by Dale Lewis and Tameka Porter

Welcome back. If you have not had the chance to read the introduction to this blog series, you may do so here.

We begin our journey into application of the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) by contemplating how are teachers really doing right now? Are they taking on the stress and anxiety they observe in students? Are their own families struggling? Are they contemplating leaving the teaching profession either now or earlier than they had once envisioned? With a better understanding of how our teachers are doing at a time when so much is being asked of them, our next question should be, “How do we respond?” What actions should we take to be helpful and supportive while also realizing we must maintain focus on our students—their learning, their outcomes—so more ground is not lost?

Wellbeing and the Importance of Concerns

Undoubtedly, we should be concerned about the wellbeing of students during this time. A multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) with more intensive supports for students with higher needs and high-quality core instruction in academics and social-emotional learning to support all students will help. But, if we want teachers to effectively instruct, support, and build safe and encouraging communities of learners, each teacher’s own positive sense of wellbeing needs to be fostered. And, as we move toward the end of a one-of-a-kind fall semester and begin the holiday season, a positive sense of wellbeing among our teachers may be tough to maintain.

So, what can we do to help? Short of implementing an MTSS for our teachers (no, we’re not advocating that you do that), we can start by asking how things are going, listen carefully to their responses, and respond with actions that honor and support them where they are right now, both individually, and collectively.

While we could frame a general question asking how one is doing, or how it’s going, we need to ensure we maintain a focus on our core responsibility as educators—that is, to improve student learning, opportunities, and outcomes. So, let’s focus on an instructional program, practice, or routine (hereafter called an innovation[1]), maybe one that has emerged in response to the pandemic. For example, with the addition of hybrid and online learning for some of our youngest students, and the need to shift common classroom routines to a virtual space, a question such as, “How is circle time through Zoom working for you and your students?” could help provide insights into thoughts on this shift in routine and concerns about student engagement. Any innovation designed to impact student learning is fair game. However, you may want to consider evidence-based programs and practices currently being implemented, or innovations born from your pandemic response you want to hang onto because of their potential to transform education—what we often call bright spots. Why these innovations? Because to strengthen instructional practices, it is helpful to first know how teachers are thinking and feeling about them so that we can meet them where they are right now. For example, are they concerned at all about the transition to online learning? Do they need more information or coaching about how to move specific practices into an online setting? Are they lacking confidence in the shift to online instruction?

The Stages of Concern

The responses to these questions likely cover a range of worries teachers might express, some more intense than others, encompassing the seven Stages of Concern (SoC) – Unconcerned, Informational, Personal, Management, Consequence, Collaboration, and Refocusing.[2] These concerns exist within four general categories: Unrelated, Self, Task, and Impact. Understanding these four categories and the seven stages they comprise (see Table 1) can help leaders classify expressions of concerns according to this framework. Then, equipped with this understanding, leaders can respond with actions that both align to the most intense concerns expressed and help support individuals to alleviate these concerns and move forward in a positive way.

Table 1. Stages of Concern (SoC) About an Innovation[3]

IMPACT 6 Refocusing Concerns about the broad benefits of the innovation, and interest in the exploration of major changes or alternatives to increase student effects are most prominent.

“The updated Zoom features have been helpful, but I’m curious about other apps or plug-ins I could use to make the learning experience more engaging.”

5 Collaboration Coordination and cooperation with others regarding use of the innovation is the focus.

“With all the technology we are using right now, our grade-level team has been talking about how we can figure out what is working best and for which students.”

4 Consequence Attention focuses on how the innovation is affecting students (or the client/recipient of services).

“I wonder if my students are on pace and meeting learning objectives during remote and hybrid learning.”

TASK 3 Management Concern about efficiency, organizing, managing, scheduling, and time demands are predominant.

“I just don’t see how it’s possible to check for individual understanding in a 45-minute virtual lesson and still complete the lesson.”

SELF 2 Personal Concern or uncertainty about one’s own ability to meet the demands of the innovation is expressed.

“I’m worried about how my lack of technology skill will reflect on me and affect my interactions with students and my colleagues.”

1 Informational Awareness of the innovation and interest in learning more about it is communicated. Little to no worry about oneself relative to the innovation is communicated.

“I’d like to learn more about how to use Zoom to better understand the parts of it and how others have used it for virtual teaching.”

UNRELATED 0 Unrelated Little to no concern about the innovation is expressed. Concerns may focus on something else or be absent altogether.

“I’m not thinking about virtual teaching and how to use Zoom for circle time. Like many other things that have come before, this too shall pass.”


Responding to Concerns

Looking for strategies you can use to respond to the concerns presented in the table? Let’s play some out. If several of your teachers are feeling online learning platforms will limit their creativity, consider meeting with them to offer reassurance and encouragement to take small, experimental steps to help lessen these Self (i.e., Personal) concerns. If your teachers are feeling more confident about their new found Zoom skills, but are questioning whether they have the time to operate Zoom and scaffold learning simultaneously, try using an instructional coach to model virtual classroom management strategies for this type of Task (i.e., Management) concern. Since teachers may express a range of concerns, you could organize Zoom breakout rooms during your next faculty meeting according to concerns (but please don’t name the breakout groups Self, Task, Impact) and prepare facilitators to provide targeted supports and strategies.

Although actions to support teachers at various SoC should align with their most intense concerns, no universal list of responses exist. Your only limits are the resources at hand and your own creativity.[4] The goal in responding to concerns is to ameliorate Self and Task concerns so that we can better foster Impact concerns focused on student learning and outcomes among our teachers—both individually and collectively.


Simply put, your mission between now and the next blog post in our series—should you choose to accept it—is to engage in brief (3–5 minutes should be enough) conversations with your teachers about some innovation and to listen for concerns. Take note of what you hear and learn from your teachers and ask yourself the following questions: Do their concerns represent a range of Unrelated, Self, Task, and Impact concerns? What supports might you work to provide in response to the concerns expressed? How will you differentiate that support should you identify a mix of concerns? Strengthening your ability to listen for and effectively respond to concerns while maintaining a focus on some specific innovation, will help to both foster teacher wellbeing and promote improved student learning and outcomes.

[1] More about innovations, particularly Innovation Configuration Maps, will be the focus of the final post in the series. Innovations are the “it” of implementation—that is, what we are trying to do well to reach the student outcomes that research and evidence suggest are possible.

[2] Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2020). Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (5th edition). Pearson.

[3] Adapted from “Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (5th edition)” by G. E. Hall, & S. M. Hord, 2020, Pearson, p. 107.

[4] For aligned examples that may spur additional thinking and creativity see Hord, S. M., Rutherford, W. L., Huling, L., & Hall, G. E. (2006). Taking charge of change, pp. 44–46.

Dale Lewis is the Director of the Region 12 Comprehensive Center. Following almost 20 years as a special education teacher and leader, Dale has spent the past 10 years supporting and leading federally funded technical assistance centers and research labs, and multiple projects focused on supporting and scaling implementation of effective programs and practices. His work to educate school leaders on managing change and use person-centered tools to support others in the change process, spans a variety of contexts including PK–12, community college, and correctional education system.

Tameka Porter serves as the Kansas State Co-Lead for the Region 12 Comprehensive Center. She leads and supports projects focused on establishing evidence-based practices and policies for measuring continuous school improvement, examining school redesign processes, and using data-driven approaches to improve student achievement outcomes.