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Reviewed by:
  • Turnaround Leadership for Higher Education
  • Mary Ann Danielson
Michael Fullan and Geoff Scott. Turnaround Leadership for Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. 192 pp. Hardcover: $38.00. ISBN-13: 978-0470472040.

Change is neither a new nor negative concept, but the rapidity of change that is impacting all areas of society (see, for example, Friedman, 2006) is particularly challenging for educators. At a time when "society needs an increasingly highly skilled workforce and citizenry" (p. 154), higher education is experiencing a "quiet crisis" (Smith, 2004). "Knowledge development and use is what universities should be good at. But it turns out they are not, except in isolated pockets" (p. xi). [End Page 180]

Drawing on more than three decades of turnaround projects, primarily in Australia, Michael Fullan and Geoff Scott attempt to answer questions such as: How can universities change or turn around? What are the leadership capabilities necessary to lead this transformation in higher education? Fullan and Scott draw upon their decades of administrative experiences and educational research to answer these questions. Fullan led two organizational transformations while serving as a dean at the University of Toronto, and Scott serves as pro-vice chancellor at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Both are widely published, have been recognized for their educational research, and continue to serve as consultants and educational researchers.

Moving through a review of 21st century challenges and failed strategies (Chapters 1–2), Fullan and Scott offer a new agenda for higher education (Chapter 3) that is founded on building quality and capacity (Chapter 4), particularly leadership capacity (Chapter 5), selection, and learning (Chapter 6). In their final chapter, "Lead, lead, lead," they take us to the bottom line and core message of the book: "It is time that leaders in higher education put their minds and hearts—their institutions—into this grander and absolutely crucial agenda. No other institution is as well placed to make such a multifaceted contribution. Think of society, think of the world. Listen, link, and lead; model, teach, and learn! This is the essence of turnaround leadership" (p. 155).

Such leadership is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. Higher education needs to reorient itself to the centrality of teaching and learning, while recognizing that "context matters" and "people matter."

In terms of context, the new agenda for higher education requires that institutions develop into learning organizations (Bok, 2007). While many institutions of higher learning are attempting to cope with and survive in today's social, economic, and governmental contexts, higher education visionaries are engaged in generative learning which requires "new ways of looking at the world … [and] seeing the systems that control events" (Senge, 1990, p. 725).

"The context of change is of key importance," observe Fullan and Scott. "This relates not only to how universities keep in step with a rapidly changing environment but, more important, how universities as knowledge organizations evolve and change within this environment. This requires new ways of thinking organizationally about knowledge and learning—how to grow it, link it, and share it" (p. x).

External scrutiny of students' learning is only escalating, as noted by the U.S. Higher Education Opportunity Act, national groups such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities and American Council on Education, and the regional accreditation bodies.

Assessment is a "critical quality assurance issue for higher education in the current context, not only because it is assessment more than anything which drives learning in our universities but also because valid and reliable assessment determines the quality of our graduates and assures our standards" (p. 62). It is within this higher education context that an increased focus on, and assessment and reporting of, teaching and learning must occur.

Such reform is achieved by putting teaching and learning at the center of the traditional triumvirate of research, teaching, and engagement—specifically, by focusing on practical reasoning (Sullivan & Rosin, 2008) and Boyer's (1990) scholarship of integration. "The integrator for us," state the authors, "is the teaching and learning that continually fosters the development and use of knowledge linked to research and practice (engagement and service)" (p. xi). They affirm Sullivan and Rosin's major premise about...


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