The Global Fourth Way, The Huffington Post

Innovation; Research
The Global Fourth Way article, The Huffington Post

Deep and lasting educational reform doesn’t happen overnight, even in the fast and flexible 21st centur​​y. Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley’s sequel to The Fourth Way draws upon inspiring examples unearthed by brand-new research that challenges educational leaders, teachers and policy makers to execute strategies that have been proven to promote student learning and achievement and the high quality teaching that drives it.  Andy Hargreaves discusses with The Huffington Post his new book with Dennis Shirley; The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence

What is the Global Fourth Way?

The "First Way" of the 1960s and 1970s created interesting innovations here and there, but it overprotected teachers' autonomy and kept them isolated from new research, outside scrutiny, and each other.

The "Second Way" that emerged in the 1980s, and that remains pervasive in the U.S. today, enforced consistency through more testing, standardization and accountability, and introduced competition through school choice. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all system of prescribed curriculum programs and teaching-to-the-test led to professional disillusionment and made it difficult to attract and retain excellent teachers.

The "Third Way" added data-driven decision-making to US teachers' toolkits, but it has skewed attention towards the performance metrics themselves and away from the people and the learning that the numbers are meant to represent. It's time to move beyond the limitations of these first three ways of change where there has been too much freedom, too much force, or too much fascination with data and spreadsheets.

The Global Fourth Way – Hargreaves Article

Our new book describes a better "Fourth Way" that draws on our first-hand international research to get us beyond those limitations. This includes pursuing an inspiring and inclusive vision for US education rather than simply racing to the top, being committing to education as a common good where schools work together for the benefit of all children, and promoting the innovation and creativity that leads to modern economic success. To become more successful innovators, we need to establish platforms for teachers to initiate their own changes and make their own judgments on the frontline, to invest more in the change capacities of local districts and communities, and to pursue prudent rather than profligate approaches to testing. The Fourth Way is about reforming rather than destroying teacher associations, and it integrates technology with high quality teaching instead of replacing teachers with iPads and online learning at every opportunity.

We need high quality teachers and high quality school principals and leadership. What can we learn from your global research about developing school principals and leadership?

Three things are critical. First, in high performing countries, principals are working with highly qualified teachers who come from the top tiers of the graduation range, who have been rigorously prepared in universities and through supervised practice in schools, and who remain in education for all of their careers. The job of principals there is to get the best out of these highly capable teachers, sharpen their collective focus, and keep moving them forward. In the U.S., teachers are less well qualified, less well prepared because they are trained in short programs that occur outside of universities, and they turn over more quickly. This means that principals have to spend excessive amounts of time plugging holes and repairing deficits in the teaching force.

Second, high performing systems know their teachers well long before they even aspire to become principals. District and Government administrators spend a lot of time in schools. They develop, select and certify their leaders over long periods of time, instead of certifying them first, selecting them later and developing them as an afterthought.

Singapore's performance management process systematically identifies and supports those teachers who have the potential to be future principals.

Finland's principals are usually selected from and promoted within their own schools where their success is proven, and where their role is to be first among equals in "a society of experts."

Canadian principals also normally move up within their own district, where, as teachers, they have been known by district staff who get out and about in the schools.

Third, principals spend more time working with their teachers and in classrooms. How can they do this? Because, as Finnish principals told us, they are not spending vast amounts of time constantly reacting to government initiatives or filling out evaluation checklists.

Teamwork and teacher collaboration at school level are important to successful outcomes. What inspiring examples of collaboration have you seen around the world?

Singapore gives 10% "white space" time to all of its teachers to come up with their own innovations outside of the official curriculum. This encourages teachers to turn to their colleagues for inspiration and ideas.

Alberta funds almost all its schools and districts to design and evaluate their own innovations. Teachers are the drivers of change, not the driven. One condition of funding is that schools must have explicit plans to share what they are learning with others.

In Ontario, teachers come together to look at charts of how well all students are progressing in every class. All achievement in every class is completely transparent. This isn't a strategy to shame poorly performing teachers or even a prompt to come up with quick fixes that will get rapid gains in test scores. Instead, teachers look at the faces behind the numbers and develop a strategy for each child. Across all grades, all teachers take collective responsibility for all students' success.

In Finland, within very broad government guidelines, teachers create their own curriculum together across schools in every community and district. They don't confine collaboration to their own individual schools and to just implementing other people's ideas.

This article was drawn from The Huffington Post ‘The Global Search for Education: What Is the Fourth Way?’, 28 January 2013,