Michael Fullan on Leading Change in a New Era
Schools exist in a dynamic and constantly changing environment, requiring teachers and school leaders to continuously evolve and adapt to meet the demands of their role and the needs of their students.
Hosted by global thought leader Michael Fullan, Leading Change in a New Era delves into mutual empathy as a key disposition for leaders to build trust among staff, students, and the wider community.
Fullan explores the importance of wellbeing and ‘deep learning’ and the role of students as changemakers.
About Michael Fullan
Recognised as a global thought leader on educational reform, Michael Fullan (OC) advises policymakers, local leaders, and school communities on helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children’s learning. Fullan is the former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto.
KENDRA PARKER: We just acknowledge the traditional owners throughout Victoria and pay our respect to the ongoing living cultures of First Peoples. We recognise their deep connections to the places where we do our work for continuous school improvement.
We continue to learn from the vibrant and innovative knowledge systems of First Peoples and the depth of their teaching, learning and education practice. We observe their resilience through times of change and find ways to promote this through our work.
We understand that each of us has a role in supporting each other to respectfully walk and work together.
And my name is Kendra Parker and I'm the current Principal in Residence in the Principal Programs here at the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership and I'm coming to you today from the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and I'm actually in at our original Bastow offices at 603 Queensberry Street in North Melbourne. So it's lovely to join you and to have so many of you here with us for our session today.
If we just put your title slide back up, Michael, I think that would be a great starting point, just make sure everyone knows that we're in the right session here. We've got a morning with Professor Michael Fullan on our Thought Leadership Series on Leading Change in a New Era.
Now, I was listening to a podcast recently and Peter DeWitt I think introduced you, Michael, and he said he felt that you were in the leagues of Celine Dion and Prince and other people where we didn't even need to say your surname, we just needed to call you Michael and everybody knew who you were, and I feel very lucky to be introducing you and working with you and listening to you and learning from you today.
I mentioned earlier I've been fan girling this week. I spent the day yesterday with seven other school leaders working with Joanne Quinn on deep learning and understanding more about how we engage students in deep learning in our schools, so I'm really excited today to be working further with Michael. And I've been listening and reading some of your new work around spirit leadership and the spirit of school and that really excites me and I think it's a wonderful thing to think about how a school has spirit and how leaders and how our staff and how our communities create that spirit of learning and that spirit of engagement and enjoyment and belonging and joy and all of those things. So I'm really looking forward to our session this morning.
So Michael is the former Dean of the Ontario Institute For Studies in Education. He's Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto, co‑leader of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global initiative and is recognised as a worldwide authority on educational reform. He advises policymakers, local leaders and school communities in helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children's learning.
He served as Premier Dalton's Special Policy Adviser in Ontario from 2003 to 2013 and he received the Order of Canada in December 2012. Michael holds five honorary doctorates from universities around the world and wow, doesn't that make the rest of us feel insignificant, so an amazing amount of work and research and experience and knowledge and wisdom into the session that we're going to hear this morning.
I think many of us have heard of Michael's work Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action, certainly a big driver for me as a principal in schools; Deep Learning: Engage the World Change the World, and again that was with Joanne Quinn and looking forward to diving more into that; Dive into Deep Learning: Tools for Engagement; Surreal Change, an autobiography; Core Governance; Nuance, which we've worked on quite a lot in Victoria as well; and now Spirit Work and the Science of Collaboration; and I look forward ‑ I see there's a new one coming The Principal 2.0, so really interested to see what that's going to be about when that comes out next year. So along with his team, Michael is currently working on system transformation and education in several countries globally.
So a lot of background there, but as I said, you don't really need a lot of introduction, Michael. So without further ado, I'll hand over to you and I welcome everybody to our session this morning and thank you for making the time to learn together.
PROF. MICHAEL FULLAN: Thank you, Kendra, for the introduction and I'm not quite back yet, but I will say that prior to COVID, for the previous I'll say 15 years, I think I was in Melbourne probably twice a year doing ‑ we did tours of workshops in different cities, so I have a longstanding connection with Victoria, been in Bastow, when it was Bastow, for several good times, so it really is good to be connected back and I expect I will be there physically sometime by February, or in that neighbourhood, in 2023.
So just a couple of things about setting the stage here. You've got the recent material we've developed. One thing is you know we work in a team. There's about, I'd say, 10 of us. We mix and match on different projects. They tend to be of two types. They overlap. One type is system change, where we're trying to transform the state, big sections of it, the Catholic school system, districts, et cetera, so multiple schools at once learning to transform together. So that's one system change.
And then within the system change we have a number of particular projects on system change with schools in subsystems around deep learning. You heard from Joanne yesterday, some of you did, the six Cs. She would have given you the explicit framework and illustration of that. One of the big pioneers with us when we started in 2014 was Victoria, is Victoria, so we have a long history of good schools in that combination. So I won't tell you more about this other than to say there's a big relationship here in our system work and our deep change work feed each other in kind of a multiple way upward.
The other thing I would say in advance is our modus operandi, especially mine because I hold to it dearly, is that I'd say 80% of my good ideas that I write about are coming from leading practitioners or combinations therein, so I really am getting the best ideas by joining in partnership, doing things together and pulling out the lessons. Sometimes we provide the language, but the concepts are always discovered, co‑discovered with systems in doing this work and this is why it's not only relevant, but it has pushing into the future because we try to work with school systems that are really doing cutting‑edge work and this has really been tremendous learning even during COVID because the increase of Zoom we were able to do quite a lot of new things and cover more territory, so to speak, in that period and develop new ideas.
So we're coming out now, coming into it. You saw that Joanne was there yesterday and we have a big conference this week also in New South Wales that is being put on by Australian Independent Schools NSW. Joanne will be there with one of our other workers, Max Drummy, and I'm doing a session with them again remotely in a couple of nights.
So this is kind of I guess partly an Australia night, but moving ahead on a number of fronts and then when we look at this, the unfolding of this, I'm going to chunk this as you see on the screen. I want to talk about Spirit Work, which is ‑ which Kendra mentioned, the book from about six months ago, and put it in relation to other things we're doing and segment 2 a concept we coined, I'm going to say, Contextual Literacy, which is a powerful meaningful strategy and then the implications for action, in which case we will hear comments from you that Kendra and others will process heading my way in doing that.
