The Teaching For Transformative Experiences in Science Instructional Model


For students to have transformative experiences, they need to be willing to do (actively engage) and undergo (surrender to the experience). Consequently, students need a safe and supportive classroom environment. Specifically, the environment needs to support a sense of belonging, autonomy, and competence. It also needs to be a mastery-oriented environment; that is, one in which the focus is on individual learning and improvement, mistakes are OK, social comparison and public evaluation is minimized, and assessment is in the background.


Artists create compelling works by carefully selecting those elements that are most likely to evoke a desired response and crafting them together in compelling ways. Likewise, teachers can “artistically craft” the curriculum by selecting content worth teaching and crafting such content by framing the content as ideas.

Selecting Content Worth Teaching

Not all content is created equal and some content has greater potential to transform students’ experiencing of the world. Teachers can focus on the big ideas; that is, the core ideas most central to a particular topic or domain. In addition, they can focus on content with greater affordances; that is potentialities for application in students’ immediate, everyday experiences

Framing the Content as Ideas.

Dewey contrasted concepts, which are established meanings, with ideas, which are possibilities; possible ways of acting on and experiencing the world. For learning to be transformative, concepts in the curriculum need to be revitalized as ideas. Doing so requires generating idea-based anticipation and emphasizing the experiential value of the content. Specific strategies include:

  • Using compelling metaphors
  • Artistically crafting topic introductions
  • Referencing the sublime

As social creatures, our actions and interests are heavily influenced by the example and encouragement of those around us. Teachers can influence their students’ engagement by expressing a passion for the content, sharing their own transformative experiences, and validating students when they express an interest in the content or share transformative experiences.


Just as scaffolding can be used to develop understanding and inquiry skills, so it can be used to develop transformative experiences. Example scaffolding techniques include:

  • MEV conversations. Conversations in which students discuss examples of Motivated uses, Expansion of perception, and experiential Value related to the content.
  • Value induction. Students write to future students or significant others about the experiential value of the content.
  • Boundary-crossing technologies. Technologies that bridge school science and everyday experience are employed.

Re-seeing refers to seeing objects, events, or issues in the world in a new light by perceiving them through the lens of ideas being learned in science class. Re-seeing can be supported by identifying re-seeing opportunities, providing real-world updates, and implementing experientially anchored instruction.

Identifying Re-Seeing Opportunities

Teachers can helping students identify opportunities for using science ideas as lenses for viewing the world. Students are often unaware of such opportunities.

Real-World Updates

Students are unlikely to apply learning on their own unless doing so becomes a habit. Real-world updates are a way a creating this habit. The strategy involves regularly checking in on real-world phenomena that can be re-seen through the lens of science ideas.

Experientially Anchored Instruction

For learning to be transformative, the content needs to be deeply connected with students’ everyday experience. Experientially anchored instruction accomplishes this by using students’ own experiences as curricular material to be researched and re-seen. Thus, students learn by studying their own experiences. The strategy involves the following steps:

  • Have students identify and share personal experiences related to the unit content.
  • Develop case studies out of the experiences shared.
  • Use these case studies as curricular materials by having students analyze and re-see them in terms of appropriate science content.
  • Encourage the students to seek out more personal experiences with the content.

Learning can be more transformative when students are put in the role of science explorers. That is, when they are given opportunities to actually do science instead of just learning about science.

back to Transformative Experience Theory