The Teacher is the Change Agent

Change. In the context of education, it can be a loaded word. Everyone wants it; not everyone knows how to best implement it. But Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and International leader on educational change knows, and has the results to prove it.

As the Special Advisor to the Premier of Ontario Canada and the Minister of
Education, Fullan has been studying change, writing about it and putting it into practice in classrooms for years. What’s more, he has tracked and measured his methods for change. And they work. Over the last eight years, with a system of 5,000 schools that were stagnant, the literacy and numeracy rates have risen. Perhaps more important, the graduation rate has risen from 68% to 81% in 900 schools.

“We’re trying to promote the development of leadership practice, not theory,” says Fullan. “Everything we do we want to link to student results. It’s a whole system teform. In Ontario, all 72 districts were involved in our changes. We work at different paces, but the system is moving forward and measured together.”

According to Fullan, this kind of change means teachers must flip their traditional role on its head. “The main role of the leader is to inspire others to work together to get results,” notes Fullan. And with technology so well developed and ever-present in the life of students, these role changes are a being forced, to a degree.

“The teacher is change agent. The student is the knowledge worker,” says Fullan.
“The developmental role now is helping students to become self-learners. With the teacher not playing a passive role, but a very active change-agent role.”

A big shift in thinking for all, and food for thought for new teachers, admits Fullan. Does he have advice to a teacher just starting out?

“They need to think of their profession as a collaboration profession,” says Fullan. “The history of teaching has been isolated behind the classroom door. But it’s not just about being good in my own classroom, but being a part of a team. Teachers should know that they are entering a profession with a big mandate and moral responsibility – and the way to fulfill that mandate is by working together with other teachers and leaders.”

About Michael Fullan
Michael Fullan is Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
Recognized as a worldwide authority on educational reform, Michael is engaged in advising policymakers and local leaders around the world in helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning. His books have been published in many languages.

Person who inspires me most: Robert Kennedy in the past; Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Favorite childhood memory: Getting up at 5 am to play hockey with my friends before school
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Dublin, Ireland
Favorite book: The Civil War of 1812 by Alan Taylor

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