So I sent some readings along and then tried to focus it for you that I did in op‑ed recently called Six Reasons to be Optimistic About Learning. You have that. We're going to process it a little bit. I expect people ‑ I've asked people to read it in advance. It's about three, four pages at the most. So we're going to pause for 8 minutes in segment 1 to pull out what I see as the reasons to be optimistic about learning, even those that are reasons to be discouraged.
And then of the optional readings that are really I think really good ones, I know Valerie Hannon is presenting to you her new book on future schools. They've got a fantastic chart about the 10 features of pandemic shock that they call the shock that could lead to better change if we handle it right. So with Valerie's permission, I use that with people. I've given it to you so you have a reminder of the importance of looking at the pandemic shock from the purpose of how do we actually not only recover from the shock, but leverage it to do things that we should have done otherwise.
I did another op‑ed called Six Reasons for Students as Changemakers. These are again three, four‑page stuff that I sent in advance. The deep learning leads naturally to students individually and together, and I'll show you our new framework for development beyond the deep learning even that talks about students as changemakers and why that fits best with learning as well as with change itself and improving development.
And then one of my favourite cases that I have in the book called Nuance is from Northern England where a principal and a group turned around like a terrible school and this is kind of chapter and verse in real ‑ using real language of what they did. The school was called Ben Adlard. It had been for 15 years a worst case school year after year, said so by the inspection system, and that a new principal came in and was able to specifically make the change.
And the reason I like this is that it shows what the process of change was in real time to get this turnaround without ‑ as the principal said, without sacking anybody. Nobody left. There were 31 teachers in the school. That first year that the principal was there a few of them said to her ‑ they said, "Whatever you've tried in other schools, I know you've been successful elsewhere, will not work here so don't try anything." She didn't pay full attention to that but overcame it and then none of the teachers left and two years later it literally was an award‑winning school ‑ no magic in there, just focused work of the kind of knowledge I'm going to exchange with you.
So I do ‑ you do have the system of being able to ask questions and put that into the chat and, as I said, Kendra will process some of that later on in the session at least for the last 20 minutes and I really would like you to ask the best possible questions. These are the ones we learn from in these sessions as you start to absorb it, take it into account and then tell me what you think about it in terms of insights, in terms of big question marks.
So the first section of three I want to talk about spirit work, which is kind of an odd word and a new word for me and I will set it up that way. It came about about, I guess, a year and a half ago. One of my colleagues in the United States named Mark Edwards, who was a great superintendent and he was now doing other developmental work, he came to me and said even though things are a mess across most countries in education, in health, that we have some districts spread across the US that we happen to know are public districts and are doing especially well and we should take a close look at them. He said I'd written a book with him before.
So I said I would and we ended up identifying seven schools across the US from east to west coast all the way around, different sizes, 30 schools to 200 schools was the largest district, and when we went in and started to look at why were they successful and some of these concepts derived from that study, but they also are more generalisable from that and what we said initially that seemed to be working, we said there's something extraordinary ‑ of extraordinary depth that they're doing with students and teachers and that depth I think in my own work we used to call it moral purpose, a strong sense of raise the bar and close the gap for all students, so that moral purpose.
But this was more than moral purpose, this was a deep sense of humanity. So I'm going to describe this in a few slides from now, the full definition, if you like, but none of those seven superintendents and the people in those districts, the school principals, none of them used the word spirit, but as soon as we started to talk that way, label it, think about it that way, it just took off. They almost didn't like ‑ before we got the sentence out of our mouths, they were talking about "that is exactly what we're doing".
I've since developed a set of competencies with the British Columbia, which is in Canada ‑ British Columbia leaders and those competencies are based on the spirit work and other things, they were endorsed by the indigenous network community of leaders in British Columbia and they're all ‑ they called their whole set of competencies Spirit Work. So I wanted to say that the way to think about this is that educational change is no longer about improvement of just literacy and numeracy, high school graduation, it is about going deeply into the problems of humanity, into the possibilities of humanity, and please think about it in that way. These are threatening times, these are kind of potentially catastrophic times ‑ not just climate, but social mistrust and the fabric of society ‑ and this is the kind of work, although we put two other concepts with it, to show how to do this in combination.
So spirit work, the need for change, I'm going to be quick on some of these. They're just setting the frame for it. "Traditional schooling is boring" ‑ I don't even think of that as a criticism. There's a lot of studies and several of these took place before COVID. We can go back to January 2020 and find that the majority of students ‑ and I know the data from across Australia as well ‑ by the time you get to grade ‑ year, let's say, 10 or 11, you almost have 60% of students who are not finding schooling relevant who when you ask them, as Sandra Milligan did at University of Melbourne ‑ we'll talk about her later with the new metrics ‑ when you ask those students, "To what extent has school helped you in terms of life?", there's a very strong message that's saying, "Well, I don't consider it to be that fully relevant" and these are students, some of the students that are doing reasonably well. And one of the studies called the students who were successful ‑ that is, they were going to university, post secondary in the technical terms, and they said these students ‑ some of them are wounded winners. That is, they were good at learning but they weren't necessarily good at life, which is our theme for deep learning.
So traditional schooling problem this is why we're doing deep learning. COVID has accelerated the need and the opportunity and this is ‑ we have one thing to thank COVID for, which is that push we can now make in the next three years especially to make radical changes that should have been made before.
Inequity and inequality is widening ‑ this has been going on for 50 years. The data is unequivocal. The economist, some of the ones that we've been drawing on to look at how prosperity evolves, you know this that the vast majority of profits for the last 50 years in most countries that have been profitable have gone to capital, not to workers. They've been disproportionate. It meant that the gap has gone ‑ is obscene now both in terms of wealth and in terms of opportunity.
So the world is troubled. Let me say that ‑ sorry, I meant to mention this. The world is troubled in two ways. That's simplified and at least being targeted. It's troubled because of climate change. We all know that. It's extremely threatening. You can almost see it happening and see the end ‑ you can almost see the end of the world as some students will tell us.
And then the social fabric has come apart really radically. The studies of social trust perception, so social trust in most societies, they're about half the percentage of those who say "I trust groups in society". It's gone about from 65% to 35% or so, really double problem, and then deep learning we think is the right possibility.
