Transformational teachers

Here, at Questfield, we talk a lot about teaching that transforms – that is, teaching that changes people, altering fundamentally the way learners understand themselves and others, the way they engage in and contribute to their larger world.

Successful teaching involves much more than the transmission of content and skills. Our ultimate goal is to create independent, self-directed, self-motivated learners who are capable of critiquing and directing their own work; who are open to alternative viewpoints; and who have strongly developed higher order thinking skills.

  1. Transformational Teachers Create Constructivist Experiences

Constructivist teachers focus on enriching students’ perspective on the content by facilitating rich experiences. Instructors tend to use one of two instructional orientations:

  • Transmission: Where the teacher’s role is to prepare and transmit information to learners and the learners’ role is to receive, store, and act upon this information.
  • Transformational: Where students’ active engagement in developing knowledge and skills, critical thinking, higher-order skills, and communication are facilitated by the instructor.
  1. Transformational Instructors Teach like Scientists, Artists, and Essayists

Transformational teachers know that artful teaching without science lacks efficacy, and scientific teaching without aesthetics lacks vision. Says child psychologist Dr. David Elkind, “The art comes from the teacher’s personality, experience, and talents. The science comes from knowledge of child development and the structure of the curriculum.” The art and science of teaching work in harmony. At Questfield, we believe that the best teachers are artists who know the science of teaching.

In contrast to teachers who fill a 45-minute class with activities (and ignore targeted objectives), a transformational teacher treats those 45 minutes like a carefully crafted persuasive essay — with a clear purpose and unique sense of style, a memorable beginning and end, a logical sequence, important content, nimble transitions, and contagious passion. Together, these characteristics persuade students to believe that learning the content and skills really matters.

  1. Transformational Teachers Model Symphonic Thinking

To be effective in advancing human potential, teachers need to manifest what Daniel Pink calls “symphonic thinking” — critically appraising and synthesizing new ideas. Someone with symphony thinking skills is able to understand the logical connections between ideas; identify, construct, and evaluate arguments; detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning; combine different ideas to form a new concept; identify the relevance and importance of ideas; reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values.

  1. Transformational Teachers Facilitate Productive Struggle

It’s hard not to rescue kids when they beg for help. But an instructor’s altruistic instinct can get in the way of learning. Telling students the answer is not the answer, but letting them engage in productive struggle is the necessary approach to instruction.

Allowing productive struggle to occur, using artistic and scientific instruction, modeling symphonic thinking, and encouraging students to lean into constructivist problem solving can lead to the holy grail of transformational teaching: epiphany.