4 essential ingredients to (finally) change the system and bring the school closer to the students

École branchée offers you a double look at a conference by education expert Michael Fullan: that of our journalist Martine Rioux and that of Laurence Beaunoyer Pinsonneault, school principal at the Marie-Victorin School Services Center.

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By Martine Rioux

École branchée offers you a double look at a conference by education expert Michael Fullan: that of our journalist Martine Rioux and that of Laurence Beaunoyer Pinsonneault, school principal at the Marie-Victorin School Services Center.

Michael Fullan was back at a conference for school administrators in Quebec on October 18. True to himself, he repeated his call for innovation in the school environment, to change the way things are done, to bring the school closer to the students.

Mr. Fullan's conference was presented at the opening of the Quebec Week of School Directors (11th edition), and presented by the Association québécoise du personnel de direction d'école (AQPDE). It was a continuation of the conference that he offered last May. Some 250 participants had gathered virtually for the occasion.

The education expert is categorical: “In the 2010s, we wasted our time. We had begun to see that the school system had to be changed to better meet the needs of the students and we did nothing. Now it's high time to change strategy and try something new ”. 

According to him, to achieve this, we will need four essential ingredients: 

  • new evaluation methods (both in the ways of doing things and in the indicators of success), 
  • new objectives (which have meaning for the pupil, which rethink their contribution),
  • new cultures (continuous learning, collaboration), 
  • new teaching methods (mobilization, concrete applications).

These four human-related ingredients can be combined with the possibilities offered by artificial intelligence for the school environment (better analyze data on students' ways of learning, their academic results, etc.).

Collaboration at the heart of change

In order for these ingredients to work, it is necessary to come together, to interact with each other, to listen. Even more, “we will not be able to change things if we do not collaborate together. And, to collaborate well, it must necessarily be embedded in the organizational culture, ”argues the researcher. In short, we must also learn to collaborate effectively.

He reiterated the importance of opening up horizons to include as many points of view as possible. So everyone creates their own system and can make changes.

Find your own recipe

No one knows exactly what to do right now. The world is more destabilized than ever and no one is at their best. “We all need to get into learning mode. We all face stress. We all need a healthy dose of empathy. The importance of well-being has never been so prominent, ”he says.

At the same time, it is an extraordinary opportunity for school leaders to assert themselves and make a difference for the future. There is no single recipe, there is no ideal recipe either. The answers will come from each community.  

“Public authorities are not the ones who are going to lead the change. It is the local leaders who must do it. The future is ours and we must change things for the good of our young people, ”he says.

All over the world we hear the same message: “We will never do things like we used to again. Now is the time to innovate. Let's Take Action !, was the heart of Mr. Fullan's message.

Now let's see what Laurence Beaunoyer Pinsonneault, director of a school at the Marie-Victorin School Services Center, retains.


What if the school already had all the answers? 

By Laurence Beaunoyer Pinsonneault, school principal at the Marie-Victorin School Service Center

“The education system needs courageous, empathetic and creative leaders for the next decade”: here is one of the strong elements that I take away from the conference of Mr. Michael Fullan. Offered by the Association québécoise du personnel de direction des écoles (AQPDE) to its members and partners as part of the Quebec Week of School Managers, this conference came at the right time to revive hopes for a better future in education. . 

Indeed, the pandemic situation represents a very important moment for the awakening of leaders ready to listen to the culture of their school and motivated to rekindle the passion for a current pedagogy. Despite the efforts to integrate technology, the improvement in funding, the implementation of assessments aimed at locating student learning, the school is more often than we wish ill-suited to the interests of the latter. 

For 75 minutes, the world-renowned researcher was able to keep the attention of more than 250 departments wishing to update and position themselves in terms of the key elements to be a good leader, according to Mr. Fullan. 

Here is a summary of the conference.

Decisions about the system should not come only from our governments, but inversely proportional to the hierarchy of the system, Fullan believes. The whole world seems to be in a revival and one caveat is in order: do not repeat certain mistakes. The time has therefore come to mobilize, to open up to innovations by focusing on well-being, social intelligence, the reduction of inequalities and creativity.

Several departments and managers may ask the question: yes, but how? Here is what Mr. Fullan suggests:

  • Provide students with the opportunity to do work that has a purpose and meaning for them;
  • Foster the development of solid bonds with adults and peers (relationship / belonging);
  • Appreciate students from the point of view of acquired knowledge;
  • Valuing their personal identity;
  • Fulfill their need to contribute to the world.

In short, the overall strategy is to promote positive catalysts by reducing negative waves. 

For a sustainable development of future citizens

The past year has shown that mental health is an important part of our school system. There are more and more cases of students living with performance anxiety, depression or psychosocial problems. The obsession with academic results is felt in parents and young people valuing the quantified result instead of the progression. 

Mr. Fullan recalled the values of equity and social intelligence as a means of countering these stressors. In the past, the system may have had learning objectives not based on the realities of the environment or an inability to connect the students to their raison d'être so that today, the situation is such, argues- he. 

Emotional insecurity made our system resist and made traditional teaching endure, which made learning sometimes boring or uninviting for students. 

Fortunately, new advances in deep learning provide new ways to restore the desire to learn in students and thus avoid continuing to widen social inequalities. 

Nuance (2020), Mr. Fullan's latest publication, attempts to answer the question: why do some leaders succeed and others fail? Bringing forward youth and their culture to support the development of student-centered change makers is the best bet, according to Fullan. This was also the objective of his previous conference at AQPDE.

Implement the change

My favorite this morning is undoubtedly the encouragement to mobilize and get involved so as not to miss the opportune moment to create a system aimed at the sustainable development of future citizens. 

I am of the opinion that decisions must be made close to the environment, in a local way and taking into account the diversity of the students. A major challenge, of course, we can fortunately have access to reliable and coherent research results allowing us to be experts in the position of learners on a daily basis. 

I liked it when Mr. Fullan recalled that the future will remain unpredictable, non-linear and that the best way to prepare for it is to be prepared for multiple changes. It warns us to watch out for the many stressors that don't allow us to be our best. Differences of opinion are welcome in order to reflect on the issues in our community and to be able to offer empathy to everyone.

In conclusion, I remember once again the importance of rolling up our sleeves and working consistently for the next decade to come. We cannot recreate some mistakes made in the past. There are great opportunities for managers to have more leadership when situations are disorganized, as is the case now. 

It should be noted that teamwork was offered to AQPDE members following the conference to discuss each other's impressions, question each other and reflect on each other. It is always fun to discuss the content of a presentation with others. The whole appreciated the words of Mr. Fullan, some concepts are known, others less. Either way, awakenings were created that morning. The desire to question oneself, to identify the right tools and to apply the right management methods is discussed.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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