One of our co‑workers at Harvard, Jal Mehta, he and one of his colleagues about before COVID did a study of deep learning in the US. They got a big grant from Carnegie, they went around for a whole year, they only studied secondary schools that claimed to be doing deep learning and when they finished their study they said, "Well, even though we were looking at the best of the best, what we actually found was that there wasn't much deep learning going on." In fact, they called their book ‑ and their book was quite good, actually, it's an award‑winning book ‑ they called their book In Search of Deep Learning. In other words, they did their study and they said, "We're still in search of it."
So In Search of Deep Learning was ‑ they said, "We found some glimpses of it in the odd classroom. Where we found it more prominently was after‑school programs" ‑ sports, drama and other kinds of clubs ‑ and this is their slide, this is Jal's slide, and they called it the yawning gap between how schools are organised and how youth learn and how they say they learn ‑ I won't read these five things out to you, but you get to the point. This is the same finding, by the way, that Sandra Milligan and her team referred to, not from their work but from Australian work, about the need for new metrics, that the current system is not meeting the needs of most students and even those that do reasonably well ‑ that is, they graduate ‑ don't feel that they're learning stuff that they need in life.
So this is partly why we started to look at the impact of COVID and I'm going to ask you in a moment because you have this ‑ you should have this document with you, the six reasons to be optimistic about learning in 2022, I'll just mention them because I'm going to give you seven or eight minutes in a moment to relate to the slide where you can provide some input to me. And these reasons are not in order of importance. They're combinations of reasons that are all relevant.
Escaping a bad system ‑ this is the opportunity. All of us who have complained about the need for changes in the school system in the last 10 years, well, this year I'm going to say, in the next three, four plus years, we finally have an opportunity to escape that system by formulating the alternatives that should be there. That's how I see my presentation with you.
Recognising and working with our best allies ‑ what did people discover who their best allies were? Teachers and students found they were each other's best allies. Again, we have good studies of that. This is a very important finding. They didn't ‑ and in some cases community was part of that because teachers, students and parents, community are the focal point for the success.
Wellbeing came into the fore. I think we still have not ‑ have the right combination. This is not a matter of just fixing ill being. It's a matter of wellbeing being a positively powerful force and it is possible, I guess I will say, for wellbeing to be so much of a preoccupation that learning and the deep learning fails to be attended to, so we very much link the two, you need to link the two.
New powerful forms of learning, we consider deep learning to be one of those. There's another major group from the States called SoLD, Society of Learning Development ‑ Learning and Development. They have taken the data about best learning and neuroscience of learning and put it together and they're partnering with us now. They represent another ‑ the forms of learning that are more powerful that are not widespread.
I also put a great store in new leadership. This is diverse leadership, more ethnic variety. We know from research that diverse leadership or diverse teams produce more. They can also produce more conflict if you don't know how to develop rapport and collaboration in the team, but homogenous teams do less well on the average than heterogenous teams provided they're working on the right agendas.
And then systems we think will begin to change. We see that now a little bit already in our examples in a couple of them in Australia, including the role of the principal. The principal book I've already submitted, it's coming out around February 1st, and I have about 10 school principals, one of them is from Victoria, from 10 different countries really and these are school principals who I'm going to say represent ‑ I didn't select them around these six items, but they are compatible and represent the best of these systems and they're working with schoolteachers and community in a way that produce the changes that I'm going to allude to here.
So I wanted to give you a few minutes just to catch your breath of what I've been saying and have you do this ‑ enter into the Slido chat of the six reasons that you just saw, hopefully you had a chance to read the article. It was a pre‑session reading. And if you're by yourself, you can just do this as an individual. Look at the six reasons. Which two of the six do you feel most powerful, that are the ones that you think this is something I can leverage, this is something I identify with, which two of those? Make a note entered into Slido and then when we get to the last 20 minutes when there are questions, then Kendra will draw from this list.
Okay, so you can see on this list that the ones that you've selected the most are the ones that you have more direct control over potentially, the powerful forms of learning, working with your best allies. The more system or abstract ones let's say escaping a bad system, systems will begin to change, they don't attract you if you're only selecting two as much as being able to do something about it.
So I think the question is ‑ and this is why if you were in Joanne's session you would have seen videos on some of this in action and why you'll see some from ‑ the ones from the Australia ‑ the independent schools in New South Wales, they have a number of videos that show this across 30 schools. These are things that are achievable. They require good leadership, the school principals working with teachers to combine to change the culture of this and doing this, but using these ideas. So there's promise here. And again with Sandra Milligan, her group, she has at least 38 schools that are part of the network helping to provide ideas to change the metrics question and I'll be talking with them I think it's November 19th about some of these issues.
So let's think about this as a stimulation and do take these back or take the idea of the reasons to be optimistic to your staff and have the staff pull out because I'm going to turn attention now in a moment to what I call them initial change factors which will help you think about these more systematically.
So let's go to the next slide. So I wanted to now step in to the knowledge about how change happens and this succinct diagram is powerful and I think accurate in terms of the success. So put on your change hat and ask the question in your experience, how has change happened in your schools that have been successful, what are the key factors here. And these were first surfaced in the system in the Nuance book and I've refined them since then.
So I want to take just these three and say the first and the most important one, because it's how you get started, is what I can call joint determination or we could call forging a unity of purpose is another phrase we use. It means then that if we're talking about a school, this is the principal, the teachers, the students, the community that engage in a process of change that sort out which would be essential and what is needed in order to get into the direction of change so that one of the ‑ I remember one of the leaders who was interviewed and was asked, "You've been successful, what's the most important thing for people to know about leadership for change?", and in this case he said the most important thing is to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting.
He was using the concept of meeting in a metaphorical sense. If you're right at the beginning of the meeting, you're only right in your own mind. If you're right at the end of the meeting, it's because you've processed the ideas with the group and it's the group that is right.
Another aspect of this is that when leaders come in to a new situation, they have to be able to bring about that level of change in a way that integrates their own ideas with the ideas that they're able to pull together with the group and then move forward on to that basis. So it's a very important part.
