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Learning Places

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Table of Contents

Author to Reader Preface Acknowledgements About the Authors Section A: Shaping Schoolwide Contexts 1. Building on Strengths 2. Achieving Momentum Through Innovativeness 3. Linking Standardized Test Data to Teaching and Learning 4. Promoting Purpose and Community 5. Making Learning Support Accessible Section B: Improving Classroom Teaching 6. Sharing Ideas About Improving Classroom Teaching 7. Focusing Student Interest and Attention 8. Engaging Student Thinking 9. Supporting Student Performance 10. Affirming Student Understanding Section C: Sustaining Passion and Commitment 11. Supporting Professional Development 12. Reframing Success Index

About the Author

Consulting Description Consulting Description: Leadership Michael Fullan, Order of Canada, is professor emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. He served as special adviser in education to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty from 2003 to 2013, and now serves as one of four advisers to Premier Kathleen Wynne. Michael has been awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, University of Leicester, Nipissing University, Duquesne University, and The Hong Kong Institute of Education. He consults with governments and school systems in several countries. Fullan has won numerous awards for his more than 30 books, including the 2015 Grawemeyer prize with Andy Hargreaves for Professional Capital. His books include the best sellers Leading in a Culture of Change, The Six Secrets of Change, Change Leader, All Systems Go, Motion Leadership, and The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact. His latest books are Evaluating and Assessing Tools in the Digital Swamp (with Katelyn Donnelly), Leadership: Key Competencies (with Lyle Kirtman), and Freedom to Change. To learn more, visit his website at Now, Michael Fullan is offering his experience to you in an eStudy opportunity! Visit for more information. Photo: Social Imagery Some people dream of writing the next great novel, others dream of inventing things. Not me. I dream about good schools-happy, bustling, productive schools. I can't think of anything more beautiful. Nor can I remember a time when I wasn't thinking about better ways to unleash the power of passion and commitment I see in the eyes of good teachers. That's why the opportunity to work with Michael Fullan on this Field Guide is, for me, a dream come true. Michael sees deeply into schools. His work is about creating circumstances that enable schools (and school systems) to initiate and sustain their own development. As I reflect upon my 30 years in schools, especially the 15 years I served as principal of a troubled elementary school, and later a large secondary school, I am reminded of how the circumstances of our daily schedules always seemed to favor a resignation to our present reality. However, in spite of those circumstances, whenever we mustered the courage to set aside our distress (and our dependence on the larger system) and instead made time to talk to each other about improving our teaching, good things happened. By looking deeply at what we were doing, and then taking action on behalf of our students, we found ways to experience the rewards of working with young learners. In my first appointment as principal, parents wanted the school to be a happy place where children were engaged in relevant learning. This simple mission guided instructional decisions and gave purpose to efforts to improve the school environment. Without going through the usual bureaucratic channels, the faculty threw caution to the winds and painted a rainbow on the front of the school whose stucco walls had not been patched or painted for more than a decade. We became known as the "rainbow school," and the rainbow became the school's emblem, a symbol of our many differences joined together to create something beautiful. Long before it was popular we recognized the power of professional development. We applied for and were granted special permission to enact an alternative schedule to extend the teaching day four days a week, curtail the teaching day one day a week, and provide time for teachers to refine the daily routines of the school. During this professional development block, teachers discussed student academic profiles, aligned curriculum to standards, shared best practice teaching strategies and decided upon a future course of action. In sum, we examined every aspect of the school in light of our belief that people learn best in purposeful, validating and happy environments. We also discovered that, when it comes to learning, the paths to success are as varied as the kids. And even though most of our students were predicted to be low performers, their achievement scores showed otherwise. Although the circumstances were quite different in my second assignment as principal, similar priorities guided our actions. This large, comprehensive high school, popularized as an academic magnet, was achieving below acceptable standards. Fighting, class cutting, and student surliness were common occurrences. Once again, our shared set of priorities and our strong conviction to create the best school possible led to solutions. Parents, teachers and students agreed that a rigorous academic program in an environment of collegiality was our goal. Therefore, we were guided by three principles: (1) purposefulness, (2) collegiality, and (3) persistence. We later wrote handbooks, course outlines and standards for excellence in each discipline. We stressed visually pleasing classrooms, honored diversity of thought and rewarded curiosity, divergent thinking and questioning. We also instituted school-wide instructional support programs and created art whenever and wherever we could. We even had the audacity to connect a sound system to the public address system and played symphonic music as students changed classes. The success of these two schools and the processes we used to re-invent them are now well documented. The elementary school, part of a longitudinal study over the tenure of five principals, was recognized as a model learning community during a presentation at the American Educational Research Association. The high school was named a "National School of Excellence." The contagious momentum we created in both schools was not extraordinary; it is available to all who have the courage to work for it.


"This book is an easy read and provides a well developed idea of framing the school context for student achievement. The author provides excellent resources, worksheets, templates, walk-through and reflection ideas, and additional support materials."

-- Rosemarie Young, Past President

"It is necessary to keep our eyes on the real work of improving our schools and not be sidetracked into jumping through hoops that are in the end not meaningful. This book provides the reader with that opportunity."

-- Nic Cooper, Principal

"The book is a very easy read-good for busy practitioners. No matter where you are in the process, you can jump in and use the tools."

-- Teri White, Principal

"Learning Places will help all of us transform schools and their classrooms into cultures hospitable to human learning. I wish I had had this field guide during my own turbulent years as a school principal."

-- Roland S. Barth, Author, Lessons Learned

"This timely book is exactly what modern schools need, blending Fullan's theoretical genius about change with practical strategies that can work in any school. Readers will discover that it is practical, easy to use, and empowering for educators, with lots of room for personal choices at the school level."

-- Lyn Sharratt, Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Services

"Simply and beautifully weds theory and practice! This book should be on all administrators' desks as they go about the critical task of education for young people today. Brings forth the finest in theory and the best in practice and at the same time affirms the values that our society was built on and through which it will thrive."

-- Brother Jeffrey L. Calligan, Auxiliary Provincial and Director of Education
"Presents staff, students, administrators and parents with a road map to a 'grand vision,' and invites us to join the highest of all human enterprises-the creating of a better world, starting with our schools. Provides every school staff the opportunity and tools to create a school engendering and affirming that deepest and most pervasive human drive, the drive to learn." -- Lucianne B. Carmichael, Principal, McDonogh 15 School, New Orleans, LA
"Presents a workbook-style blend of information about assessment, the change process, differentiated instruction, and other pedagogical approaches with strategies encouraging reflection, conversation, and research among groups of educators. The book is filled with inspirational quotes, thoughtful questions, and challenging directives to further encourage reader reflection." -- PsycCRITIQUES, August 2007, Vol. 52(33)

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