Making progress possible

by Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan talks about the roles of intrinsic motivation, internal accountability and ‘freedom to’ in school change. He also talks about new ways of spreading change and success.

Collaborative professionalism

Fullan believes leaders need to create a culture of collaborative professionalism to enhance student learning in their schools.

Leaders create this culture by setting up conditions where people:

  • are intrinsically motivated, individually and collectively
  • have a sense of responsibility, individually and collectively, for the work
  • have the autonomy to try things, but not in isolation – good autonomy and good teamwork together create the ‘freedom to’ change.

    “It's the teacher with a degree of autonomy interacting with other teachers, figuring out the best things to do to get results for the particular students they're working with.”spacer

Diffusion for system change

Fullan is very interested in ways to make changes across the whole system, not just in one school or one group of schools.

He questions whether the idea of scaling up from successful pilots is working. Too often new places don’t have capacity or the rollout is too slow and priorities change.

He and his collaborators are using an approach they call diffusion or intentional social movement. Diffusion involves welcoming any school to join an initiative and quickly disseminating what's being learned to all of the schools, so schools are learning from one another.

He gives examples of how this approach has worked in Ontario high schools and now globally in his team’s deep learning work.

Reflective questions

  • What part does good teamwork and critical feedback play in collaborative professional learning in your school?
  • What checks and balances do you have between an individual’s autonomy and their responsibility to interact with one another? Are they working to build and share effective teaching?


Thiers. N., Making Progress Possible: A Conversation with Michael Fullan, Educational Leadership, Online June 2017, Volume 74 Gearing Up for Change, pages 8-14. ASCD

Further information

Michael Fullan talks about a coherence framework for system change organised around four big actions: focusing direction, collaborative cultures, deepening learning and securing accountability.

The coherence framework – Youtube

Tell a colleague | Back to top