Lastly, I would say about the same factor that leaders ‑ you saw the overall label I have with this, leaders are lead learners because they have to be able to be apprentices and experts at the same time depending on the issue. So they're experts because they know some things. They're apprentices because in that situation they've got to learn from people.
I showed you the joint determination and the development of that work. The spirit work we have been emphasising as the deep essence of character. It's about humanity, it's the improvement of humanity. It is a much deeper agenda. People now are ready for a deep agenda.
One of the ‑ I don't know whether you know Margaret Wheatley, but she's one of the longstanding leaders of compassionate change over the last 50 years. She agreed to do the foreword with us for the book and she did a fantastic job, more like an article of all of this, and this is what she said about it, very much the thing we need these days that activated action that we didn't have before.
So let's go to the leadership because I wanted to talk about spirit work in action and this is leadership for and from all and I want to nail it in a succinct way. This is the master diagram. So what I've concluded from this combination of work is that spirit work, which is deep humanity, is the main I guess I'll say overall moral driver of all of this and that it links to a second concept that we have formulated, I think, developed the term for it. We call it contextual literacy and contextual literacy means that ‑ contextual literacy is when leaders have deep knowledge about the context in which they are leading. It's about knowledge of the context, it's about commitment and care. It's about really being plugged into the context.
And what's most revealing about this is that when you change a job, you become to a certain extent deskilled because you can't be skilled immediately in the new context. When the context changes for everybody, which is what happened with COVID, everybody comes to a certain extent deskilled and this is where the apprentice and the learning of this is very important.
And then the third part of this is about systemness and it's about a kind of ‑ initially an abstract concept, but you'll hear me talk about at the end of this the importance of mobilising students and teachers and the school and community to start to think of themselves as being part of a wider system, and I think Victoria has done not a bad job of this over the last five years where we've looked at it closely even before COVID where FISO, for example, the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes, provides an external framework that's user friendly for schools that can develop what we're talking about and link in to a supportive wellbeing and learning environment. It's got the characteristics of that.
The last point about this diagram is that the lead learners, this means two things, and you would miss the second thing if I don't make it explicit. The first thing about lead learner is that they model lead learning. They're learners themselves, people see it, they see that the principal in this case, or it could be a teacher leader, is somebody who is modelling learning and being willing to learn new things and being willing to be open about it.
But the other part of it is more subtle, so I want to make it explicit, that the best way of saying it is that your job as a leader, let's say a school leader after six years, is when you finish your six years and leave that what you leave behind is not only some improved learning, but you leave leaders behind who can go further than you. In other words, you've been developing other leaders while you yourself have left. That's the double advantage of this.
So this is the essence of the diagram, key leadership for change finding, I think this is the key one literally, that success occurs when leaders participate as learners where they show that in what they're able to describe and participating as a learner is evident to people or not, helping develop other leaders who are learners is evident or not, and these are ‑ when you see the eight or nine cases I have in the principal book, they are all lead learners in this from five different countries and they all show this kind of leadership and that's what's related to success. Much more specific than we've seen around.
Benjamin Adlard I mentioned earlier and I'd like you to think about it later and if you haven't read that case study, it's a good one to read with your staff, especially if you're in a disadvantaged school or a school that really has a lot of development to do. You're able to see what happened in the kind of circumstances in real time over about 24 months, rapid change.
Another insight in this domain, because I'm always looking for change insights, is start slow to go fast. The principal, Bretherton was her name, she went and said, "All I want to do is find out how the school is going. The first eight weeks I'm not going to make any changes other than talk about and learn from it, learn from you where things are" and then they started to introduce some particulars that moved fast ‑ building relationships first, obvious, before you can do the improvement development.
So let's move to contextual literacy. Let me give you a more formal definition first ‑ the competency of understanding deeply the people and culture in your own organisation and internal change. So this is what I mentioned a few moments ago. Think of the term contextual literacy, think of your commitment. When you move to a new position, move to a new school or even another position in your same school, you will have to learn some things and have the orientation of an apprentice on some of the things you learn as well as the expertise you bring to the job. So this opens up ‑ the combination of spirit leadership and contextual literacy is a powerful combination.
I mentioned that other word about unity of purpose. This is from Nuance, the development of getting that sense of collective purpose. In the case of Ben Adlard, it took them only 24 months and they started slow, but then it accelerated. In other cases ‑ it's not as long of a period as you expect, but you can't get it the first two workshops or the first two months. It has to be a process of changing the culture.
I've mentioned the jointly determined change. It's your job to flush out all the facts because you'll get measured not on whether you made a good decision, but whether there was real change.
I want to touch base on accountability. We've had this discussion with your leaders at the state level quite a few times over the last five years and the conditions for accountability, I think it's now understood more in Victoria the climate there, but you may want to discuss it differently when we get to the end of this, is that people have discovered with Richard Elmore, who actually was a frequent visitor to Victoria about 12 years ago I think, 15 years ago, that they've discovered what he said no amount of external accountability will be effective in the absence of internal accountability.
So what is internal accountability? We think internal accountability is specificity. We're now talking about it has to be ‑ you have to be talking about something in particular, it can't be just a generalised notion; the results have to be reasonably transparent; there has to be non‑judgmentalism; and there has to be trust and interaction. These four things come as a cluster and I think we are able to see the examples again, the eight or so I use in the book are all examples of people who led change that was highly specific that became successful and they never had to use the hammer of external accountability to really prove anything. It all came from the inside.
Let me give you one concept further since we've developed this recently that I think captures this and this is a change concept. You need to accomplish specificity without imposition. Just think of that phrase, specificity without imposition. So this is why we still think a degree of voluntarism is necessary for change, a degree of working with others where you get convinced through your peers you want to do more. But the beauty about specificity for imposition ‑ without imposition is you need specificity to get the results, but if you're not imposing it and those are coming, it will be owned, it will be developed, it will be more authentic, et cetera. So this is a powerful change concept we think.
Leadership from the middle ‑ I'm now having kind of second thoughts about how to portray this. The middle you could say in your case is the region, the regions, and I think that we wanted those regions to be more powerful in the equation of top, middle and bottom, but I want to now rephrase this because we've had second thoughts about it.
