How do you frame transformation?

This post is the first in a series connected to the podcast Shift Your Paradigm: from school-centered to learner-centered. My colleague, Randy Ziegenfuss, and I will be sharing our learning and thinking along the way and cross-posting to the Shift Your Paradigm site.

In the first two episodes of Shift Your Paradigm, our guests (Kelly Young, Allan Cohen and Anya Smith) helped lay the foundation for future conversations by helping answer the questions: What is learner-centered? and What is learner-centered leadership?

One of my takeaways from the conversation was the importance of language and the words we use to describe our practice. In Episode 2, Allen helped clarify the idea of “transformation.” Allan piqued my curiosity and challenged my own thinking when he described transformation as a kind of change where the form of something is altered. Transformation occurs when we let go of the past and create something entirely new. It’s about breaking from what has been done, not just improving it. (Go ahead, read those last two sentences a few times and think deeply about how they resonate with your current thinking about change in education.)

You may be thinking about some of these questions: How are we transforming education? How is the paradigm shift from school-centered to learner-centered leveraged to bring about transformation in education? What is the evidence of a transformation? What are the learners (young and old) saying about the learning? The “how” of the paradigm shift and the transformation of education is what we will be focusing on starting in Episode 3.

Once we’ve shifted our mindset, there is the actual work of transformation. And it is challenging! Leadership up and down the organization is critical, and we explored this topic in Episode 2 with Anya and Allan. Formal leaders working to transform learning first have to manage the dominance of the existing school-centered paradigm. Leaders can begin to cause something new to happen by introducing the new learner-centered lens into the culture of the school or district. Initially, they may sound crazy to those speaking the language of the dominant school-centered paradigm, and may not initially be heard because it’s disruptive to the dominant paradigm. Allan offered some valuable advice: listen more than you speak. Find the best opportunities to share the new paradigm. Then ask the question, “What are your concerns? What are you curious about?” The shift – and subsequent transformation – requires time, careful conversation and listening, not speeches.

In Episode 1 Kelly offers this advice to leaders embarking on the transformation journey and the paradigm shift : (1) be a learner; (2) approach it as a mindset shift; (3) listen and find your own answers relevant to your own community; do not try to replicate what others are doing. “There is no one way to be!” What will you need to rethink in your context? What will you need to let go of? And in Episode 2, Anya reminds us that our greatest untapped resource in this work is our learners. How do we see everyone in the organization as a learner and a leader?

Ready for the work of transformation – breaking from what has been done and creating something entirely new? If you haven’t listened to Episode 1 and Episode 2, head on over to or iTunes and join us on the journey! Come back soon for Episodes 3 and 4 where we begin uncovering the “how” of transformation in specific contexts, speaking to leaders and a learner from Alamo Heights Independent School District in Alamo Heights, TX.

What is your vision for learning? What does it let go of from the past? What does it create that is entirely new?

Connect with Lynn on Twitterand on the TLTalkRadio podcast!


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