Smart Review | The Power of Unstoppable Momentum

In Michael Fullan’s latest book, he and co-author Mark Edwards uncover and present “key drivers to revolutionize your district.” With relevant connections to previous texts that highlight Fullan’s work over the last couple of decades in combination with Mark Edwards’ leadership insights as the previous Superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) in North Carolina, it is another well written title from the Solution Tree library that intentionally delivers powerful content with real-life, impact-focused application.

Having been a Fullan fan for years, I was eager to dive into the book and discover his most recent epiphanies around education reform (or, as commonly referred to and identified within the subtitle, continuing the journey towards an educational “revolution”).

As a visual learner, I start each review of any product by quickly skimming for graphics, illustrations and charts, while also reflecting on the title. While pictures were minimal, there is definite motivation in the title phrase words, “Unstoppable Momentum,” which provided an abundant amount of mental images to get things started (think locomotion or wrecking ball — but of reform). I found this to be a very fluid text, and was able to quickly travel through the chapters, supported by a connected frame that included quick hits in the form of numbered and bulleted lists that were followed by deeper learning around the “how” of each action driven chapter topic.

The chapter outline is as follows:

  • Chapter One: Learning Is Not About the Technology
  • Chapter Two: Deep Learning
  • Chapter Three: Professional Capital of Teachers: Social Capital
  • Chapter Four: Professional Capital of Teachers: Human Capital
  • Chapter Five: Professional Capital of Teachers: Decisional Capital
  • Chapter Six: Lessons From MGSD (Mooresville Graded School District)
  • Chapter Seven: Emerging Models
  • Conclusion

Chapter one sets the stage around a relevant dive and explanation of a need for clarity in definition of technology as a tool to enhance learning, through “new thinking and actions that must underpin the use of technology in order to achieve the goal of improving learning for all students.” The entire first chapter sets a stage for the importance of intentionality with technology in relation to personalized learning.

The book is targeted at educational leaders of all levels, including classroom teachers, that want to clearly define the social, human and decisional capital that fuels districts. The authors do an excellent job of separating these three distinct types of capital, while illustrating the relationship that each has with the others, with data-supported exploration of the newest of the trifecta, “decisional capital.” They share a definition of this term, which is “the gained wisdom and experience of weighing pros and cons, seeing patterns, making judgements, and so on,” that sparks connected content within the text around the power of building the capacity to lead reform at all levels of district and school-level organizational structures.

I read and reread chapter six, and was inspired by the “eight core lessons” that Edwards applied while Superintendent of the “lowly funded, 50% poverty school district” MSDG. They unwrap these 8 lessons and follow them with examples of leading district level reform. My favorite, “confront distractors” (which was number seven), shared narrative around involving all stakeholders and staying the course, which seamlessly aligned with other shared lessons. It was neatly wrapped with emphasis on the importance of owning the journey: “It is critical that your own school district’s journey adhere to these lessons, which requires short- and long-term attention.”

Fullan and Edwards have delivered a text for educators that desire an expanded understanding of district reform and have aspirations, large or small, to be a part of change movements within their school sites or districts. It was a reader-friendly 92 pages, although, like me, you may find yourself wanting to reread chapters for deeper learning, and it will be added to my “gift list” for my circle of educational leaders who are either currently part of the revolution or ready to sign up.

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Adam Kulaas

Adam is a learning design consultant. He focuses on capacity building and is known for his work in coaching, learning design and leadership development.

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