Transformative Learning

Intentional Change

Reinert Center RIT_circle_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

George Slavich and Philip Zimbardo suggest that a variety of instructional methods, ranging from experiential learning to problem-based learning, “share important underlying characteristics and can be viewed as complimentary components of a broader approach to classroom instruction called transformational teaching” (Slavich & Zimbardo, 2012, p. 569). One of the theoretical underpinnings of transformational teaching they highlight is intentional change theory (Boyatzis, 2006). Emerging from the management literature on organizational behavior, intentional change theory describes an iterative cycle of discoveries that support “desirable, sustainable changes in a [student’s] behavior, thoughts, feelings, or perceptions” (Slavich & Zimbardo, 2012, p. 579). By situating intentional change theory in the context of teaching and learning, the authors identify specific techniques for instructors who wish to create transformational learning experiences for their students. They include:

  1. Helping students formulate a personal and professional vision for the future
  2. Fostering hope that students can realize their desired future
  3. Aiding students in identifying their strengths, weaknesses, and ways they can improve
  4. Establishing individualized development plans for students
  5. Engaging students in learning activities that invite them to practice news ways of thinking, doing, and being
  6. Cultivating a supportive learning environment where students promote these goals and encourage intentional change for each other

Intentional change theory offers one window into the multifaceted landscape of transformative teaching and learning. What are some of your reactions to these practices? When and how might you engage your students in some of these activities and/or interactions? Is there anything you dislike about the authors’ recommendations? What challenges or issues might they provoke for you and your students? In what ways are you already using some of these techniques in your teaching? Why? Can you think of ways to be more intentional in choosing to do so?

As we begin to unpack this year’s theme, theoretical perspectives like intentional change theory can help identify, name, and describe instructional methods you are using (or would like to use) in your teaching. What other windows into transformative teaching and learning do you see? Perhaps there is a particular theory from your discipline that can be of use here? Share your comments, ideas, and reactions in the space provided below.



Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2006). Intentional change. Journal of Organizational Excellence, 25, 49-60.

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2012). Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods. Education Psychology Review, 24, 569-608.