Focus and Verbs: Attending the 2018 Transformative Learning Conference

Written by Beth Allan, PhD, Coordinator of Secondary Science Education, Biology Department –


Learning. Student. Transformative. Teachers. Discussion.  

These are the most common words from the 2018 Transformative Learning Conference Program. That student, learning, and transformative are the most common words is both encouraging and accurate for what it was like being at the conference. There were presentations and plenaries and workshops across the disciplines and about any subject. Conference attendees were from Oklahoma, Texas, California, and beyond. It was a well-attended and well-organized conference. So what sets the Transformative Learning Conference (TLC) apart from other conferences?  For me, it was the focus on action.

At the heart of all the conversations, presentations, and even water cooler (ok- mostly coffee and cookie table for me) comments, was a focus on student learning and success. The TLC was two days of focus on students and how we, as educators, can continually evaluate what we are doing to ensure an educational environment that gives our students the opportunity to be transformed in the way that is appropriate for them.  Because the conference is not geared toward a particular content area or pedagogical methodology, the participants are there because they are focused on student learning and the desire to interact with other educators who are actively involved in processes to support student success.

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Action Verbs

I had the privilege of working with Dr. John Wood (Department of History, University of Central Oklahoma) on a roundtable discussion, “How Can We Transform Generation Z?” As most presentations go, it came out of a conversation about our students and a book we had decided to read (Seemiller & Grace, 2016).  The topic was on identifying just exactly who is in our classrooms and how they are similar or different from other generations.  We weren’t sure whether or not there would be many or a few in the room, and what kind of interactions we might expect, and if others had the same questions and challenges we were seeing. We were amazed at the interest and in the thoughtful, inquisitive, informed, and often humorous contributions by the attendees. It was the best kind of session to be responsible for – one where you get a conversation started and then learn a lot from those who are in attendance. I didn’t learn that the other educators were frustrated, or resentful, or resistant to the changes in this generation. I learned they had thoughtful observations and actions. I heard ideas about what, how, and when things worked for them. Some were funny, some poignant, all were actionable (ok- maybe one or two were just funny).

It wasn’t just in that session.  I was struck while scrolling through the titles of the other sessions that they almost all start with an action verb. That was my other experience with the conference. In the plenary, groups were working together; roundtable discussions were actually discussions; and the topics were how we, as educators, can act. Action verbs. And participants were talking about those actions together.  It’s pretty cool to be an educator when I get to learn about actions that focus on transforming my educational practices to help my students succeed.

I can only say that I’m glad that those were the words the TLC focused on. If the conference hadn’t focused on action, those cookies might have not been worth the calories.


Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. John Wiley & Sons.

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