Updated: Feb 28, 2020


In this post, I would like to introduce a new method of teaching which I have developed and used with high levels of success over the past two to three years. I call this method "The Multiple Transformational Handshakes Method" (MTHM). In origin, MTHM is a reaction to or a correction of traditional and outdated teaching and learning practices. What I mean by this is that teachers conventionally teach around a text, and ask lots of questions on the gist, supporting ideas, word meanings, cohesive devices, wh questions on who does what, where, when, who with, etc. They may also do matching, gap filling, sentence ordering, summaries, paraphrasing, etc. I do not wish to belittle the value of such exercises, but to me, these kinds of questions are not more discrete points the sum-total of which does not necessarily constitute the whole text. Learners' handshake with the materials remains superficial and not intense enough.

What MTHM proposes is to create an opportunity for a much firmer and deeper handshake with the text leading eventually to learners being able to not only understand the text in question, but go many steps beyond and produce a suite of other products or interpretations of the text that constitute original, innovative responses to the text. The recreated texts have the merit that they give learners a strong sense of empowerment and ownership of the final product. That learners author and give birth to an innovative product is to me an index of deep learning and a genuine exercise in expression, self-expression, and liberation.


I will start out by surveying the ideas, theories and practices that inspired me to develop this method of teaching. These ideas do not all come from pyscholinguistics. Some emanate from the field organizational decision making, others from the domain of education, while others can be traced back to the domain of architecture. All of them, though, are concerned with making things, knowledge and thinking processes more easily and readily accessible to people in general and to learners in particular. A total of five frames are briefly presented below.

  1. Howard Gardner’s 1983 Book, Frames of Mind. This book is on multiple intelligences and has its roots in organizational productivity and cognitive science. It stresses eight intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic , interpersonal, and intrapersonal (Visser, Ashton, & Vernon, 2004). Using these eight types of intelligence, each team member can make a unique contribution and enhance productivity and decision making processes at the level of the organization.

  2. De Bono's Six Thinking hats. In business management contexts, team members are encouraged to wear different hats so they look at a problem from a wide range of angles. De Bono  introduces six styles/hats/modes of thinking, each with its own color: white (descriptive, analytical), red (emotional, instinctive); black (critical), yellow (positive), green (creative) and blue (regulatory, organizational, managerial). When a team convenes to debate and take a decision, its members are asked to wear all those hats so that all a 360-degree view is factored into it. De Bono is trying to harness on the power of the widest range of thought modes that the human brain is capable of.

  3. Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL places emphasis on differentiated instruction so all students are supported, including those with learning disabilities. In the application of UDL principles, teachers determine clear goals based on academic standards. They then design flexible and inclusive instructional strategies and assess student learning outcomes in a way that accommodates the widest gamut of learner abilities (Rao & Mayo, 2016).

  4. Bloom’s taxonomy of learning outcomes and educational objectives. This is a pyramid-like progression of six cognitive levels of learning, ordered from the easiest and most straightforward indications of learning at the basis of the pyramid to the most complex, highest-order thinking skill. Instructional activities should be designed in such a way that learners construct new knowledge based on what they already know.  The hierarchy is decriptive of the cognitive domain, and comprises the following:, knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (later changed into creativity) (Davis, 2016).

  5. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK). DOK is a streamlined version of Bloom’s taxonomy with only four instructional objectives and learning outcomes categorizing knowledge in terms of complexity, depth, and cognitive demand. This theory is premised on the fact that knowing a phenomenon is a relative concept. Knowledge is initially situated at a superficial level of remembering and identifying the object of learning. It then moves on, hierarchically, to being able to apply knowledge of skills and concepts to a familiar domain. The third level requires the transfer and application of the skills and concepts into a totally new domain. The fourth level, extended thinking, is the most advanced and sophisticated type of thinking requiring learners to engage in long-term, comprehensive projects. In such projects, learners collect information, analyze the data collected, come up with conclusions, compose a report, and present the whole project (Hess, 2013).

The theoretical and pedagogic works reviewed above have one thing in common, which is the existence of different levels of complexity in the thinking and learning process. De Bono stresses different modes of thinking. Gardner sheds light on different intelligences. UDL, though initially a concept borrowed from architecture regarding universal accessibility of buildings, draws attention to students with varying ability levels who have to be accommodated in the learning plan, the objective, and the assessment rubrics. Finally, both Bloom and Webb operate on the basis of the fact that there is a hierarchy of learning objectives with an increasing and cognitive load along which instruction must move.


What is learning under MTHM?

Answer 1

Learning occurs when the learner manages to come up with, produce, and elaborate a product of their own that resembles in some of its aspects the original object of learning. This new product contains elements which are different than those of the initial product the learner has encountered.

Answer 2

Learning is the recreation of the object or content of study in a different medium to show understanding, mastery, and integration into the learner's acquired schema.

Answer 3

Learning is processing. Processing is being able to transform one product into another. Transformation may include replicas, original reproductions, simulations, small-scale modifications, significant changes, additions, integrations of different angles, interpretations, enhancements, new thoughts occasioned by dealing the initial materials, connections, similarities, and responses.

Answer 4

These mostly new products constitute what I call handshakes with the material. These handshakes play themselves out on a continuum of creativity, from the simplest to the most complex, innovative, and ground-breaking. Handshakes are thus multiple and are as open and as diversified as the instructor and their students wish them to be. In the process of creation, the mind transcends the boundaries of the initial object of learning to create, recreate, remix, elaborate, design, imagine, and fashion a new product showing not only understanding of the initial material, but also ability to mimic it, build upon it, and come up with their own representation and demonstration of learning through building connections between the initial object of learning and that which they are developing themselves.

