instructional design

Article Review: Stages of Concern Questionnaire

Over the past week one of my courses has been discussing the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM), originally described by Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin, and Hall in Taking Charge of Change (1987).

As part of our inquiry, we were encouraged to look up a research study that utilized CBAM in order to get a better of idea what the model might look like in practice.

Article Reviewed: Fischer, McCoy, Foster, Eisenkraft, and Lawrenz. (2019). Use of the stages of concern questionnaire in a national top-down reform effort. Teaching and Teacher Education, 80: 13-26.


In their article, the researchers conducted quantitative and qualitative analyses of the CBAM’s Stages of Concern (which they abbreviated as “SoC”). Their analysis was targeted to a national top-down redesign of the Advanced Placement (AP) Biology curriculum conducted by the College Board — a large change that significantly affected many teachers and their students.

The main objective of this study was “to investigate the nature of teacher concerns about this new, national, top-down curricular implementation” (p. 14).

While I chose this article based on the combination of its overlap with this assignment and its recent publication (January 2019), I was surprised by their conclusions. From the qualitative/quantitative data and analysis, the researchers concluded that:

  1. The SoC questionnaire has “weak measurement characteristics”
  2. Teachers showed concerns at all Stages of Concern
  3. There is limited documentable upward trend over time in teachers’ Stages of Concern, and
  4. The nature of the reform could have affected the teachers’ Stages of Concern. (p. 13)

Needless to say, this did not line up with my expectations (which were more along the lines of “here is this model, here’s how we applied it, here’s what results we got).

That said, I do think that we can take away some things from this article that might be beneficial in our overall application of CBAM to our own instruction and analysis. (Note: The following tips are derived from the paper’s discussion and conclusion.)

Tip #1: Be aware that even “good” models can be ineffective in certain situations.

In this case, there seems to have been a mismatch between the Stages of Concerns questionnaire being used and the particular breadth, depth, and general gargantuan nature of the change being implemented.

Takeaway: Just because a model has worked in most situations before doesn’t mean it will work in this one. Don’t apply models based on blind faith in the formula alone.

Tip #2: Humans are messy and don’t easily fit into one category.

One of the biggest issues the researchers flagged in this study was that “teachers have concerns that fit into multiple stages over the first three years of the reform”, with the majority of teachers tracked exhibiting “multiple levels of concern at the same time across the years” (pp. 24-25).

Takeaway: Models don’t always map cleanly onto the real world. As instructors, we should remain aware of this and look for ways to either adapt models to this fact or look for solutions where this fact does not undermine the quality and actionability of our assessments.

Tip #3: If a model or tool doesn’t seem to work well with the situation at hand, it may be worth looking into whether there are alternatives (or conducting research on your own as to what alternatives might be effective.)

While the researchers did not find the particular version of the Stages of Concerns questionnaire to be a good fit, they did not draw conclusions that all of CBAM is ill-suited. Instead, they recommended that researchers “should feel encouraged to explore whether alternative [Stages of Concerns questionnaire] instruments… might be a better fit for their individual contexts and needs” (p. 24).

Takeaway: As instructors, we should continually evaluate whether the tools we are using are a good fit. If they are not, look for alternatives that will do a better job.

For examples of the successful application of CBAM, I suggest looking at the two additional examples listed in the References below by Al-Furaih et al. and Purvis et al.


Al-Furaih, S.A.A. & Al-Awidi, H.M. (2018). Teachers’ change readiness for the adoption of smartphone technology: Personal converns and technology competency. Technology, Knowledge, & Learning.  doi: 10.1007/s10758-018-9396-6

Fischer, C., McCoy, A., Foster, B., Eisenkraft, A., and Lawrenz, F. (2019). Use of the stages of concern questionnaire in a national top-down reform effort. Teaching and Teacher Education, 80: 13-26.

Purvis, S., Kaun, A., McKenna, A., Viste, J., & Fedorov, E. (2018). Outcomes of clinical nurse specialist practice in the implementation of video monitoring at an academic medical center. Clinical Nurse Specialist, 32(2), 90-96. doi: 10.1097/NUR.0000000000000356

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