George Durance 2019
It seems to me that transformational education is not easily defined because the construct brings together two words which are in themselves complex and difficult to define, especially in a short sentence. How can we know that the reader or listener is bringing together the relevant underlying suppositions we have in mind to create a meaning like ours?
Education is about change, growth, and development. What happens when we qualify this with a word that implies a radical change in form? Must transformational change be dramatic and cataclysmic? Can it be in fits and starts or even incremental? Does it mean a complete change in form or is something less all-encompassing also in view? These and many other questions are on our mind and leave us shy of anything that has the appearance of being a definitive and final one-sentence definition.
I am disinclined to be an apologist to a secular world for a Biblical position, preferring instead to set as my audience the church which accepts the Biblical position but has misunderstood either the meaning or the significance of the concept.
Here are just a few background points to my Christian perspective which the reader should have in mind when they look at the sentence definition.
- Transformation for a Christian is ultimately a metamorphosis—a complete change in the very form or nature of something. This means that it is not radical change, revolutionary change, profound change, or a change in world view—although all of these define in a significant way the outcome of the metamorphosis described in Scripture.
- It is first and foremost in the heart, although the Bible certainly also speaks of the mind, the will and behavior. Time and again we are told that God is most concerned about a change in the interior parts of our being and that from this will come behavioral correlates that align with what He has mandated for our good in this time-space reality and in the reality to come, which is permanent.
- We accept that transformation is deeply personal and involves a personal choice, a personal commitment; it is not inherited nor is it communal in the sense of groupthink (“being an Israelite”).
- The personal decision or decisions resulting in a metamorphosis come out of or are in some connection to thought and reasoning, perhaps especially in the context of reflection and meditation. In the Bible, these ways of breakthrough knowing are not held over against revelation and intuition but rather are seen as part of a symmetrical, harmonious, synergistic way of coming to know things. This is surely a point of departure from modern theorists.
- In the end, it is not just privately experienced transformation, even though it is personal. Rather, the Christian world view, which I am taking here without argumentation, always encompasses others: my transformation or lack of it impacts the community of people and the world context in which I find myself. So, while transformation in this context is about personal change and personal interaction with the fundamental aspects of who we are and were created to be, it is never just about self-development, self-actualization, and a self-discovery of my potential.
- I think we also say that in the background of our thinking is the idea that transformation is not necessarily positive and that the only final assurance we have that it will be positive is the presence and action of God’s Spirit in the transformation.
- Because God’s Spirit is active in the process – we could say that He is literally and figuratively “the life” in the process.
- Transformation can come in the simplest experiences or the most dramatic. Of course, a wholesale throwing off of one’s worldview in preference for another is typically and logically dramatic but the still small voice of Elijah’s experience is “pretty dramatic.” God’s Spirit knows my unique pathway to transformation, so formulae are suspect—His Presence and role aren’t. And the pathway often seems to involve steps with an occasional dramatic leap thrown in…
- God knew us before the world was created and He knit us together in our innermost being with the utmost care so that we would experience maximum joy, happiness, and blessing. There actually is “a good life” (Philosophy 101) and one can say pragmatically that “it” works best in this passing age and in the permanent age to come. Transformational education puts us in a position to increasingly experience this “good life.”
There is much more to say, but if we write a simple sentence, we have to keep in mind that the reader needs to share the underlying concepts for the sentence to be meaningful. There is no room in the sentence itself to explain or defend.
Transformational Christian education is an education that creates learning environments where a student is encouraged through every aspect of the environment to embrace wholeheartedly and in every dimension of life God’s amazing design for him or her as well as His empowerment for a full, rewarding, and impactful life now and in the life to come.
The following statement was written by George Durance around 2014 and incorporated into TeachBeyond’s Foundational Documents.
Transformation is a Biblical construct that is fundamental to the Christian metanarrative. Consequently, we acknowledge it as the goal and raison d’etre of our educational efforts. As it occurs and those who are transformed are added to the church, God’s Kingdom on earth is extended.
