Magazine article The Learning Professional

Research-Based Tool Gauges Actual Use of a New Approach

Magazine article The Learning Professional

Research-Based Tool Gauges Actual Use of a New Approach

Article excerpt

"To what extent are staff development program participants actually using what they are learning in the (fill in the blank) initiative in their daily work?" The question about actual use in the workplace is key to tracking impact and designing help during change. Whether the staff learning initiative is differentiating instruction, assessing student performance, teaching critical thinking, mapping curricula, integrating technology into instruction, learning a particular teaming approach, or some other complex bundle, getting participants to use what they learn is a major milestone.

Finding credible yet efficient techniques to gauge the extent of implementation can be frustrating. The Levels of Use framework (known as the LoU) is a powerful researchbased approach for gathering diagnostic data on individuals involved in incorporating a new approach into their daily work. The change construct of differing levels of use and the framework were developed 35 years ago as part of research on change at the University of Texas at Austin Center for Research in Teacher Education. The center's work became the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM). The CBAM theory of change is now well-known: Change does not happen automatically or instantly when someone learns a new approach. The rate of change varies widely with individuals, usually in developmental steps.


Gene E. Hall, former director of the CBAM work, along with Shirley M. Hord, another major researcher at the center, have synthesized their work on change and moved the conversation forward in the newest edition of their book, Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes (Allyn & Bacon, 2006). They explain the evolution of the LoU: "The implicit assumption was that initial training plus materials equaled use. Instead, our observations and studies document a number of different behavioral patterns for nonusers and users. To understand this phenomenon of the change process, the diagnostic dimension of Levels of Use (LoU) was born" (p. 158).

The LoU (simplified in the chart on p. 61) is organized around eight stages. The LoU's three earliest stages describe nonuse, before the individual actually attempts to use the newly learned approach. The nonuser may be at Level O nonuse (not yet thinking about the new approach), Level I orientation (looking for information about the new approach), or Level II preparation (actually preparing to use the new approach at a certain point in time).

The next five LoU stages describe what happens once the person has moved forward as a user: Level III mechanical (using the new approach, albeit awkwardly, while also making changes to get it right), Level IV-A routine (has a routine established with the new approach), Level IV-B refinement (shifting into tweaking behaviors regarding the new approach for the purpose of getting better results), Level V integration (reaching out to others to collaborate on the new approach), and Level VI renewal (actively seeking better alternatives to the approach).


An important view of the CBAM work on change is that schools and districts are very busy workplaces; data must be gathered unobtrusively and efficiently. To gauge an individual's actual use of a new approach, the LoU uses a focused, one-on-one interview process. The interview process uses prescribed questions and probes that require the interviewer to make quick judgments about which question to use as responses lead the interview into one direction or another. The interview has been dubbed the One-Legged Interview. The interviewer should be able to stand on one leg and get the necessary information before getting so tired that he has to shift back to standing on two legs.

Because the interview is intentionally brief and highly structured, it can usually be done in a few minutes. If being done for research purposes, the interview takes longer than if it is being done to ascertain what kind of help the individual might need right now. …

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