The Implementors

Rogers (1971) reviewed studies of agricultural extension agents and farmers, and of doctors integrating penicillin and other medications into their practice, and found that participants in the studies differed in their readiness to accept change. Some adopted the change quickly; others took a much longer time. Rogers identified five categories of people relative to their rate of adoption of innovations: innovators, those persons eager to try new ideas, were open to change and willing to take risks, and were frequently perceived as a bit naive or crazy; leaders, open to change, were more thoughtful about getting involved, and were sought for their advice and opinions; the early majority, the people who were cautious and deliberate about deciding to adopt an innovation, tended to be followers, not leaders; the late majority, those skeptical of adopting new ideas, were characterized as "set in their ways"; and resisters, suspicious and generally opposed to new ideas, were usually low in influence and often isolated from the mainstream.

Shortly after Rogers reported his typology, Hall and colleagues, working in teacher education, identified categories of teachers who were in the process of becoming a teacher, or who were adopting and implementing new teaching strategies, or curricula, etc. (cited in Hall & Hord, 1987; and Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, & Hall, 1987). The categories were based on teachers' reactions or concerns as they experienced the adoption and implementation processes. In this articulation, seven kinds of concern that individuals have about an innovation were identified. Each of the stages was distinguished from the other, but they were not mutually exclusive. That is, individuals could have concerns at all stages at any particular time, but the intensity of specific stages varied with any individual as implementation progressed.

The seven stages have been defined by the expressions of concern that individuals make at the various stages. When the individual is not related to or influenced by the innovation in any way, concerns are typically characterized as "not being concerned about it," and this is stage 0. When a new program or innovation appears to have the potential to become part of an individual's life, then stage 1, or informational concerns, become uppermost. These concerns relate to an interest in acquiring information about the innovation. For instance, when a secondary school administrator telephones the office of the secondary school principals' association and makes inquiries about school-based management and how it works, this exemplifies informational concerns about the innovation of school-based management.

As informational concerns develop, stage 2 personal concerns become highly predictable. The individual wonders how the new program will affect him/her and whether he/she may have the ability to work appropriately with the innovation. The introduction of shared decision-making, for example, generally stimulates personal concerns for both school-based administrators and teachers as they contemplate how their current roles and relationships may change as a result of the new decision-making process. Administrators may wonder about the status of their positional authority in the new procedures, and teachers may question their capacity to be involved in school-wide matters.

As individuals begin implementation, stage 3 management concerns become intense. It is easy to understand that teachers have high management concerns while they are learning to cope with the demands of new programs and practices. This is especially true during implementation of an innovation such as cooperative learning, where restructured arrangements of students and teachers are expected. Managing a roomful of student committees, each structuring their own learning experiences within their membership, produces teachers' concerns about controlling time, noise-level, activity, and student behaviors. At this point, time to understand the requirements and logistics of putting new practices into place become factors in high need of attention. "Mastering" management and its attendant concerns will require substantial time.

Hall and associates discovered that, once the intensity of concerns at stages 1, 2, and 3 are reduced, then there is the possibility that individuals will increase their stage 4 consequence concerns. Consequence concerns focus on the effects of the innovation on students, and interest by the individual in making the innovation and its use more effective for students (or whomever the "client" is). For instance, teachers who have been developing students' critical thinking skills as an isolated discipline, may, after they feel comfortable with the strategies involved, determine that critical thinking would be more effective for their students if it were integrated with academic subject areas. Considering this kind of action would reflect consequence concerns.

Many individuals will never reach either intense stage 5 collaboration concerns, which relate to collaborating with others to increase the outcomes of the innovations, or stage 6 refocusing concerns, which focus on major ways to enhance or change the program to further increase effectiveness. Frequently such collaboration and refocusing are forestalled by new demands and innovations "coming down the pike" to schools.

The Stages of Concern About an Innovation concept and its assessment procedures have been productively utilized in a large number of studies of implementation and change at all levels of education - kindergarten through college - and for a vast array of innovations. Such use builds confidence that these stages, or categories, as descriptions of people progressing through the change process, are reasonably accurate. The research suggests that people differ in their approach and response to and movement through change, and that they may require differential support and assistance for success. The Stages of Concern approach and procedures can be used to help gauge and understand individuals and their needs as they experience implementation and its related concerns.

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Published in Issues ...about Change Volume 1, Number 1, Realizing School Improvement Through Understanding the Change Process (199001)