Is transferring an educational innovation actually a process of transformation?

Lara Varpio*, Robert Bell, Gary Hollingworth, Alireza Jalali, Paul Haidet, Ruth Levine, Glenn Regehr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Recent debates question the extent to which adopting an educational innovation requires compromise between the innovation's original design and the adoption site's context. Through compromises, the innovation's fundamental principles may be transferred, transformed, or abandoned. This paper analyzes such compromises during the piloting of Team-Based Learning (TBL). We ask: When is the process of transferring an innovation actually a process of transformation? This study is an autoethnography of our research team's implementation process. Autoethnographies are personalized accounts where authors draw on their own experiences to extend understanding of a particular topic. To conduct this autoethnography, we used an in-depth, interactive interview with the piloting clinician educator. In the analysis of TBL's fundamental principles, some aspects of the principles transferred easily, while others were transformed. Analysis raised concerns that the transformations threatened the foundational principles of TBL. While an educational innovation's techniques may seem to be surface structures, they are realizations of deeper fundamental principles. The fundamental principles are themselves realizations of the innovation's foundational philosophy. When techniques and/or principles are modified to a context, it is important to analyze if the modifications continue to uphold the innovation's philosophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-367
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Educational innovation
  • Qualitative research
  • Team-based learning (TBL)


Dive into the research topics of 'Is transferring an educational innovation actually a process of transformation?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this