The Framework

Explore the Transformation Design Framework

What is it for?

The Transformation Design framework identifies six core practices for bringing about enduring, fundamental changes in mindsets, school designs, student learning experiences, and student success outcomes—and to do so inclusively and equitably.

The K-12 education system was designed for stability and conformity and can't keep up with our fast-changing world. It was designed for and continues to perpetuate inequity and requires us to actively redesign it for equity. It is our systems, not our people, that need to transform.

How was it developed?

The framework was built from two sources:

  • Contemporary change practices across business, social movements, public organizations, and education.

  • Change practices used in leading districts that have successfully transformed the learning experience in their schools with positive outcomes for their students.

How does it work?

Transformation Design embraces the principles of next gen learning—personal agency, resilience, curiosity, lifelong learning—and applies them to the professional culture and daily operating habits of district and school communities.

The framework reflects a dynamic process of managing and leading a district-wide learning transformation in three phases: Activate, Build, and Embed.

Each phase of Transformation Design involves a pair of core practices. The practice pairs act like two sides of the same coin. Both are essential for change to move forward and endure:

  • Personal and cultural practices

  • Learning and structural practices

The Three Phases of Transformation Design

Learn how the six core practices work together in the Activate, Build, and Embed phases.


Personal/Cultural Practice:
Activate Change Agents

Transforming learning in a school district begins—and endures—with the district’s greatest asset: the people who make up the system. Staff and school board members, students, families, and community members. When these individuals begin to see themselves as agents of change for the district community, movement begins. Existing power dynamics start to shift, and the people closest to the change become empowered to take action.

  • Invite and Empower Stakeholders

  • Map Roles by Strengths

  • Cultivate Leadership Capacity

Learning/Structural Practice:
Activate a Shared Purpose

For individuals to move forward collectively, a shared purpose must be found among the many personal, and potentially conflicting, goals in a district community. A common purpose for a learning transformation will provide both meaning and direction when it is co-constructed, emerging from the community rather than proclaimed by senior leaders. This is why each next gen learning school design is, and must be, unique.

  • Engage Every Stakeholder

  • Define the Problem

  • Collaboratively Re-Envision Student Success


Personal/Cultural Practice:
Build an Inclusive Environment

For initial change efforts to lead to anything meaningful and enduring requires an environment supportive of change. Building connections among "change agents" encourages the exchange of ideas and practices. Deep listening creates new bridges across roles. Trust emerges when districts address past conflicts and heal relationships that are broken due to existing inequities.

  • Distribute Leadership

  • Confront Existing Inequities

  • Foster Interpersonal Connections

  • Listen. Then Communicate.

Learning/Structural Practice:
Re-Build the Learning Experience

Districts build their way to a better learning experience for students by using their shared purpose as a guide while trying out new approaches to learning. They discover what works and getting better quickly before enacting more wholesale changes. A few small groups may work in parallel on similar innovations or many small groups may work on several different innovations. The key is to learn together and move the transformation forward.

  • Start with a Shared Priority

  • Establish Cycles of Improvement

  • Design and Refine the Learning Model

  • Move Forward, Learning from Setbacks


Personal/Cultural Practice:
Embed a Culture of Innovation

Celebrating the ongoing efforts to activate change agents and build trusting, inclusive relationships leads to a district-wide culture that supports the learning transformation. The consistency in trust-building and taking action becomes embedded into the ways the organization measures progress and learns how to improve. The learning transformation is strengthened by long-term commitment by the community and an ongoing investment in the people in the district.

  • Measure Progress and Celebrate People

  • Deepen Collective Responsibility

Learning/Structural Practice:
Embed an Aligned Infrastructure

Transformation is at its deepest systems-redefining level when a district takes action to replace long-embedded bureaucratic organizational structures and mindsets with those of a learning- and service-focused organization. Barriers to change give way to broad “all in” sentiment and a relentless alignment of organizational resources and operations to the shared purpose. District policies foster the ongoing learning transformation, providing flexibility to respond to evolving conditions.

  • Reallocate Organizational Resources

  • Redesign Policies and Processes

Download the framework with the actions within each core practice listed.

In districts that have successfully transformed the learning experience, we have found that the district community spirals through the practice pairs, roughly beginning with the Activate phase, growing in the Build phase, and sustaining in the Embed phase. But successful districts continuously revisit all of the core practices. This is not spinning in circles. It's reality.

Why? A district community is always learning about itself. It is always welcoming new members. And the world surrounding it is always changing. COVID-19 has massively disrupted education, but it is just one example of the many changing conditions that districts must be able to respond to.

The Research and Practice Base

Contemporary Change Practices

Transforming Learning for Equity: Navigating the Change with Transformation Design provides more information about the project, what we learned from the literature on managing and leading change, and how we developed the framework of core practices of Transformation Design. Find summaries of key change management frameworks and organizational change perspectives that were most influential on our work.

Change Practices in Leading Districts

Transformation Design is the result of a collaborative effort among partner districts, education change experts, and Next Generation Learning Challenges. The six leading districts have successfully transformed the learning experience in their schools to prepare each student—and, in particular, those who have been marginalized by racism and other forms of inequity—for success in school and beyond. Meet the Districts

Get Started with Transformation Design

Explore the resources that we pulled together to help districts use Transformation Design. Whether you are at the beginning of your learning transformation or many years along, you can use the Transformation Design resources to accelerate your progress and better serve your students, families, and community. Get Started

  • Activate photo courtesy of Two Rivers Public Charter School.
  • Build photo courtesy of Thrive Public Schools
  • Change Practices in Leading Districts photo courtesy of Henry County Schools.