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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

Transformational Learning Model

Student at whiteboard in classroom

Using qualitative research the Center was able to gather data from twenty-three high performing faculty at the Graziadio School regarding the techniques they use to create meaningful learning experiences in the classroom.  Relying on focus groups and 1-on-1 interviews the Center was able to determine a set of actions that result in advancing student development and appreciation for the learning process.


The three key elements of the model are Build Trust, Generating Energy, and Facilitating the Learning Cycle.

Here are the ways in which faculty:

Build Trust

Create a safe place by:

  • Being accessible before/after class to demonstrate concern/care 
  • Offering reassurance, particularly following assessment 
  • Affirming student contributions 
  • Practicing patience
  • Letting students know it is OK to take risks

Acknowledge student aspirations

  • Asking students about their career goals 
  • Then based on response to the question, faculty describe course content in relation to those aspirations  
  • Continue to be a resource following graduation
  • Have students share previous personal and professional experiences that relate to course content

Share self

  • Faculty disclose their background
  • Bring in humor where appropriate
  • Faculty are playful—comfort with vulnerability such as self-deprecating jokes and sharing experiences of failure as well as success

Generate Energy

Engagement through presence and technology

  • Get out of the chair!—being animated stimulates student interest
  • Encourage student dialogue—facilitate student discussion by building conversations, debates and co-learning
  • Being colorful/entertaining raises classroom energy—for example, story-telling to make it “real”
  • Recorded classrooms sessions
  • Use of platforms such as Sakai to leverage technology

Emotional connection through rigor/challenge

  • Ask students, “what meaning does the course have for you?”  
  • Have students talk about their experiences in relation to course content 
  • Inspire intellectual curiosity and excitement by setting a high bar
  • Encourage interaction rather than faculty centered monologue 

Express passion through preparation

  • Bring in current articles from journals or magazines that address your topic in the “real world”
  • Faculty describe what excites them about the course/topic 
  • Use of every day analogies to explain complex theoretical content
  • Careful preparation prior to and during the trimester to highlight key learning points/frameworks
  • Ability to shift the teaching agenda when student interest/energy moves to a related topic 

Facilitate the Learning Cycle 

Orchestrating the Journey (facilitate beyond lecture)

  • The role of facilitator is to stimulate, clarify, and encourage dialogue
  • Experiential learning: E2B; client-based learning; eLearning; collaborative learning
  • Creative use of cases, exercises, and video
  • Student autonomy: team learning; case presentations; students individually or working in teams take the lead in the learning process rather than relying on faculty lecture
  • Provide opportunities for course evaluation during class rather than only at the end of the trimester—seeking feedback 

The application of the transformational learning model results in students gaining confidence engaging with others in the workplace at all levels and across department functions; having  comfort in dealing with ambiguity associated with complex decision making; being able to use their full potential; and holding a more strategic sense when achieving objectives.