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Pop Quiz

with Michael Fullan

By Laura Bickle

Profile photo of Michael Fullan.

Fight boredom and you’ll improve education — that’ s the sentiment at the core of Michael Fullan’s ( efforts to reform our school system. As the former dean of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education, the Ontario Premier’s special policy adviser in education and professor emeritus at OISE/UT, he’s well positioned to make this statement. The renown researcher discusses how encouraging collaboration, embracing technology and re-envisioning the teacher-student relationship can make the educational experience a more exciting and productive one.

Why reform the system?

To close the gap between high and low student performance everywhere. The old model is boring teachers and students, and thanks to technology, learning isn’t a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. job anymore. Schools need to be reconstituted, but that doesn’t mean we bypass the existing system — teachers remain essential.

You use the term “stratosphere” in your book. What does it mean?

The stratosphere is a vision that sees improvements in education by focusing on the new pedagogy and harnessing technology to accelerate the process. This approach is coupled with effective methods of change, such as regular staff meetings in which teachers share their challenges and successes to encourage professional development. The term plays on the Cloud, the image that the wider atmosphere is part of the information flow.

What is the new pedagogy?

It’s a partnership between teachers and students that produces deeper learning outcomes. Teachers switch from being the font of knowledge at the front of classroom to a collaborative partner, which allows for more one-on-one time. It also frees teachers to work with groups of students and students to work with each other.

Define deep learning.

Deep learning is understanding and applying what is being taught, not just memorizing it. It’s made up of what we call the “six Cs”: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, character education and citizenship.

What does this look like?

Flipped classrooms and project-based learning are examples of this more meaningful learning. You’ll also see a greater spirit of collaboration between teachers and students.

What is the principal’s role?

The top-down approach doesn’t work anymore. Principals work with the teachers to change the school culture.

Discuss your New Pedagogies for Deep Learning program.

It’s a three-year program that involves 10 clusters of 100 schools from 10 countries, including Canada. The schools implement the six Cs, along with the stratosphere. (For more info, visit

What’s technology’s role?

People fear change and the unknown. We can manage this anxiety by reframing technology as a learning opportunity. How can it expedite what we’re trying to achieve? Since students have embraced the use of devices, let’s make it part of the solution.