An Analytical and Descriptive Assessment of Michael Fullan's Scholarship on Educational Change
This thesis is a descriptive and analytical study of the complete works of Michael Fullan as a scholar of educational change. Fullan is one of the foremost individuals who have helped established the field of educational change and who continues to push the field forward. This dissertation investigates, articulates and interrogates the intellectual and strategic contributions of Fullan in the scholarly field of educational change. This is a critical description and examination of the historical events and trends that influenced his research and to which he was responding. It provides insight into a significant area of practice and research in educational administration by looking at the development of a field through the intellectual contributions of one of its most important authorities. The main purpose is to highlight the development and cogency of Fullan's ideas in the field of educational change through an examination and exploration of his intellectual underpinnings. This study was grounded in the qualitative research tradition, particularly rooted in a conceptual framework of hermeneutics. The task was to search for an understanding rather than explanation and for interpretation rather than prediction. Thus, in this study the researcher was the primary instrument for data collection and analysis. Data was using collected various artifacts, namely: books, journal articles, scholarly papers, technical reports, conference papers, dissertations about Fullan, web-site reports and/or papers, newspaper articles and publicity material. More specifically, Fullan's writings were primarily accessed through various venues: the internet (especially his website: http://www.michaelfullan.ca/), college libraries and professors who use his books. One person-to-person interview was conducted to clarify. Data was critically analyzed and reported thematically and chronologically in order to position Fullan's works within those historical periods and to identify the development and evolution of his theory of change. Findings indicate several periods of education reform: innovation and diffusion, school effectiveness and school improvement, restructuring and reculturing, large-scale reform and post-standardization. Fullan's assessments of each period revealed that he has been more influential in the large-scale reform period than the others. Themes unfolding highlighted the importance of stakeholders (students, teachers, principals, parents and community, district administrators, consultants) and concepts (process, objective and subjective assumptions, moral purpose, relationships, knowledge, sustainability, complexity/chaos & evolutionary theories, systems, paradoxes, coherence and theory of action. Connections to key thinkers in sociology, educational change and mentors as well as Fullan' unique approach to the change process among various other change process models, definitions and perspectives were highlighted. Development and evolution of Fullan's theory of education is underscored by the influence of early mentors in sociology as well as decades of emphasis on certain critical issues within the literature: namely, the absence of the implementation perspective (1970s), meaning-making (1980s), capacity-building (1990s), systems-leading (2000s) and a more recent post-standardization era. Critical and positive commentaries on particular Fullan's works reveal multiple and often opposing values, assumptions and purposes of education that characterize scholar's experiences and advocacy. The paper concludes with a brief personal and critical reflection on Fullan's educational change literature highlighting strengths, weaknesses and the future challenges for scholars in the field.