Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 569–608 | Cite as

Transformational Teaching: Theoretical Underpinnings, Basic Principles, and Core Methods

  • George M. SlavichEmail author
  • Philip G. Zimbardo
Review Article


Approaches to classroom instruction have evolved considerably over the past 50 years. This progress has been spurred by the development of several learning principles and methods of instruction, including active learning, student-centered learning, collaborative learning, experiential learning, and problem-based learning. In the present paper, we suggest that these seemingly different strategies share important underlying characteristics and can be viewed as complimentary components of a broader approach to classroom instruction called transformational teaching. Transformational teaching involves creating dynamic relationships between teachers, students, and a shared body of knowledge to promote student learning and personal growth. From this perspective, instructors are intellectual coaches who create teams of students who collaborate with each other and with their teacher to master bodies of information. Teachers assume the traditional role of facilitating students’ acquisition of key course concepts, but do so while enhancing students’ personal development and attitudes toward learning. They accomplish these goals by establishing a shared vision for a course, providing modeling and mastery experiences, challenging and encouraging students, personalizing attention and feedback, creating experiential lessons that transcend the boundaries of the classroom, and promoting ample opportunities for preflection and reflection. We propose that these methods are synergistically related and, when used together, maximize students’ potential for intellectual and personal growth.


Constructivism Self-efficacy Expectations Modeling Mastery Collaborative learning Experiential lessons Leadership Shared vision Personal growth 



Preparation of this review was supported by a Society in Science: Branco Weiss Fellowship and by a Society for the Teaching of Psychology Instructional Resource Award to George M. Slavich. We thank Keely Muscatell and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on a previous version of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral SciencesUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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