We're thinking as the power of change to build the base ‑ in other words local ‑ build the base in order to build the middle in order to build the top. So I know this is systemless language and it can be open to a lot of different ways of thinking about it, but you cannot get successful change from the top for two reasons. One is that it's too complex for the top to figure out and the second reason is the top changes too often ‑ every four years, or in your case it's been a little longer ‑ but you can't depend on the top to get it right and you can't depend on them to be around. So what you have to do is build up the capacity of the local school in a networked relationship with other schools and the local region which provides that support.
I think the FISO diagram is a really accurate one of you can make that culture come around. If you can have the centrepiece of FISO be the driver and that you have the schools doing what I've been describing as spirit leadership, you have the equation you need to be successful.
We've talked about connected autonomy, another new concept. We prefer connected autonomy to the term collaboration. Collaboration I still use and I like it okay, but connected autonomy is more precise. We developed this actually with Brendan Spillane, a consultant in CEWA area, that connected autonomy is about being your own person, it's about contributing to the learning of others. It's like collaboration only it's not being consumed by collaboration, you're still your own person.
And I applied this to a system diagram that I'm going to show you right now that I think looks more complicated than it is. This is really pretty logical. It's very dynamic. I think you can basically be able to see how this works. It doesn't really go 1, 2, 3, 4, I've just given numbers so that you know which is which. Start anywhere, but let's do start with 1.
The success depends on this combination, that there's a strong and good degree of intra‑school collaboration. So inter‑school collaboration is the collaborative culture. Andy Hargreaves has written really well about this. We've developed a lot of ideas, Andy and myself together have done this. So that what you want to do is increase the intra‑school collaboration. Even here the autonomy is important. I personally never think of forcing someone to do something because we have better ways actually I'll say. When you have a good idea, when you have peers that are helping each other, where you try to reduce the judgmental or fear factor, all of those are better ideas than power and so with intra‑school collaboration you still get that kind of dynamic within the school.
The second thing that ‑ and these are not in order chronologically, but that's important as part of the total equation is when schools learn from each other. So you have I think in the regions clusters of schools and you're great in those clusters because I've seen some of them and I've studied some of them ‑ that the inter‑school relationships, they help you develop your own culture. Go outside to get better inside is one of our change themes in that relationship.
And then the third one, sectoral level teamness, I'm talking here about the Department of Education, the centre of that, and what you have in the sector ‑ and this is the one that's the weakest of the four usually ‑ is that you have a number of divisions at the policy level, at the department level. Those divisions either can be silos or they can be cooperative on the same page reinforcing and giving you a coherent sense of direction, and so this is really important and I really do think that your level in Victoria compared to other states that will go unnamed for the time being is that you have developed better intersectoral teamness at the centre ‑ still not perfect because it's hard to do, it's very political, it can easily come apart depending on the personalities or the pressures, but it's a part of coherence that is essential.
And then the schools, the school to the centre now I'm talking about, the fostering of a we‑we spirit rather than a we‑they, is the sense to which you find the policies and strategies coming from the centre to be reasonably coherent, even though they'll never be fully coherent because it's complex, versus ones that are more coming without much support, without much coherence across different departments at the centre. So this is a checklist reminder of what this looks like.
I want to turn now to something I guess I'll say radically different. We have been rethinking the purpose of schooling since we started into deep learning and I think that I want to give you our conclusion here because it's a radical conclusion and I'd love to debate it or have you endorse it. If you think of schooling, historically ‑ I'm going to put it this way ‑ the purpose of schooling seems to have been dominated by the individual development of students. I mean it literally that way. The purpose of schooling seems to have been dominated by the individual development of students. I called it in the drivers paper that I did for the Centre for Strategic Education academic obsession. So the problem with that is that it's too narrow. When there is limited literacy and numeracy, it can be helpful at the beginning, but in real terms that individual development is dysfunctional usually for most individuals, but even if it's successful for some, the vast majority don't develop that.
So when we have reconsidered the purpose of schooling now becomes wellbeing and learning, it becomes purpose, it becomes belongingness, it becomes sense of identity, it becomes sense of contribution, we think ‑ and I'd be happy to have your reaction one way or the other on this ‑ that there's really three goals for public education, three goals for education: the one we've always had which is self‑development, only this time we're widening self‑development to be not just about academics but also about other factors of wellness and other of the global competencies.
Secondly, and equally important, is that this is also about community development. This means that individual students working together have in mind that improving the community and partnering with the community is a key part of success. And the third ‑ and I don't think it's unreasonable to put this on the list now ‑ societal development must be part of it. So what we've taken then in this is to say schooling may have started out as building the individual skills of students for an industrial society or whatever society, but where it is in 2022 is now public education, or I would actually include private education, but education in a democracy now is about students being aware more and more about these three elements of purpose and seeing how they work with that. And I can tell you when we work with it in the groups of schools that students take to this rather readily, this is the students as part of the change process. So I want you in that sense to rethink what you think is the purpose of schooling and sort out a little bit what about this individual development. Yes it's still there, but it's coupled with community development.
In California, where we are now working, we're working in San Diego County, which is a county on the south west. It has 42 school districts ‑ not schools, school districts ‑ a total of 500,000 students, and California has now made community development along with the other parts as an explicit part of the purpose that they're investing in. So now we have many more partnerships.
I know in Victoria you've had good partnerships in early learning and other aspects of community development, it's always been part of the equity discussion, but now this is more unequivocal for us and we think the future that these three things together from the point of view of individual and combined students are really at the heart of the real purpose of education, the rest of this century, for example.
So let's get into ‑ we'll have some questions in a moment, but I want to talk a little bit about implications for action. Academics in perspective ‑ this is ‑ there's a book I really like that just came out. JD‑A is the author's initials. It's Jeff Duncan‑Andrade, A‑N‑D‑R‑A‑D‑E, and he's been ‑ the book is called Equity Equality, or Inequity and Equality, and he says the same thing I've said about it and this is tricky because I'm saying that academic obsession or the obsession on reading, writing and high school graduation, that that extreme exception has been dysfunctional even for those that have been successful, it's certainly been dysfunctional for the majority of students, and that his ‑ one of his comments about this that I like, he said "The mechanical skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic have been taught without the explicit intent of using them to deepen our wellness."
