Friday, 1 March 2019

Article Study: A Measure of Concern

Simcoe County District School Board is currently offering a number of leadership opportunities for interested staff. One of these opportunities is an article study series, with a focus on instructional leadership. We are using a number of formats to facilitate discussion of a series of articles. For this article, we will be using a blog format. Visit this this blog anytime between now and March 19. Use the “comment” feature at the bottom of the page by clicking where it shows the number of comments in orange (see picture below). This will allow you to make a comment. Use this feature to answer the posted questions.

Be sure to check back through the week to see what others have posted and reply to their posts. Anyone is welcome to participate and add to the conversation!

Article Link
A Measure of Concern

Article Summary
Every educational leader has likely faced challenges at some point when trying to support change practices. Staff are often at different stages of understanding and implementation, and this variance can present challenges to productive collaboration related to school improvement.

Traditionally, teacher voice in professional learning may have been thought about as teacher preference, and may have looked like a school administrator giving choices for topics or pathways of professional learning. However, the ways that leaders respond to voice can either move the school community forward with depth and focus, or can cause teams to go a mile wide and an inch deep when attempting to respond to a wide range of opinions on staff.

Based on this premise, the “Stages of Concern” framework is a developmental progression of seven stages that describe the feelings and motivations a teacher might have about a change in practice as it is implemented. School leaders can use this model to support school improvement planning while working to investigate and reframe the concepts of “voice and choice” in terms of “readiness and concern”.

Previously, instructional leaders may have thought of these concerns as people being “negative” or “resistant”. This model changes that perspective. Through the Stages of Concern, leaders are encouraged to discuss and address concerns rather than trying to silence the voices that seem to challenge the change that is being implemented. The Stages of Concern framework honours individual concerns as a valid part of the change process, where voiced concerns become “assessment for learning” and “assessment as learning” information for the instructional leader, informing the ways in which they support the people they work with. It then allows leaders to differentiate and plan targeted professional learning to meet the self-identified needs of teachers, all the while, honouring voice and building relationships.


1- How does the “Stages of Concern” model make you rethink the concept of “resistance”?

2- Considering your current job embedded context, how might the “Stages of Concern” model support your practice related to instructional leadership? What are some specific “takeaways” that you want to try?

3- After reading this article, what are some questions that you have? Participants are encouraged to provide feedback on questions that are posted.


Holloway, K. (2003). A measure of concern: Research based program aids innovation by addressing teacher concerns. National Staff Development Council Tools for Schools.

Retrieved from


  1. 1. I really like this model. I enjoyed hearing about it when you presented at the conference last spring Alison. It flips our thinking about resistance. I don't exactly view the 7 stages as a progression.

    In terms of Q1, it makes me rethink "resistance" from being a mindset or habit to more of a behaviour or strategy that is a result of the persons current level of understanding or beliefs about the importance of the issue or initiative at hand. Resistance can sometimes be a healthy choice. Resistance can become a flag to the leader to intervene and ask questions in order to understand where the person is at, the associated stage and a strategy to address these concerns. When we know the concern, we can sometimes provide opportunities for the person to see the "counter" to their concern. In other words, if an administrator was overwhelmed with their role of math monitoring in their school, provide opportunities for some of their colleagues to share what success looks like in this area.

  2. 2. In my role, a current connection that I make is to the mentor-coach training. I believe that some of the informational concerns have been addressed by providing participants with documented and professional research related to the impact of mentor-coaching and the best instructional practices for this process/relationship. When I look at the depth of the program, it reminds me of the need to prioritize and not overwhelm participants with content. Instead, developing a responsive timeline for learning/in between work/feedback will allow for the greatest impact.

  3. 3. I would like to learn more about sharing this with staff in such a way that results in a sense of transparency between staff and administration and between all colleagues so they can speak openly about where they are at and have a common language during professional learning.

    1. I like the idea of making this transparent for everyone. I think that common understandings and common language are veyr important for creating understandings and avoiding miscommunications.

  4. I am rethinking the concept of resistance now. This article creates a deep awareness of how attuned leaders must be to the needs of individuals when undergoing change. We differentiate just as much with educators as we do with students. It is a great shift in thinking to consider concerns as ‘assessment for’ and ‘assessment as’ learning. Just like with our students, these stages also intersect with the personal lives and events going on in someone’s life, and what their triggers might be, and how they might be activated when giving and receiving feedback.

    In my own practice of Instructional Leadership, I provide job embedded coaching in the areas of math content and pedagogy for student learning. It has been very helpful to see the stages of concern, and to think about the strategies that I can use more purposefully to help lead change around broader system goals. What I would like to do now, is purposefully organize my ‘toolkit’ of strategies that better address the change needs. Get to know the strategies, differentiate them, organize them, practice them and use them in more impactful ways. This re-organization of thinking will also help me to more effectively measure my own impact moving forward. I can now try to critically assess why a strategy works or doesn’t work according to this framework.

    I have many questions. Including, how does someone promote change with others who do not fit into one of these categories? Perhaps those who have more severe triggers and protective defence mechanisms? What about when situations become toxic? How are these stages of concern mediated by power dynamics within organizations?

    1. I am also wondering about how to make feedback more purposeful depending on the stage that the learner is at;)

  5. This is an area I struggle with, how to decide what is too much or too little information. Focusing in on the role, yet being responsive and flexible enough for each person.

  6. The “Stages of Concern” model makes me rethink the concept of “resistance” by reframing it through the lens of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with respect to educators in order to more fully appreciate and understand it.

    To begin, during the initial stages of change teachers are aware that an innovation is being introduced but not really interested or concerned. This would be similar to an almost physiological need as we don’t tend to think too much about such needs as they are just to be “expected”- part of the job in that we are to be made aware of various learning opportunities and areas for growth. However, little is required to meet this need and many are comfortable with the status quo and just receiving the information with no need for change.

    The stages of: informational, personal and management all relate to individuals “safety” needs being met. Teachers are interested in some information about change, but want to know how this will impact them and how they will have to change their practice.

    Quite often teachers are interested in the consequence of such change and want to know how it will impact the students or the school. In a sense this is similar to Maslow’s- love and belonging. For it is the love of their students and need to ensure that such change belongs in their programs in order to truly meet students needs in terms of experiencing a sense of connection.

    During the stage of Collaboration teachers are interested in working with colleagues to make the change effective. This represents their self esteem as they demonstrate a need for strength and freedom to work with other teachers/co-workers to fully implement the change in a manner that makes sense to their needs.

    In the final stage of Refocusing teachers begin refining the innovation to improve student learning results. This can be seen as the stage of self-actualization as they are at the stage to fully embrace everything, having met their physiological, safety, love and belonging, and esteem needs. Teachers at this stage have had enough support to get over hurdles they may encounter inhibiting them to move through this process in order to effectively enable change within the educational institution.