FullanBook Author: Michael Fullan (2014)

When posed with the question, "What type of school would you most like to teach in?" most teachers will cite two criteria at the top of their lists: the quality of their colleagues and the quality of their leadership. Although colleagues are crucial in establishing a working environment that a teacher wants to enter every day, it is the qualities and practices of the leadership that shape the progress and success of any given building. Principals are often called the second most crucial in-school influencer of student learning because they determine what practices to implement in order to maximize student achievement. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact, by Michael Fullan, explains how the role of the principal needs to be repositioned to maximize the learning of all teachers and, ultimately, all students (pg. 6).

Fullan begins by showing how principals are being led down a narrow path of instructional leadership, requiring them to micromanage teacher practices and analyze every detail of instruction, which forces them to take actions that are ineffective or counterproductive, especially in the face of constant change. By highlighting the decisions principals face and the external pressures that need to be navigated, Fullan outlines how to focus less on accountability and high-stakes measures and instead concentrate on capacity building, pedagogy, and establishing collaborative effort. To do this, a principal must embrace three key roles: 1) Leading Learning, 2) Being a District and System Player, and 3) Becoming a Change Agent.

principal fullan img

This visual, by Fullan, illustrates the Three Keys of Fullan's work as described in The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact.

The First Key: Leading Learning focuses the principal's attention on recognizing the different forums in which professional learning can take place and setting up environments that will produce the greatest benefits. Fullan suggests that a principal's attention should be on facilitating teams to work together toward a common goal, developing human capital, and most importantly, participating as a learner alongside the teachers.

The Second Key: Being a District and System Player suggests that there is great potential for schools to grow when they pair up with other schools to compare practices, collaborate with other teachers, and share strategies that are getting results.

The Third Key: Becoming a Change Agent requires principals to develop seven professional capacities for making change happen, which Fullan describes in detail. One of these professional capacities is "challenging the status quo," which involves such things as "questioning common practices, taking risks, exploring innovations, and avoiding letting the rules slow down the action" (pg. 129).

The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact offers principals and district administrators a full view of current education policy, as well as the practices that are failing to provide the desired results in student achievement. In addition, this book presents a practical template for how the principal can best impact learning in their school, offering "action items" to help leaders implement Fullan's program effectively, along with proactive discussion questions that enhance the book's usefulness in professional development. Each of the strategies taps into current educational leadership research, and provides school leaders a practical guide to implement change and maximize impact.


Fullan, M. (2014). The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact. John Wiley & Sons, Inc : San Fransisco, CA.

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