Answer 5

In other words, transformation is a reproduction but a lot more; the meanings of the original text will be preserved, but in the process of transformation, there will be new meanings added. The learner in charge of transforming the original content will be the author of the new content. The new author will leave a footprint on the content they recreated, with varying sizes and depths of mastery.

What is a text?

By the word 'text', we mean any text and kind of learning content. In a general sense, we should not think of text as only written text, but any of the forms texts may take: audio, video, graph, map, image, story, description, recipe, piece of news, speech, email message, argumentative text, a pie chart, diagram, cartoon story, movie, etc. A text is a physical representation of anything the curriculum says should be learned.


I am going to leave the conventional phases of the learning plan to the instructor. These may include developing writing strategies, scanning, skimming, inferring, paraphrasing, summarizing, paragraph writing, guessing meaning, developing the learner’s vocabulary bank, drilling a grammatical structure, reducing learner accent, etc.

My focus instead is on an additional/alternative ways to deal with the learning content. My goal is to make sure learners have achieved what is called deep learning of this content. However, between deep learning and the initial handshake students have with the materials are many stages.

Let’s think of learning as a continuum, or better still, as a hierarchy of acquisition stages. This would mean we have a pyramid of levels of understanding, starting at the base, then moving upwards, step-by-step, until the learner is capable of creating a product of their own that takes up the characteristics of the initial product, but then the learner's product is new, innovative, and never created before by anyone.

Consider the following text, a conversation between a mother bee and a daughter bee. We will use this text as a springboard for learners to create their own products.


  • Mother Bee, “Come here, Lucy, and listen! What is in this flower?”

  • Baby Bee, “Oh Mother! It is a bee. I wonder how it got caught inside the flower?”

  • Mother Bee:,“It went into the flower for some honey, and maybe it went to sleep. Then the flower closed it in.”

  • Baby Bee,  “The bee likes honey as we do, but it does not like to be closed in the flower.”

  • Mother Bee:,“Shall we let it out, Lucy?” Baby Bee: “Yes, then it can go to other flowers and get honey." Source:


This is the source text. The target product can take multiple forms and though it harks back to the meanings of this text, it will be different to varying degrees from the source . Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of the targeted products that can be authored by learners.

Learners can:

  1. Copy the text in handwriting, as is, without any transformation;

  2. Perform the dialog live between the mother bee and daughter, record it, then upload it to YouTube or some other social media outlet;

  3. Turn the dialog into a story using indirect speech;

  4. Draw a timeline showing the characters, the actions, the time, the place, and the denouement of the story;

  5. Translate this text into their native language(s);

  6. Turn the text into an animated movie cartoon;

  7. Wear costumes as mother and daughter and make a regular movie out of the text;

  8. Create a silent movie with the flower closing in on the bee, and the two characters making only gestures and face expressions;

  9. Imagine a different scenario with a similar story lines and different characters;

  10. Lyricize the text;

  11. Lyricize the text and sing it;

  12. Draw a picture based on the story, and add a short explanatory paragraph;

  13. Research the topic of carnivorous flowers and write an 80-word paragraph on this phenomenon;

  14. Put themselves in the place of the bee: the bee just got caught in the flower trap, and is engaging in an internal monologue, "What have I done to myself?"

  15. Imagine a conversation between Lucy and her mom on the one hand, and with the bee inside the flower on the other;

  16. Write a position paragraph about what they should or should not do when they see a strong wild animal eating a weaker animal. Will they intervene to save the prey or will they let nature take its course?

  17. Put themselves in the place of the flower and write a letter to the court of law complaining about the behavior of humans, “Your honor, I am a carnivorous plant. The other day, I was lucky enough to capture a bee for lunch. These two human beings came along, freed the bee and left me hungry…"

  18. ”Write about the process of gravity. What is the process of gravity? What happens when one planet syphons another? Write a paragraph of 100 words and draw an illustrative picture.


The purpose of this piece was to share a learning plan that has always worked for me. As someone who firmly believes learning is not coterminous with the transmission of knowledge, I like to give my students a chance to learn the material, yes, but also to go much further beyond the material, by recreating it, re-fashioning it, and giving vent to their creative and imaginative powers. The process described here is easily replicable, and so long as students and teachers think outside the box, and have their eyes set on fostering a creativity and authorship milieu, MTHM has high learning value and much potential for learners' expression, self-expression, authorship, and liberation.


  • Bono, E. D. (2017). Six Thinking Hats. London, England: Penguin UK.Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals.

  • Davis, N. L. (2016). Anatomy of a flipped classroom. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 16(3), 228-232. doi:10.1080/15313220.2015.1136802

  • Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books.

  • Gilboy, M. B., Heinerichs, S., & Pazzaglia, G. (2015). Enhancing Student Engagement Using the Flipped Classroom. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 47(1), 109-114. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2014.08.008

  • Hess, K. (2013). A Guide for using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge with Common Core State Standards. Retrieved from


  • K5Learning. Grade 1. The bee. Reading Comprehension Worksheet. Retrieved from

  • Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal esign for Learning: Theory and Practice.

  • Rao, K., & Meo, G. (2016). Using Universal Design for Learning to Design Standards-Based Lessons. SAGE Open, 6(4), 215824401668068. doi:10.1177/2158244016680688

  • Visser, B. A., Ashton, M. C., & Vernon, P. A. (2006). Beyond g: Putting multiple intelligences theory to the test. Intelligence, 34(5), 487-502. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2006.02.004


Dr. Ali Hechemi Raddaoui is owner and founder of Please contact him at

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