Fullan, et al.'s approach is to employ "greater specificity without suffering the downside of prescription," (9) meaning that curriculum design must teach people how to do something within the proper context and that all details must be included without the complicating and ineffective method of saying that all children must be taught the same subjects in the same manner ("prescription"). The attending result, then, would be that curriculum would be designed with an inherent awareness of all learning modalities, with the flexibility to be taught to all students in any number of different manners, with ultimate flexibility - in short, massive textbooks would give way to a more interactive multi-branched approach that the teachers would actively control during the classroom much like a boat captain pilots a tricky inner-harbor channel. To allow this, curriculum design would be a collaborative process not only within the schools and districts but between the teacher and the subject and the students. In essence, curriculum designers would be providing lists of resources, questions, outlines, contextual links, activities, etc., and the teacher would take all of these elements and construct them in their own unique style and manner that they have determined best fits the needs of their students.
How, then, do we accomplish the task of teaching teachers how to do this? We start at the university level. The authors begin with the idea that all teaching begins with a moral core. "We see the need to combine moral purpose with feasible powerful strategies that give schools confidence that they can accomplish educational goals never before achieved. Our basic beliefs are founded on the moral purpose of education, not just for students, but for teachers as well." (12) From here, the authors list four "nonnegotiable beliefs." One, that all students can achieve high standards given significant time and support. Two, that all teachers can teach to high standards, given the right conditions and assistance. Three, that high expectations and early intervention are essential. Four, that teachers need to learn all the time, and they need to be able to articulate both what they do and why they do it (12). From these standards, the author's take the necessity to reform teacher education to a new level.
What was once the world of seminars and one-off courses, of required additional units with no real follow up on implementation - basically a teaching system that rewards attendance over application - is necessarily changed in this idealized future. The changes needed require that university and teacher training structures teach less adherence and more flexibility of purpose. The result will be that teachers succeed within the model because they are taught to work together with other teachers and administrators and less as individuals - while at the same time maintaining their individuality in approach to management of the classroom, integration of the curriculum into the learning environment and massing support for their work within the students.
At the district level, "very small districts must form learning relationships with other districts. Larger ones must subdivide into clusters...[and they must form] the moral mission of all schools, all classrooms, in relation to personalization, precision and professional learning," (97). What this means is that district officials must be less territorial and more inclusive - particularly of themselves as small districts make up the majority of all school districts throughout the country. Rather than taking an insular approach - all schools can teach each other how to perform - everyone has something to learn from everyone else. Therefore, the authors push the audience to involve themselves with the outside world.
Of course, the challenges to this model actually are so massive that they are seemingly insurmountable. First, to change the teacher education system, all districts would have to start demanding the same thing from universities all a the same time so that they would have to respond to their students' need to get a job, or, universities would train teachers to work in specific schools and school districts - neither of which is very likely. Second, teachers would have to be given a greater level of freedom within the schools and school districts and administrators (particularly school boards) are often loathe to relinquish control of the company to employees. Third, parents expect a particular kind of learning - one that they can understand and access in order to support it. Massive changes are often met with significant resentment and push-back by parent groups. Finally, there are the teachers - one assumes that all teachers enter the profession for the same reasons, all have a high-moral compass, all are absolutely dedicated, involved, and excited to be there. We also expect that teachers all be like that one teacher we had in our lives that made such a massive difference to our futures (one out of potentially hundreds of teachers). That expectation flies in the face of reality - people become teachers for a variety of reasons and bring a variety of levels of dedication, energy, and resources into the classroom. Not all teachers are good. Not all teachers are dedicated. Not all teachers know what they are doing. Not all districts can afford to be so picky as to hire only those with the absolute pinnacle of education, personality, moral compass, and dedication. They simply hire people to fill a room and play the role. Ultimately what really needs to change is that districts have to essentially double what they pay teachers and make their lives so wonderful within the workplace that the job actually attracts the pinnacle of our citizenry. But that is unlikely to happen as well.
In short, the book is a great idea, a great structure, and a potential revolution in the making, but all the ideals mean relatively nothing in the face of the complex opposition to change. What has to happen is a top-down shakeout of every aspect of the educational structure - and that begins with Presidents, Governors, and Secretaries of Education, not with parents and teachers.
Fullan, M., Hill, P. & Crevola, C. (2006). Breakthrough. Thousand Oaks,…