The Fourth Way

The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future of Educational Change by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley was published last year and is worth reading, especially for students, emerging leaders and those looking for a survey of the politics of education in the last 4 decades or so.

The subtitle, ‘The Inspiring Fututure for Educational Change’ is what led me to buy the book. I am not sure that one feels ‘inspired’ by the end, in the way Sir Ken Robinson ‘inspires’ with his books and talks but nevertheless, I am happy enough to have read the tome.

The ‘ways’ mentioned in the title loosely fit with epochs in our recent educational history, although it is more focused on North America and the UK, there is pertinence, of course, to Australian educators. The authors posit that the:

  • First Way (post WWII) was a time of state support and professional freedom, of innovation but also inconsistency
  • Second Way (1980s-90s) saw market competition and educational standardisation leading to a loss of professional autonomy
  • Third Way (2000s) as an attempt to balance professional autonomy and accountability
  • Fourth Way (our future) is hopefully one where sustainable leadership, innovation and high quality teaching and learning have a renaissance. They suggest that not just our learning institutions but our entire community have to become, not merely ‘accountable’, but ‘responsible’ too.

How is this to be achieved?

The authors list ‘Six pillars’ of purpose and partnership that characterise the Fourth Way:
1. An inspiring and inclusive vision;
2. Strong public engagement;
3. Achievement through investment;
4. Corporate educational responsibility;
5. Students as partners in change; and
6. Mindful learning and teaching.

There is some really interesting analysis of the Finnish educational success and how their system works, as well as other examples of local and national innovation that seem to incorporate the spirit of the six points above. 

I felt that another reviewer, with the sage observation that, “…the fourth way presents nothing novel for educational policy but attempts to recreate the ideals which have stood at the core of education throughout history” is a particularly valid analysis of the book’s message.

Anyone else read it?

I originally discovered this book via Greg Whitby’s blog


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