While Technology Continues to Evolve, the “Concerns Based Adoption Model” Remains as Relevant Today as it was in 1987
I recently read a great article about supporting technology integration in schools by Dr. Salvatore Corda. Corda is a Board Member at The College of Westchester and an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern Connecticut State University. Corda is also a past Superintendent of the Peekskill, NY School District and Norwalk, CT schools. His article, “Implementing Technology in Schools: The Change Agent's Environment” discusses the use of Hall and Hord's Concerns Based Adoption Model as a tool set to help educators as they adopt the use of new technologies in the classroom.
It might surprise readers to learn that this article was written over 20 years ago, but it is still totally applicable to technology adoption today … the fact is, effective change management techniques are timeless. A copy of the original article is available here. In this post, we will use excerpts from the article, and from a presentation Corda developed and delivers based on this work, to introduce these highly useful constructs.
Hall and Hord's Concerns Based Adoption Model
In the article, Dr. Corda introduces this functional model as a means of guiding the change process when implementing new or changed technology in the classroom (I have laid the original text out in list format here for presentation purposes):
“The Concerns Based Adoption Model The model is based on a series of assumptions outlined by Hall and Hord concerning the (technology) change agent. These are:
1) For teachers to change, there must be appropriate and promising practices and procedures.
2) That it is imperative to understand teacher attitudes and skills so that support activities can be directly related to what teachers perceive they need.
3) That technology specialists must have a well developed understanding of what is going on in classrooms and in schools.
4) Most important, technology change agents must assist others in ways that are relevant to the concerns of the users so that the users become more effective and skilled in using new programs and procedures.”
The article goes on to explain key roles and responsibilities in the Change Based Adoption Model (the reader is encouraged to explore the full article to learn more). For the remainder of this post, we will focus on how the model relates “Stages of Concern” to “Levels of Use” and proscribes relevant Interventions.
Stages of Concern
Hall and Hord define seven “stages of concern” ranging from being uninterested in the change to moving past adoption to refinement. This image illustrates and briefly defines each stage:
By understanding the stage a given user is at, and their Level of Use of a given technology, technologists can define appropriate interventions to enable the user to move forward through the adoption cycle. Understanding where the users are can be accomplished using a variety of “probing” techniques.
Probing consists of a set of techniques that can enable those supporting technology implementations to understand where users are in the adoption cycle. Corda explains:
“Probing is a continuous process by the change agent to determine where individual staff members are in their attitude towards the change. Probing also identifies specific levels of concern about the innovation. Techniques of probing involve formal and informal meetings with users and non-users to obtain information; observing behavior; eliciting concerns through questionnaires, conducting needs assessments, etc. and then assessing where on a continuum of concerns an individual might be. Depending on the particular level of concern the individual is exhibiting, certain strategies become appropriate. For the technology coordinator, probing takes the form of talking about technology with staff to assess where they are in its use; meeting with principals and/or department chair people to develop support for and determine how technology might be used to support the instructional program, and finding pockets of opportunity for innovation with teachers who are ready to start using technology or move on to a more sophisticated use.”
Levels of Use
A final construct that helps us consider how best to help different users based on where they with their experience is “Level of Use”. The following table, from SEDL, provides language that helps to clarify each of 8 Levels of Use (which correspond roughly to the Stages of Concern):
Image Source: http://www.sedl.org/cbam/levels_of_use.html
(Click image for larger view)
Bringing it all Together to Provide a Structured Approach to Interventions to Facilitate Adoption
Lastly, we see these ideas all bought together in this table, which illustrates the relationship between the elements of the CBAM model and suggests ideas for Interventions that are appropriate to help users move from one level of adoption to the next.
Examining An Example
Let's consider an example to help round this out. Suppose you've introduced a number of web-based tools to teachers and provided access to computer labs one day a week, with the goal that they have students use these resources for Active Learning in their classrooms. A typical introduction of a concept like this might start with Workshops featuring Demonstrations and Guided Practice, to help teachers move quickly from Nonuse to the ‘Preparation' or ‘Mechanical' Level of Use.
If your initial development with teachers ended there, it would be highly advisable to follow up over the coming weeks with various Probing efforts, to gauge progress. Technology Coordinators are likely to find that, a few weeks later, some teachers will have moved forward into higher Levels of Use, but that some will probably have struggled and may even have slipped back. At this point, based on what is learned through Probing, it might be advisable to get struggling teachers together and offer a refresher featuring further Demonstration and Guided Practice. Some may need dedicated time one-on-one with a technologist to increase their comfort level.
On the other end of the spectrum, some of the more advanced users of the tools set may move all the way to the ‘Renewal' level and want to get together and think about how to evolve beyond their use of the given tools for Active Learning.
As this example illustrates, the CBAM model helps to bring some structure and guidance to technology implementation.
Technology implementations and adoption can clearly benefit from the use of change management techniques. Many of those tools and ideas have been in existence for a long time. Technology Coordinators and similar roles in educational institutions would do well to learn more about change management practices. In addition to the source article on which this post is based, here are some other good resources for further exploration:
- Change Management: The Systems and Tools for Managing Change
- Change Management: 8 Tips to Successfully Implement a New Technology
- How to Implement Basic ITIL Change Management
With the ever increasing pace of change in the technology world, it very easy to fall into the mindset that ideas and tools developed decades ago are not particularly relevant today, but as we see here, that is simply not the case. There is so much to learn from those who walked these paths before us! If anyone should recognize that, it's teachers, but I think that those of us who are focused on the technology find it all too easy to overlook it.
Corda, Sal. “Implementing Technology in Schools: The Change Agent's Environment.” SIGTC Connections Fall 1991: 3 – 8.
G. Hall, S. Hord. Change in Schools: Facilitating the Process. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.
SEDL. “Levels of Use.” n.d. SEDL – Advancing Research Improving Education. 28 August 2014. <http://www.sedl.org/cbam/levels_of_use.html>.