Whatever the nature of our educational service, whether it be in a formal classroom, lecture hall or auditorium, or in an informal setting such as a retreat center, campground, or living room, transformation is the intent and it includes all participants in the teaching-learning setting. All are on a radical journey of change, which the Scriptures variously describe as the appearance of a new creation, a new life, a new heart, and a new mind and it occurs when an individual personally embraces Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The whole life conversion which results is nothing less than the putting off of former human ways, means, and measures in favor of a putting on of our Creator’s image and nature in a lifelong process the Scriptures refer to as sanctification.1
Theologians have variously described the process of multifaceted transformation, which God works in and through us. In essence, it is simply holistic change, which begins with the individual and ends with an impact on the social, political, economic, spiritual, cultural, and physical environments in which the person lives. Consequently, transformational as a modifier of education, speaks to our conviction that whatever the educational service we provide, it is always intended to be a Spirit-infused activity that leaves us not only wiser and better, not only more knowledgeable and more functional but genuinely and completely transformed.
George Durance wrote the following paragraph in 2017 which was adopted for definitional purposes by TeachBeyond and subsequently revised by him (2019) as a definition of interest to the CATE Centre:
We seek to advance the cause of a transformational education which helps the student become increasingly all that Jesus Christ created the person to be and do. This transformation begins in the heart-mind before it extends to behavior, but it never stops in the heart-mind; rather it cascades from the interior to the exterior and from the individual to communities and beyond.
Ultimately only God’s Spirit can empower a student to undergo a full metamorphosis and typically He uses excellent educational environments to do this, including especially environments fostered by teachers who themselves are experiencing holistic transformation. The Spirit’s work in transformation always points to the centrality of the Creator in creation, so our efforts to advance the cause of transformational education are focused on those that reveal Jesus Christ as Lord over the universe He created.
George Durance wrote the following definitional text for the CATE Centre’s website on September 9, 2019
Who we are and what we believe
The Centre for the Advancement of Transformational Education (The CATE Centre) is an unregistered society with regional chapters in various countries. It accepts as an orienting premise that the goal of the created order is to bring glory to God. We believe that educational theory and practice which builds on this will reveal the lordship of Jesus Christ in all of creation, including in our personal lives. It will also result in teaching and learning that aligns with God’s cosmic plan for His creation as set out in the Bible. To the degree that this occurs, the education which the CATE Centre supports will facilitate a transformation which is not only fulfilling and productive, healing and liberating, but also eternally meaningful and God-blessed.
Members of the CATE Centre, therefore, celebrate all transformative moments in the learning process which bring the learner closer to God’s intended design. Whole person transformation is ultimately and essentially through the empowering work of God’s Spirit active in the heart, mind, and will of the individual. Naturally and supernaturally, those experiencing transformation become agents of transformation in the families, communities, churches and societies where they live and work.
Many educational theories recognize the critical role transformation plays in an effective learning process including those which are in many respects at odds with the philosophic framework of the CATE Centre. Scholars, practitioners, and the general public who participate in the CATE Centre seek to learn from these theories and to welcome and embrace truth wherever it is found and however, it is expressed. In doing so, the CATE Centre focuses on what it endorses rather than on what it doesn’t.
What we do
The CATE Centre’s interests are not confined to one educational domain; rather, they cross over from the formal to the informal and from early childhood to the senior adult. To advance the cause of transformation in diverse, multifaceted educational settings the CATE Centre engages directly and indirectly in such activities as research, sponsorship, resourcing, conferences, forums, networking, and mentoring. Through these activities the CATE Centre seeks:
- To clarify what transformational education has been, is, and should be in local-global contexts
- To convince an uninformed, ambivalent Christian community that the need for transformational education is critical
- To research themes and issues that arise in the provision of transformational education
- To use God-honouring means to encourage and support those engaged in providing transformational education
1 Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23