To turn this around, when you focus on deepening wellness and you have these skills part of that, as we do in deep learning, you get faster development on reading, writing and numeracy, faster development if it's coached in the combination of the three purposes of education I mentioned.
So youth wellness is the key to a prosperous future ‑ that seems like a mundane thing to say, except that this is really ‑ wellbeing is about learning, wellbeing is about how the world fares, wellbeing is about a lot more in society and certainly goes deeply into learning and if you were ‑ many of you would have been at the session with Joanne Quinn. What we have developed in terms of the six Cs in terms of the pedagogy that fosters the six Cs become really the essential solution for the future.
And then there's one more part to stress here I think and this is about outcomes and most of you, I imagine, know the University of Melbourne's initiative under Sandra Milligan which is called new metrics. In new metrics they have selected five of the Cs ‑ you know, it doesn't matter which one is not there, for this purpose at least. They've basically selected the Cs and they've developed in cooperation with the 38 plus schools and other ways of measuring and assessing the six Cs in order to mark the development of students and they will be able to soon assess what is going to be the outcomes of secondary school.
I can still see NAPLAN as an indicator in the mix of things, but it's not the driver. The driver is the thing that you consider the most important. And I can say with a degree of confidence that if you have the six global competencies as the driver, if you have that as the driver and you have in mind of improving the basic skills, that they will go hand in hand and that this is going to ‑ that this is the way to approach this. If you just go to fill in the loss of learning, then you will get a negative reaction from students trying to catch up for the wrong reasons and not be intrinsically motivated the way they would be if you take the six Cs and the literacy and numeracy as part of the same fabric.
The last thing I want to mention, and then I'm going to turn it back to you, is that I did a paper for CSE, I mentioned, we actually ‑ I did one in 2010/2011 called The Wrong Drivers for System Change and in the wrong drivers we had negative assessments, we had technology as a wrong driver, technology is an accelerator but not a driver type of thing, and so we had that and people liked it, but they mainly liked it because they said, "You're right about the wrong drivers, but we don't have the right drivers, so what do you do?"
And then CSE asked me to do an update 10 years later which was 2021 and this is what I produced, Right Drivers: Humanity Paradigm, and you see the positive versions of those ‑ wellbeing and learning, social intelligence, equality investments, systemness ‑ all seem to be ‑ have a lot of evidence in that paper.
And then we've gone one step further so that this is where I want to end. Joanne Quinn and I are just halfway through a book that's called The Drivers and then underneath the drivers are a version of these four. We have introduced technology in a new way. We used to think about technology as not sure about it. Now we have case examples in the new book and the way I will say it from the new book, wellbeing and learning is the umbrella, but now we've taken social intelligence, which is really collaboration, and we call it "teaming with technology", so teams are the driver and technology is in the service of really the purpose of education I showed a couple of slides ago.
And then the third one, which gets us into the political arena more squarely, I mentioned about the gross inequality over the last 50 years in financial terms and we review this research in the work we've been doing. There are three or four economists, new economists, all of whom happen to be women, who I document in there who have actually traced how the inequality financially occurred over those 40 or 50 years, and so the big push now, and this has to be political as well as educational, is to look for what I'm going to call equality investments. And what is an equality investment? It's an investment that increases the capacity or relieves the dysfunction of an unequal society. So early learning is an obvious one, strategies that focus on people being able to work together in a different way, policies that don't waste time on external testing that is wrongly positioned, policies that really feed what I've been talking about as getting closer and closer to the right paradigm.
So I think the work of the Melbourne group, I think our work on deep learning, the related work quite a bit I haven't really told you or mentioned about in Australia that's compatible about this. There are a lot of I guess I'll say interest and potential on the part of various elements of society and educators in doing this and refashioning the role of public education and even though that sounds like a big amorphous statement, we think we have a pinpointed way of talking about that and we hope that you would be able to be able to look at this directly.
So let's take a look at what we can talk ‑ I'm going to now link in with Kendra. Let's spend about 20 minutes, 15 minutes, on any ‑ they can either be a question from you or they could be an observation, it doesn't have to be always in the form of a question.
So Kendra, can you start shooting some individual questions or comments to me now in the next ‑ as we go in the next 15 minutes?
KENDRA: Yes, thanks, Michael. Thank you. Great presentation and just working the way through the flow of the presentation, we started talking about, you know, the introduction to spirit work and the work of leaders and we had a comment in the chat from Vic Zbar, who made a suggestion. I don't know, Vic, if you're online whether you want to just talk it out rather than me read it out and put your ideas forward to Michael.
VIC ZBAR: Sorry, I just had to get myself off mute.
MICHAEL: Hello, mate, good to see you.
VIC: How are you, Michael? Good to see you again. A couple of observations. One was ‑ and actually I've had a thought since, Kendra. The comment I made was actually when you put up the Slido that I thought there are two additional reasons to be optimistic. One is I think that the impact of the pandemic was to generate a new‑found sympathy for, understanding of and respect for the work of teachers as people, particularly parents who were at home with kids realised just how difficult the job is, and I think the other reason for being optimistic was the capacity that so many schools exhibited to respond quickly, effectively and flexibly to the new situation.
The issue that that gave rise to in my mind was the variability that always exists within and across ‑ and between schools, which links to another thought I didn't write at the time which is the sheer importance of this contextual literacy. And in my mind what the contextual literacy links to, and this is reference, I guess, to my own work, is the sheer importance of diagnosis before prescription and that in turn I think gives rise to a third reason why you actually, going back to one of your diagrams ‑ you can't get improvement from the top. You mentioned two. I think there's a third, which is the system doesn't have the capacity to diagnose at the micro level. What it tends to do is it looks at holistic responses that then work in some schools, not in others, and I think it just brings home the sheer importance of that contextual literacy component that you talked about which I thank you for.
MICHAEL: Yes, so first of all just a bit of the reverse of your order. The third point I agree with totally and it's encompassed when I said the centre doesn't have the capacity to do change. That's why ‑ because you need the specificity, but you need to get it without imposition. Therefore it's got to be developed locally. It can be guided from the top, but it can't be caused by the top. So I agree with you on that.
