Our Framework

If our goal is to re-imagine education to not only prepare students to contribute to building a healthy, sustainable, and just world, but provide them with opportunities to build that world today, then we need a framework for education to help us get there.

Without a way to organize all the parts involved, trying to achieve this goal can start to feel like this:


Without a way to prioritize the steps, we might try to do everything at once – a surefire recipe to meltdown.

Our Five-Stage Framework provides a roadmap and helps to hold it all together in this complex and fast-paced world of re-inventing education. It’s sort of like a filing cabinet for your brain that helps you connect all the parts to the big picture. While there’s definitely other ways you could create a framework, this one has helped us. It’s specific without being prescriptive and comprehensive without being overwhelming.


The framework focuses on principles that are at the core of transforming education. These principles organize many of the fads, trends, and strategies of education (preventing that overwhelmed feeling). They also help us decide if what we are doing is really pushing us in the right direction – we can ask ourselves whether a given strategy, initiative, or plan aligns with a principle. If not, we can throw it out without feeling guilty that we aren’t trying out everything possible to help our students.

Having a framework also allows us to focus on one area at a time. The stages build on each other. Before you can really get into concepts in your class, you should have worked out active processing. Of course, that doesn’t mean to improve your practice you have to march through the stages in order, but it’s organized to help you prioritize.

Each stage is an important part of developing students who will save the world.  Here’s a quick summary of each stage:

1) Learning & Leadership (for adults)

This stage is the FOUNDATION of school transformation. Too many reform efforts skip this part. In today’s fast paced world, learning is most certainly never over. Plus, with an education system modeled in the image of the Industrial Era, everything, and we mean every routine, habit and way of thinking about formal schooling needs to be questioned to see if it serves students for the 21st Century.

To transform education, adults need to be committed to continuous learning, be willing to take risks, reflect on their practice, and question assumptions.  

To transform education, leaders should strive to be generative, cage-busting systems-thinkers.

To see all of our posts in this stage click here.

2) Joyful, Efficient Learning & Active Processing

This stage is sort of like the basics of good teaching. It applies the best available research on instruction and can be immediately applied in schools in the current paradigm (because it doesn’t have curriculum implications).

Learning happens best in an environment that is joyful, efficient and has students actively processing their learning. 

To see all of our posts in this stage click here and here.

 3) Concepts & Metacognition

Once the basics of good instruction are down it’s time to turn toward curriculum, the “what” of teaching and learning. Concepts and thinking need to be the goals with facts and simple skills serving as the vehicle for learning that transfers to new situations.  

Learning happens best when students uncover the relationships between big ideas and transfer their understanding to novel situations.

Learning happens best when students become of aware of their thinking and systematically refine it and increase its sophistication.

To see all of our posts on this stage click here and here.

4) Disciplinary Thinking 

Now we are entering very advanced stages of 21st Century schooling. This stage emphasizes the importance of students learning in a way that is true to disciplinary practices. Jerome Bruner in 1950 asked a provoking question: “What else should students be doing in Physics class besides behaving like physicists? Too often we teach the “what” of the disciplines without engaging students in the “how” of discovery. Every discipline has a unique way of viewing the world and going about the practice of the discovery and refinement of their discipline. 

To see all of our posts in this stage click here.

5) Innovative Problem Solvers or Students as World Changers

In this stage school we bring all of the stages together to completely reorganize school around real-world problems which students tackle as a way to learn disciplinary ways of thinking, conceptual understanding and improved general or critical thinking skills, as well as 21st Century skills such as collaboration, problem-solving and communication. This is the holy grail but notice it takes a lot of work to get from where we are today to this place. 

To see all of our posts in this stage click here.

Notice how we are not throwing out the traditional subjects but we are radically restructuring how they are traditionally taught. To give us feedback, ask questions and receive training or consultation on our framework please contact us at edtosavetheworld@gmail.com