Critical Thinking

The 6 Essential Things You Must Have for Transforming Education

Transforming education isn’t about change for the sake of change. It's about meaningful and mindful evolution.

Telling people you’re in the business of “ed reform” can set off a wide range of responses ranging from curiosity to scepticism to outright hostility. It’s understandable, of course, that this would happen. That’s why here at Wabisabi Learning, we much prefer to talk about transformation and how it can happen as painlessly as possible for the benefit of all. 

No matter what, there will always be ideas being brought forth for how we can continue transforming education. According to the TeachThought article Want To Change Education? You’d Better Have These 6 Things by Terry Heick, ideas for the future of learning must have six things to make the grade, which we’ll summarize later on. 

Wherever minds are, there will always be new ideas. 

The points in the article speak to the fact that the whole idea of transforming education requires more than just a desire for turning it around. Ultimately, what’s needed is both innovation and a plan for moving it seamlessly into existing practices so that change can happen gradually and (somewhat) comfortably.

From Terry’s article comes an observation worth considering regarding this:

“There are few mechanisms in the system of public education that emphasize innovation and forward-thinking … think of the most popular education technology out there and what it does. It’s almost never disruptive. It makes teachers jobs easier or helps solve a common problem. Meh—do this for long enough, and you no longer see the system at all.”

In addition to this, we should remember that transforming education isn’t about change for the sake of change. It has to do mostly with evolution.

The 6 Things Needed to Transform Education

Organisms, systems, organizations, and most of all, ideas, must be given the breathing room to evolve naturally. All of these things must be allowed to adapt to changing times to survive and exist. If they don’t, they will die, and education is no different. It is transforming as we speak to accommodate diverse learners with different needs for an ever-changing world, only because we are finally allowing it to do so.

Nevertheless, wherever minds are, there will always be new ideas. As transformation continues, new problems will arise, and new needs will have to be fulfilled. If an idea for transforming education is to carry any weight, however, it can’t go far wrong meeting the six criteria below from Terry’s article


Our vision at Wabisabi is clear: we strive to help teachers develop values in their students to guide them towards a vision of creating a better world for themselves and others. We do this in many different ways, but the idea holds.

Transformation comes when you are presented with an idea that makes you forget what you’re experiencing right now, and guides you to look at the future. A vision makes you notice and wakes you up to possibility.


Think of the devices today that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago: all those inventions have led us to do things we couldn’t ever have imagined doing. Ironically, as soon as they appeared, they caused immediate discomfort and distress by disrupting the way we did things before they came along.

Transformation comes when you are presented with an idea that makes you forget what you’re experiencing right now.

Terry claims that practical ideas for transforming education “should probably be uncomfortable, messy, and annoying.” They should purposefully take us out of our comfort zone and force us to see what is possible beyond what just is.


Like real learning, you’ve got to be able to make the idea “stick.” If it has no relevance that people can latch onto, it will fade away into obscurity. What is it about your idea that will let people know you’ve arrived? It should be shareable, addictive, and give rise to other concepts and ideas that support its forward momentum.


The ideas we have for transforming education need to work on multiple levels—individual, classroom, school, district, and beyond. Next, they should translate across numerous cultures and systems so that any educational community in the world could understand and adopt them. Finally, this scalability should be able to be performed with no loss in purpose or effectiveness—meaning no matter how it’s used, the original reason for wanting transformation to happen in the first place is never lost.


In the book Literacy is Not Enough, we talk about creativity being “the currency of the 21st century.” In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink says that the wealth of nations and the well-being of individuals now depends on having artists in the room when anything is created. Creative individuals and nations are poised to prosper, and industries and organizations of every definition are now valuing form as much as function in the modern business world.

This is perhaps the most fundamental yet overlooked criterion on this list. In the end, any new idea has to be appealing—it’s got to look good in print and practice. Also, the resources that support the idea must take into consideration the principles of design and functionality. These considerations will place that concept above all others.


Any approach that is geared toward transforming education has got to be built to last. It’s got to be something that people in the industry will be studying, following, and expounding on for a long time after its inception. To survive, its got to have a shelf life of more than just a few years. After all, real transformation takes time and is at its best when it happens gradually.

That’s how it becomes more than just a quick fix—it becomes, in essence, a philosophy.

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