Refining a Stage Model for Studying Teacher Concerns about Educational Innovations

By Cheung, Derek | Australian Journal of Education, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Refining a Stage Model for Studying Teacher Concerns about Educational Innovations


Cheung, Derek, Australian Journal of Education


This paper discusses the stages of concern that teachers pass through as they engage in the process of innovation adoption and implementation. A 24-item questionnaire was constructed to assess teachers' concerns on five sequential stages: (1) indifference, (2) informational-personal, (3) management, (4) consequence-collaboration, and (5) refocusing. Using the questionnaire, 290 Hong Kong teachers' concerns about school-based assessment as a component of the public examination system were surveyed. Results supported the 5-stage model of teacher concerns. However data collected from another sample of 53 teachers through an open-ended survey indicated that an additional stage of evaluation concerns should be inserted between the indifference and informational-personal stages. Teachers' evaluation concerns focused on the worth and necessity of school-based assessment, as well as support from the Hong Kong Examinations Authority. The revised 6-stage model can provide a more comprehensive framework for analysing teachers' concerns regarding innovations.

Introduction

Innovation has become a buzzword in the field of education. Over the past decade, in many different nations, teachers have been confronted with movements such as `school restructuring', `benchmark testing', `information technology in education', `integrated curriculum', and `authentic assessment'. By definition, an innovation is something new. For example, House (1979) defined educational innovation as `the deliberate systematic attempt to change the schools through introducing new ideas and techniques' (p. 1). According to Van de Ven, Angle, and Poole (2000), innovation `includes the process of developing and implementing a new idea' (p. 12). Although we tend to associate `innovation' with `improvement', most educational innovations have not resulted in long-term, significant changes in schools (McCulloch, 1998; Stromquist & Basile, 1999). Even worse, they keep reappearing; old innovations are reinvented or recycled under new labels, but they come and go again (Alexander, Murphy, & Woods, 1996; Cuban, 1990; Latham, 1988).

There are many reasons why an educational innovation failed to produce the intended changes in schools, but one important reason, the focus of this paper, is that teachers' concerns about the advocated innovation were not monitored and dealt with throughout the process of educational change. As Bailey (2000) points out, the context and process of mandated change often marginalises teachers and failing to deal with the concerns of marginalised teachers is a key cause of repeated failure of educational change.

The concept of teacher concerns

Hall, George, and Rutherford (1977) defined concern as `the composite representation of the feelings, preoccupation, thought, and consideration given to a particular issue or task' (p. 5). Recently van den Berg and Ros (1999) conceptualised concern as `the questions, uncertainties, and possible resistance that teachers may have in response to new situations and/or changing demands' (p. 880). Havelock (1995) argued that concerns are the forces that will energise a change process--change originates in a concern by some people that something is wrong and that someone should do something about it. He recommended change agents to identify teacher concerns when they begin a planned change:

 
   The first task of the change agent is to develop some sense of what 
   the concern is, a sense of where the system seems to be hurting, 
   and where the need for change is most pressing ... The change 
   agent needs to look around and to listen to what is being said 
   by different members of the system before determining what the real 
   concern is. (p. 12) 

For innovation adoption and implementation in education, the Hall et al. (1977) Stages of Concern Model is probably the most well known in the literature.

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