THE NEW MEANING OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE (third edition). By Michael Fullan. RoutledgeFalmer pound;19.99. TES Direct pound;18.99. LEADING IN A CULTURE OF CHANGE. By Michael Fullan. Jossey-BassJohn Wiley pound;17.95. TES Direct pound;17.45
It was fear of flying that first led me to Michael Fullan. It was 1983 and I pretended to have flu because I was scared of flying to the United States, but immediately received the consolation invitation, this time for Toronto. There was nothing for it. Suitably fortified, I endured my first flight and touched down to a kaleidoscope of vivid encounters and experiences, the most significant of which was with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Professor Fullan's transformational impact on teachers and policy-makers in Ontario.
To revisit Fullan's influence in The New Meaning of Educational Change, an update on his seminal book 20 years on, is to see the thoroughness of a researcher and scholar who is forever learning.
Fullan's certainties, unlike those of some of his academic detractors, are always provisional and contingent on further evidence and, in a world of accelerating change, different circumstances. So this third edition is totally different. The intended audience is more confidently ambitious: headteachers, teachers, administrators, policy-makers and academics, and the experience of so many years working in different contexts, together with an enviable and accessible writing style, means that Fullan has produced a reference book valuable to all that intended wide audience. It is thorough and comprehensive, covering the whole field of school improvement in a thoroughly practical way.
Admittedly, the reader needs to allow for transatlantic differences between the school district and the LEA: the first is a tightly coupled and - when it works - highly impressive system, while the second is so loosely coupled that the LEA impact is hard to detect. The policy-makers who read this need to allow for that, but at the school level, heads and teachers alike will find the book's persuasive message applies in both cultures.
Fullan's new book, Leading in a Culture of Change, is at once straightforward and subtle. It brings into focus all those half-understood, taken-for-granted factors which we all know instinctively and intuitively but somehow had never quite got round to expressing. When you return to the text - and I read it cover to cover twice - there is even more than you thought. The thesis is quickly explained, embodying three constant and essential ingredients: hope, energy and enthusiasm.
Once leaders have passed that threshold test, they need to show mastery of five aspects of their role: "moral purpose"; "an understanding of change"; "relationship building"; "knowledge creation and sharing"; and "coherence making" in order to secure external and internal commitment. A simple test of whether leaders succeed is whether there is a perception that more good things and fewer bad things are happening.
So, what's the big deal? The journey, as this apparently simple thesis is unpacked and reassembled, is mesmeric and illuminating. Here you will learn almost all you need to know to be a successful leader in an age of change. I say almost because, being an admirer of Fullan, I felt duty bound to search for blemish. I wondered whether he made enough of humour or explored sufficiently the essential theme of being a learner when leading a community of teachers, or whether he emphasised often enough the differences which context makes. But that is to cavil at the edges.
This is a book for all would-be heads of department and deputy heads. Every serving head should buy a copy. I shall buy at least 50 and enjoy giving them away to those at the start of their careers in the confident knowledge that the next generation will be more successful as leaders than the present one. I fear that all we can do on reading Leading in a Culture of Change is to look back wistfully and understand why we made all those unforgivable mistakes.
Tim Brighouse is chief education officer for Birmingham LEA