent and the community

The parent and the community are other important groups that participate in the process of a successful educational change activity.

However, Fullan laments of the current state of parent and community participation of making the school goals and vision a reality. While Fullan mentions of the parent and community participation in school activity, he depicts it as being at irreparable state, which is a way of emphasizing the worst level or situation of relationship between the educators (teachers, principals and other administrators) and the parents forming the external community of the school and its entire environs. According to his research, he stands on the view that educators, whom are instruments vested with knowledge should be in the forefront of change campaigns. Therefore with such kind of knowledge and acceptance of educational change, they would be able to influence parents who lack the knowledge and the community in bringing positive changes in the learning and educational system. What is clear from the work is that, whether a parent is learned or not, the parents have a crucial role in the running of the learning institutions, and the educators cannot do away with them, which means their position is irreplaceable and/or cannot be substituted with anything else. Though there are many reasons why the parent and the community cannot be separated and done away with in the process of educational change, the major one is because they largely contribute to the operation and management of school by providing the need support and learning material resources.

In addition, they not only provide material things that they pump into system at different levels, but they themselves act as resource to learning institutions through physical contribution of labor, contribution of ideas, opinions and suggestions that are necessary for educational change initiation and completion. Fullan observes and finds that parents are the first educators of their children, and being the first educators, they bear essential background information of the children which is required by educators at higher levels of their learning. Even though there are numerous things that the author talks about concerning the parent and the community, it’s clear that he stresses the fact that the school cannot operate and perform all of its activities without the involvement of the parents forming the external school community.

The emphasize from this work is that parents should give what they have for the smooth accomplishment of the school goals, but this is only proper collaboration of the educators and parents through mutual aid, coercive free environment.

The District administrator

Normally, the administration of the school is held as the most important body in the success of schools. This is an old idea which is supported by many individuals from the community, but the idea is wrongly placed in accordance to Fullan work. Though Fullan believes in authority bestowed in the administrative body of organizations and institutions, he does not believe in the weak administration that brings failure within the learning and education system. Fullan asserts that administrators are important in the running of educational institutions, as they aid in maintaining and the running of the day- to-day activities through co-ordination of the school activities as well as enabling of a smooth flow of resources within the system. Whereas there are many administrators including the professionals like the principals, the vice principals, the teaching staff members and the non-professionals ones, who assist in the carry out of administrative and managerial work to support and endeavor in bringing change in the learning and education system, the overall results of their support is far much dissatisfying. Fullan feels from his assessment that there is much waste of resources by the administrators, especially due to their non-performing state in their duties and responsibilities. However, Fullan shows less blame on the junior administrators, but boldly shows his expression of dissatisfaction of the hierarchical administrative structure.

He claims that the education system has established impermeable walls which impede full exercising of administrative and leadership potentials, hence, affecting adversely the output of the administrators. As far as this is concerned, the district administrator bears the heavily blame of the poor administrative conditions and terms, since acting as the echelon at the top level of the school administration, he should take the initiative of opening the closed doors of information flow, communication and freedom for the junior administrators.


In conclusion, Fullan’s fourth edition addresses all factors to be considered when initiating change in the education system. He has also offered various areas of change and improvement.

Fullan describes his movement by values and qualities such as respect, confidence, competence and integrity. He believes that change is actually possible although it is limited by various problems like the dynamics of the population. He accepts that there is not a single immediate solution to such problems and that they must be attended to on daily basis with a lot of efforts. When fully implemented, Fullan’s ideas will lead to successful changes being initiated in the education system.


Fullan, M. (2007). The New Meaning of Educational Change: Fourth Edition, London, Teachers College Press.


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