Reacting to the change process

Change can be a difficult process for some people. Many different emotions may be experienced and thoughts may change several times over the course of implementation. For this reason, CBAM researchers consider individuals’ feelings about the change process an important piece of information to collect when implementing any type of change initiative. Through research, Hall and Hord (2011) created the Stages of Concern (SoC) which are used to help identify how individuals are reacting to the change process – PDF of SoC Table. Individuals can experience many of the SoC throughout the process of the change implementation or they may remain stagnant at one stage.

There are four main categories of SoC and within those four categories are seven categories. This system allows one to really understand how the individual is reacting to the change initiative. Learn more about the Four Main Categories of SoC.

Assessing stages of concern

Video Tutorial by SEDL

Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2011). Implementing change, patterns, principles, and potholes. (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Four main categories of statements of concern

Unrelated: When an individual is in the unrelated stage they are not interested in the change at all. Typically, an individual at this stage has other important concerns on their mind that consume their attention.

  1. Unconcerned: Individuals are not concerned about the change initiative because they have other things on their mind.

Self: An individual at the self stage is concerned about how the change is affecting them. Typically, they are concerned about their ability to complete the tasks required for the change and what others will think of their ability.

  1. Informational: Individuals who are in this stage are aware of the change initiative and are beginning to seek information about the change.
  2. Personal: Individuals at this stage are aware of the change initiative but are unaware of their role in the process. They may be considering personal conflicts (values, morals, beliefs) or may feel as though they are lacking the ability to implement the change initiative.

Task: Individuals that are experiencing task concerns are worried about the task itself rather than their ability. For example, a teacher at this stage may be concerned about all of the materials that are needed for the task. In addition, they may be concerned about the complexity of the task at hand.

  1. Management: Individuals at this stage are focusing on the process and the tasks involved for the innovation. They are also trying to understand the best way to use the resources and information to implement the innovation.

Impact: Once an individual is experiencing impact concerns, they have reached the point where they can see the impact the change is going to have on the students. They are more concerned about the outcome of the change and the affect it will have on student learning than the changes they will have to make or the resources that are needed for the change.

  1. Consequence: Individuals at this stage have their attention focused on the impact that the innovation will have on their students.
  2. Collaboration: Individuals at this stage have started working with others and discussing their opinions of the innovation. They are beginning to wonder how their colleagues are implementing the innovation and begin to seek this information.
  3. Refocusing: Individuals at this stage are beginning to understand the universal benefits of the change. They now understand that the change was needed and why it was needed. Individuals at this level may begin to make changes to the innovation to achieve better outcomes.

One-legged interviews

Teachers are very busy people who also work in a very busy environment. Sometimes the only chance you will have to talk to them about the change initiative will be in the hallway between classes. This is a very valuable time that should not be taken for granted. In fact, it should be used frequently to check on the progress of the change initiative. Change facilitators can take advantage of this time by conducting a one-legged interview.

A one-legged interview would typically begin by asking the teacher a question as simple as “How is it going today with… (specific change initiative)?”  This will show the teacher that you are interested in their progress and would like to know more information. From there, you can ask the teacher about their strengths and weaknesses concerning the change initiative and tailor the conversation to the teacher’s needs.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to assessing SoC from a one-legged interview:

  • Advantages: One major advantage to using a one-legged interview is the fact that the interview can take place anywhere and at a time that is convenient for the teacher. In addition, it helps to show the individual’s support for the work that the teacher is doing.
  • Disadvantages: The one-legged interview may not provide completely accurate information. Sometimes people can interpret something completely different than what it was intended. Be sure to get all of the details before making any conclusions from a one-legged interview.

One-legged interview tutorial:

This tutorial produced by SEDL shows examples of this method of interviewing participants in a change initiative:

Open-ended statements of concern

These  statements also provide valuable information regarding SoC. An open-ended concerns statement involves providing the participant with a blank piece of paper with the question “When you think about (the change initiative) what concerns do you have?”  listed at the top of the paper. Participants will then answer the question with varying degrees of responses. Following which, the answers will need to be analyzed using the guidelines provided in a manual by Newlove and Hall (1976).

  • Unlike the one-legged interview, open-ended statements of concern require some planning. Typically, these statements will be asked two weeks prior to a scheduled staff meeting. This period of time between the collection of the statements and the meeting will allow time to analyze the statement. At the meeting, the concerns can be addressed accordingly.
  • There are also several advantages and disadvantages to using open-ended statements of concern. For instance, the concerns will be in the participant’s own words. Also, the participant will be able to participate in the conversation about the change initiative without feeling singled out.
  • However, the open-ended concerns statement does have its disadvantages as well. One of the biggest disadvantages is that respondents will provide varying levels of information. Some respondents may provide a lot of information that is very detailed and precise, whereas other respondents may only provide a few words.


Newlove, B.W., & Hall, G.E. (1976). A manual for assessing open-ended statements of concern about an innovation. Austin: The University of Texas at Austin, Research and Development Center for Teacher Education.

SoC questionnaires

The SoC questionnaire is a structured questionnaire that consists of 35 questions. This questionnaire has been specifically structured to apply to all educational innovations. The SoC questionnaire has strong reliability estimates (.65 to .86) and strong internal consistency (.66 to .83). Typically the SoC questionnaire is administered twice a year and includes an area for participants to write an open-ended concerns statement on the last page in case any of their concerns were not covered in the questionnaire.

Advantages and disadvantages

Similar to the other two methods used for assessing SoC, the SoC questionnaire has several advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage of using the SoC questionnaire is that it has strong reliability (data obtained to support this claim was based on people who were properly trained to administer the questionnaire). In addition, it is very useful for formally assessing the change initiatives progress. However, one disadvantage of using the SoC is that it is a fairly long questionnaire.

SEDL tutorials on using  the SoC Questionnaire: