Michael Fullan has focused his work on educational change. His model focused on "the human participants taking part in the change process" (Ellsworth, 2001). Ellsworth (2001) commented that Fullan and Stiegelbauer's (1991) The New Meaning of Educational Change presents guidelines for resisting, coping, or leading change efforts from perspective ranging from the student to the national government. Different from Rogers, whose work focused more on the characteristics of the innovation and the adopters, Fullan (1982, 1991) focuses on the roles and strategies of various types of change agents.

Ellsworth (2001) pointed out that the issues that Fullan's model helps the change agent to deal with include:

According to Rogers (1996), a change agent is an individual who influences clients' innovation-decisions in a direction desirable by a change agency. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation seems to have a clear cut between the change agent and its client system. On the contrary, Fullan views every stakeholder in the educational change as a change agent. Fullan and Stiegerlbauer (1991) have given a promise for the change agent that "there is enormous potential for true, meaningful change simply in building coalition with other change agents, both within one's own group and across all group." (Ellsworth, 2001)

Fullan (1982, 1991) proposed that there are four broad phases in the change process: initiation, implementation, continuation, and outcome.

Image from Sarah Fitzpatrick's site

The factors that affecting the initiation phases include:

  1. Existence and quality of innovations
  2. Access to innovations
  3. Advocacy from central administration
  4. Teacher advocacy
  5. External change agents

Fullan and Stigelbauer (1991) identified three areas of the major factors affecting implementation: characteristics of change, local characteristics and external factors (government and other agencies). They identified different stakeholders in local, and federal and governmental levels. They also identified characterizations of change to each stakeholder and the issues that each stakeholder should consider before committing a change effort or rejecting it.

Characteristics of Change Local Factors External Factors

Characteristics of Change Local Factors External Factors
  • Need of change
  • Clarity about goals and needs
  • Complexity: the extent of change required to those responsible for implementation
  • Quality and practicality of the program
  • The school district
  • Board of community
  • Principal
  • Teacher
  • Government and other agencies


Continuation is a decision about institutionalization of an innovation based on the reaction to the change, which may be negative or positive. Continuation depends on whether or not:

  1. The change gets embedded/built into the structure (through policy/budget/timetable)
  2. The change has generated a critical mass of administrators or teachers who are skilled and committed to
  3. The change has established procedures for continuing assistance

Attention to the following perspectives on the change process may support the achievement of a positive or successful change outcome:

  1. Active initiation & participation: change does not end in recognizing or initial context with the innovation, but starts with the contact and evolves along with the continuous interaction with it and the environmental changes that it brings forth
  2. Pressure, support and negotiation
  3. Changes in skills, thinking, and committed actions
  4. Overriding problem of ownership

What can we learn from the complexity of change process?
Fullan (1993) provide eight basic lessons about thinking about change:

  1. You can't mandate what matters: complexity of change in skills, thinking and committed actions in educational enterprise. Fullan commented that "effective change agents neither embrace nor ignore mandates. They use them as catalysts to reexamine what they are doing." (p.24)
  2. Change is a journey not a blueprint: changes entails uncertainty with positive and negative forces of change.
  3. Problems are our friends: problems are the route to deeper change and deeper satisfaction; conflict is essential to any successful change effort.
  4. Vision and strategic planning come later: vision comes later because the process of merging personal and shared visions take time. This different from Rogers'conception of innovation, as an idea, practice or object, that drives the change process. Rogers' model is similar to what Fullan's critics on Beckhard and Pritchard's (1992) vision-driven, which emphasizing the creating and setting of the vision, communicating the vision, building commitment to the vision, and organizing people and what they do so that they are aligned to the vision. People learn about the innovation through their interactions with the innovation and others in the context of innovation. Deep ownership comes through the learning that arise form full engagement in solving problems.
  5. Individualism and collectivism must have equal power: Stacy's concept of "dynamic system" helps clarify Fullan's ideas of innovation collaboration:

    "The dynamic systems perspective leads to a view of culture as emergent. What a group comes to share in the way of culture and philosophy emerges from individual personal beliefs through a learning process that builds up over years." (Stacy, 1992, p. 145)

  6. Neither centralization nor decentralization works: the center and local units need each other. Successful changes require a dynamic two-way relationship of pressure, support and continuous negotiation.

  7. Connection with the wider environment is critical for success: change should recognize a broader context, to which change asserts its constant action.

  8. Every person is a change agent: " It is only by individuals taking action to alter their own environments that there is any change for deep change."

Fullan (1993) provided suggestions of elements that successful change requires:

Fullan (1999) pointed out the importance of the recognition that the educational change process is complex. To deal with such complexity is not to control the change, but to guide it. Fullan provides eight new lessons about guiding change.

  1. Moral purpose is complex and problematic
  2. Theories of education and theories of change need each other
  3. Conflict and diversity are our friends
  4. Understanding the meaning of operating on the edge of chaos
  5. Emotional intelligence is anxiety provoking and anxiety containing
  6. Collaborative cultures are anxiety provoking and anxiety containing
  7. Attack incoherence connectedness and knowledge creation are critical
  8. There is no single solution. Craft your own theories and actions by being a critical consumer.

Ellsworth, J. B. (2000). Surviving changes: A survey of Educational change models. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse.

Fullan, M. (1982). The meaning of educational change. New York: Teachaers College Press.

Fullan, M. G. (1993). The complexity of the change process. In Change forces: Probing the depth of educational reform, pp. 19-41. Falme Press.

Fullan, M. G. (1999). Change Forces: The sequel. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press.

Fullan, M., & Stiegelbauer, S. (1991). The new meaning of educational change. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press.

Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation

Fullan's Educational Change

Ely's Conditions of Changes