The interesting one on the work of teachers, you said there's more sympathy towards that. It's true but it depends where you are. I got off a call two hours ago with a group of ‑ an organisation of teachers in the US who had the figures that teachers are leaving the profession in droves ‑ in the US I'm talking about ‑ because of the lack of support and the unreasonable almost impossible demands being made on them. And we did ‑ I did another ‑ my third and final op‑ed recently in the last two months is called Who's Abandoning Whom? It was in the case of the US has the system abandoned the teachers because they fail to provide enough support or are the teachers leaving and they shouldn't be leaving?
The answer is the first one in the case of the US and the solution to it, and it related to the best allies, your best allies, we found, are students and teachers together. That's what the pandemic has shown, as you said, that teachers really ‑ we should have valued them more than we did anyways. But in addition to that, in the cases that survive the best, it's because teachers and students gravitated towards each other to handle it. That's the distinguishing factor in the schools.
So there's a lot into this and I think it's an invitation to start to work on the changes that we're talking about as if this was ‑ which I think it is ‑ the best opportunity we've had in 50 years to make changes we should have made.
KENDRA: And just adding from my experience on that too, Vic and Michael, I think you're right, the optimism was there about the value of teachers for parents and everything, but I also think that once the immediate crisis appeared to be over for many people, that optimism and that goodwill that parents had towards schools did wane very quickly. It wasn't long lasting and sustaining, it was very short‑lived, unfortunately. I can see some nods on the screen.
MICHAEL: Yeah, it has to be reestablished.
KENDRA: Yes. And Vic, raising your point about diagnosis, having worked with you as well, absolutely agree, I really liked the piece around contextual literacy and I loved that be an apprentice and an expert in new settings. I think that's a really wise piece of advice, so thank you, Michael.
There was another comment as we worked through the presentation from Shelley Gilbert. I'm not sure, I can't see Shelley, but I don't know if you want to unmute and put your question forward.
SHELLEY GILBERT: Thanks, Kendra. It was just a bit of a mic drop moment for me in the reframing of schools as a place where we traditionally sort of think about them as you come to school to prepare you for the world as an adult, but reframing schools as a place where our children of society are able to be active contributors to the world currently and that building into the idea of teachers and students partnering and really working together.
And I really want to thank Michael for the term connected autonomy replacing collaboration in a way because I think collaboration, often it's seen as something we can all just do, but actually it's a skill set and something we forget we have to teach from the beginning. So connected autonomy sort of helps with that because it's got in there it's about learning together.
MICHAEL: Good, yes. We just have published the paper on connected autonomy. I'll send it to Kendra to distribute after this because it's a better concept because it recognises autonomy is not isolation, autonomy is autonomy. You're your own person, but you're connected in doing that.
So I think we've got some new language that's more capturing what is important here and this is a ‑ somebody who you started this, that we seem to gained a lot of sympathy during the first half of the pandemic, but once it got relentless and harder and harder to be healthy in those terms and for systems to be able to even cope with that, we started to lose ground in a way that we're not as far ahead as we thought we were in terms of the support of teachers and the only way to get that support now is to start to use these new concepts to create new breakthroughs that are far more effective than we had before and are producing more fundamental outcomes such as the competencies.
KENDRA: I liked your model, Michael, and the talk conversation around the purpose of school and that joining as wellness and learning as one purpose and moving from the individual student and their academic outcomes to that whole sense of school is about how to help students feel that they have purpose and identity and connection, et cetera.
So I just wondered what other people's thoughts were around that model. Thanks, Shelley for sharing yours. But did anyone else have any comments or questions around that concept? I've given some wait time there. It's very hard online. But do feel free to unmute if you wanted to add something in. I wanted to make ‑‑
NEIL: I'm happy to jump in. My name is Neil. I'm the Director at Monash Tech School based at Monash University. One of the things that we've done with our programming, given that tech schools have been given sort of a remit that's a bit different from regular schools ‑ we don't have students, we don't need to deal with the parents, that sort of thing ‑ is we've sort of got an open slate in terms of what type of programming we might offer our partner schools and one of the things that we were charged with was design thinking processes and obviously, for those who are familiar with design thinking, it involves a lot of these deep learning concepts Michael has put up on the screen around sort of critical creative thinking, communication creativity, citizenship, et cetera.
When it comes to the actual purpose of learning, what we've done is not just associate design thinking with STEM and the technologies that students get to use at the tech school but, more importantly, associate that with HAS, so the humanities, arts and social science, and it's been a breakthrough for us, especially around the engagement and satisfaction of girls that undertake our programs. So there is no difference in the students' satisfaction across the metrics between girls and boys because we make sure that it's not just STEM design thinking but it's STEM, HAS and design thinking executed in unison and it's the HAS that actually provides the purpose, the purpose that girls say, "We need ‑ we need to know why we're learning this thing about", you know, biomedicine, or biotechnology or cyber security and it's one of the formulations that we've come up with that increases the level of engagement and increases the purpose and increases the conversation across students that might have different thoughts around particular technologies or problems, whether they be at the patient level, at the hospital, community level, at a state level in terms of renewable energy systems.
So I just wanted to share that and say thanks to Michael for his talk today.
MICHAEL: Thank you. That's a good example what you described as ‑ I called it teaming with technology, so it's a play on words, but the teaming is new forms of learning and groups of learning that are using technology to deepen humanity basically. Those solutions are new solutions that are efficient and powerful and effective and this has redefined what we call academic learning into a much more fundamental and wide ranging sense of real learning but tied into the humanity of this.
So when this gets ‑ and I hope people will see your results and talk about how this works in practice because what this is going to do is going to give an enormous increase in the participation and learning of groups that previously did not participate that well in learning, but thrive in the new system you described.
KENDRA: Thanks, Neil, for sharing. I often had parents at the school that I worked in, very leafy outer suburbs, eastern suburbs of Melbourne, talk to me about just wanting their kids to be happy and that thinking about, Michael, the piece you put up about, you know, keeping academics in perspective and I used to say to parents happiness doesn't mean you can't be literate, numerate and learn because you can be happy now in school and not take part in the academic side of things because you're more concerned about happiness, but happiness won't come to you when you're an adult and you can't get a job because you don't have the foundational skills.
