Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Fullan, M. G. (1996). Turning systemic thinking on its head. Phi Delta Kappan, 77, 420-423.

Reform efforts have been fragmented, disjointed, and incoherent as each new innovation or reform is added to the previous one. Many educators believe that the answer to this problem lies with the concept of systemic reform. The author asserts that there are problems with systemic reform as a solution, problems which stem from the nonlinearity of the change process. Even when flexibility is built into systemic reform, teachers may still face overload and fragmentation. Fullan states that it is easier to identify effective system changes in the top half of the systemÑdevelopment of goals, curriculum and instructional frameworks, and aligned assessmentsÑthan in the bottom half of the system. Strategies used to date may have involved only about five percent of those who need to be involved. The question is, what can the top and bottom do in combination that will maximize the impact of reform on learning outcomes? Several strategies seem likely to bring about changes at the bottom so that system change can occur on the large scale. These strategies are networking (linking schools through support networks organized around powerful visions or themes for improvement), reculturing (building new values, beliefs, and norms), and restructuring (changing roles, structures, and other mechanisms to enable new cultures to thrive). These strategies can "mobilize the conceptions, skills, and motivation in the minds and hearts of scores of educators." In the final section of the paper, Fullan sets forth implications for evaluating systemic reform.

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