So I think for me really linking that perspective to, you know, it's important to have ‑ you know, to get your academics right to enable you to be an active contributor in society ‑ not just to pass the test and get the results and go to university, but actually to be an active member of society you do need to have ‑ you need to have that academic knowledge and ability.
MICHAEL: Yeah, I agree with that, but I'd also say there are additional ways to be happy and still learning that don't involve just basic academics, but the design thinking, for example, all of that is very, I guess I'll say, intellectual academic stuff that is not a matter of being happy. What do they get happy about? Accomplishment, doing something meaningful, making a contribution. Those are human‑related forms of happiness, not just content and I'm happy individually.
MICHAEL: Another way of putting it is that the students we're thinking about should not be happy, I want to put it that strongly, if many students are not learning. This is kind of an image that we now see when we have students working together that it shouldn't be sufficient to be happy just yourself because of your accomplishment if the persons beside you are failing, you know, in your purview.
So this sounds idealistic, but it actually is what students lead to when we start to work with them about the three purposes of individual contribution, community contribution, societal contribution, they have tremendous ideas about wanting to be more than just an individual happy learner.
KENDRA: Mmm, I agree, and I think research into generational changes and what young people and youth want now is all about that purpose and connection. They have a very, very strong sense of it.
MICHAEL: Yeah, they do.
KENDRA: Lisa I think has got her hand up.
LISA: I just know in Australia the rates of attendance after the pandemic of getting students back into the classrooms, and things like that, sort of influenced our systems because, you know. Is that the same in America that after the pandemic students showed that they, you know, enjoyed that sort of ‑ you know, the context of home and, you know, that sort of thing and it was hard to get them back to school and that forced some change in the way the systems worked over there too?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I don't think ‑ in some ways I don't consider myself as America because we have Canada, we have US, we have like six other countries that we're working with, so it's kind of a worldwide question in terms of some of the research shows that students who had the freedom not to go to school during COVID or took the freedom, that there was a subset of them that were the ones you're implying which never really got much out of schooling so it was ‑ there wasn't much to draw them when they had a choice to stay away. That's true enough.
But there's another subgroup which is really interesting equally that actually found that being unencumbered by schooling, by boring schooling, they did a lot more than they were able to do outside school than they previously did in school. They were frustrated by regular schooling, didn't realise it until they had the opportunity to do some of this.
So that research is very telling and I think it's understandable that those students who were most bored in schooling ‑ bored I'm talking about, not just alienated ‑ were ones that found other avenues of learning which should have been in schools but weren't and therefore schools need to change in order to have that kind of learning that will attract them to be that, and maybe the design school is an example of that in action, I don't know.
But this is not ‑ these things are not ‑ there's not a single explanation and I think the disaffection of schooling would come from the two groups I mentioned, those that weren't very plugged in any ways and those that could have been plugged in but they didn't find it satisfying and they found learning unencumbered by traditional schooling to be better learning than they had in schooling itself. That's the group that we need to cultivate.
KENDRA: Thanks, Lisa. Thanks, Michael, for responding. Any final comments or questions for Michael? Well, it's been a fabulous morning. Thank you, Michael. There's lots of thank yous coming up on the chat. I think there's a couple of questions apparently. I'm just trying to work my way through them. Just one. Flinton said, "This is some good introduction to great new concepts for leadership. Is there a recommended book to delve deeper?"
MICHAEL: Recommended book. Well, I'm always recommending my own. I think the new book on the principal, Principal 2.0, which will be out, it had ‑ the eight principles come from four or five different countries and they're all variations on the same theme ‑ spirit work, contextual literacy, systemness, all of which is in documented action and getting these new results. So that's where you'll find the most immediate formulations from my work.
KENDRA: Thanks, Michael. And just a comment from Pascal, "We're moving from a growth mindset to a community and global mindset. It's a big job, but I'm keen", so a great message. Thanks, Pascal. And Shelley is joining that messaging as well.
Linda says, "Thank you. It's been great and given me lots to think about in terms of my leadership journey and the future of education in schools and learning". "A very thought provoking and interesting session." So lots of great comments, Michael.
I, as I never doubted that I would, have thoroughly enjoyed listening to you again this morning and it just reminded me of some terrific things for myself as a school leader as well and in my role here at the academy and helping other principals and school leaders in their development. I like that challenge around diverse leadership. I wonder sometimes how we can create the environment to enable more diverse leadership and I see in our programs and our schools that when we bring a lot of our school leaders together, we do lack a bit of diversity and how do we encourage that. I think that's a big challenge for our system going forward as well.
"Good at learning, good at life" I think is a wonderful way to think about everything that we've talked about here today and what school means and what it needs to mean for our students now and into the future. So thank you, Michael. I'm just going to share a couple of last slides with the group. Hopefully my sharing will work. Has that come up?
KENDRA: Yes. So just to everyone who came today, congratulations for taking time. We do understand here at the academy just how hard it is to leave school at the moment or to have an hour and a half in your office or two hours on your own and devote it to your own professional learning, but I think it is really important to not just get bogged down and, as Michael said, to be optimistic and, you know, our role as school leaders is to create that optimism and for us to be lead learners and to show that it is important at all times to have a growth mindset and to be able to learn and perfect our craft and improve our practice and care for our students by doing that and show our spirit and share it with the whole school community.
You will get a follow‑up email shortly with some resources that are related to this webinar and also a survey and we would really appreciate you filling that in because it really does inform the work that we do.
We don't have any more Thought Leadership Series for this year, I think this was the final one, but we do have some very exciting speakers coming joining us next year. I know we've got Yong Zhao, Professor Yong Zhao, we've got Peter DeWitt, we've got Valerie Hannon, I think Joanne Quinn is joining us again, so lots of great ones to look at for next year. These short webinars are a great way to deepen your learning and your understanding and your thinking.
Also continuing your learning journey, there's always lots of things on offer. We are coming towards the end of term 4, so not many new things. We've got Leading through Conflict coming up in November if you're interested in something along those lines. But do keep learning. As I said, important to always keep your learning journey moving forward as well.
So thank you, everybody. It's been a terrific morning and I wish you every success for the rest of the school year. Thank you, Michael, for joining us.
MICHAEL: Thanks, Kendra. Thanks, everybody.View full transcript here.