Evaluating Teacher Wellbeing with the Concerns-Based Adoption Model by Katie Allen and Tameka Porter

Hello! We are Katie Allen and Tameka Porter, Managing Consultants at McREL International and the Deputy Director and State Lead for the State of Kansas at the Region 12 Comprehensive Center. Our work supports Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri as they implement, scale, and sustain evidence-based programs, practices, and interventions for improving educator and student outcomes.

During conversations with Superintendents across Kansas, leaders often asked us and one another how they could assess and respond to how their teachers were truly experiencing all the unprecedented changes happening as they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, leaders wanted to know their teachers’ concerns about adapting instructional practices, routines, and programs during the pandemic so these leaders could support their teachers’ wellbeing.

At the heart of maintaining and promoting positive wellbeing when facing change in our schools and classrooms is building strong relationships. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are excited to share with you the three components of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) – Stages of Concern, Levels of Use, and Innovation Configurations – an approach that education leaders can apply to evaluate how teachers feel about change, are adapting to change, and how change has inspired them to innovate in the classroom.  

Hot Tip #1:

Navigate the Stages of Concern to Evaluate How Teachers Feel About Change. Teachers may express a range of worries that span the seven Stages of Concern – Unconcerned, Informational, Personal, Management, Consequence, Collaboration, and Refocusing. Say your school had to rapidly shift to a specific online learning platform. Maybe some of your teachers were more concerned about how their technical skills or lack thereof would affect their relationships with students and caregivers (Personal), or perhaps some of your educators wanted to tinker with other platforms to see if the student learning experience would be more engaging (Refocusing). Once leaders have a clear picture of how to evaluate their teachers’ concerns, they can provide appropriate and differentiated supports based on the needs their teachers express.

Hot Tip #2:

Apply the Levels of Use to Evaluate How Teachers are Adapting to Change. The COVID-19 pandemic required many of our teachers to be instant experts in multiple teaching modalities. Acquiring a new skill can be overwhelming. Before judging the efficacy of a new innovation, education leaders should look at actual changes in practice—the degree to with which staff are using the program, practice, or routine. When talking with teachers, leaders can apply the Levels of Use interview tool to assess the extent to which their staff are familiarizing themselves with and adapting to change.

Hot Tip #3:

Map Where Teachers Are in the Change Process with Innovation Configurations. Innovation Configuration (IC) maps are a process evaluation tool for developing a clear and specific portrayal of what a new program or practice looks like when it meets both teacher and student needs. IC maps describe pathways that a teacher can take to get to the ideal state of implementation as they adjust to the unique and evolving circumstances of educating children during a pandemic, which is key to not only student learning but also to the wellbeing of teachers.

Rad Resource:

 The Regional Education Lab Appalachia provides a deep dive into the benefits of using IC maps for continuous improvement.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

5 thoughts on “Evaluating Teacher Wellbeing with the Concerns-Based Adoption Model by Katie Allen and Tameka Porter”

  1. Hi Katie and Tameka,

    Thank you for your very relevant and interesting article. As an elementary school teacher, my colleagues and I have had several conversations about how best to support one another, our students, and our school communities as we navigate the ever-changing face of education during this pandemic time. The demands placed upon us and our students to pivot, at a moment’s notice, from in-person, to remote, to hybrid, and back to in-person (but with numerous restrictions) models of teaching and learning have been unprecedented.

    The 3 components (Stages of Concern, Levels of Use, and Innovation Configuration) in the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) are new to me, but they have piqued my curiosity. I can see how the CBAM would be a very useful tool in addressing the dilemmas of our current time. However, like every evaluative assessment, the value is in the follow-through. I would be interested in administering the tool with my colleagues, my students, and their parents/caregivers. I would very much like to collaborate on solutions to support change and innovation required to address the results of such an evaluation.

    I would be thrilled to see school administrators and even board administrators take on implementation, analysis of evaluation results and responsive action to address results. Unfortunately, I believe this is where issues surface. Evaluation is imperative, and in fact an essential component of education and if we did not work to ensure that results of evaluation are actively transformed into learning and growth opportunities, the cycle of education would be broken. Therefore, it is interesting to me that we do not necessarily see this commitment to follow-through at higher administrative levels as well as in business and other industries.

    As Weiss (1998) argues, there are multiple uses for evaluation. She notes that, “…[an] aspect of evaluation that can be used is the sheer fact that an evaluation is being done” (p.25). Evaluation results that remain stagnant are obviously of little use to those who seek to institute change-whether that be practice, policy, or procedural change.

    I believe that taking a collaborative approach to using the CBAM would be a worthwhile investment. Participants would be encouraged to examine their own assumptions and expectations. As an example, when I was teaching remotely last winter, I had a misguided expectation that once the problem (albeit a significant one) of access to technology and a technology device was solved, students/their families would have the resources they needed to complete/support the tasks learning. However, I soon realized that resources that I took for granted like access to paper, pencils, erasers, and crayons, etc. were not always easily accessible.

    In summary, I would agree with Wiess (1998) when she stated, “[Evaluation] Use is about change” (p.31). Your article has identified 3 hot tips that are very useful-if we are prepared to do the work to support the change that will be required to support the findings.

    Thank you for introducing the CBAM to me, to summarizing the 3 hot tips, and to engaging me to consider the potential use of findings that would result from implementation of this tool and its components!

    Sydney Benjamin

    Weiss, C.H. (1998). Have we learned anything new about the use of evaluation? The American Journal of Evaluation, 19 (1), 21-33. https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.queensu.ca/pdf/10982140/v19i0001/21_hwlanatuoe.xml

  2. Hi Katie and Tameka,

    Super fortuitous to come across your article, as I’ve just joined a social-emotional learning (SEL) committee at my school this year whose focus is going to be on adult SEL. Specifically, one of our aims will be looking at ways to support our colleagues through the challenges they’re facing in the wake of the pandemic. This year has been tough in executing the day-to-day duties, but we’re noticing that the cumulative impacts of the pandemic and shifts in our delivery models have left some significant academic and social/emotional gaps that are making the job feel much more difficult (and perhaps demonstrating a trend for years to come).

    I love the suggestion to look at stages of concern as a means of differentiating support and potentially seeing the trends in our teaching staff needs. Would it be beneficial to share that information out with the staff, or is that seen as something a bit more private and best kept confidentially? I ask because I’m wondering whether there’s benefit to seeing the different ways people are impacted by these circumstances as a way of building community. Either way, I think this is a great starting point for our committee as we envision how best to support each other, especially since we really don’t know how everyone is feeling impacted at this point in time and just asking staff to articulate it without a framework might lead to a difficult to parse bunch of data.

    Thanks so much for sharing these tips, I will be looking more into the CBAM model as I take this information back to my team.

    Take care,


  3. Hello Katie and Tameka,

    Thank you for writing such a clear and practical article on teacher wellbeing. As an educator who is a month and a bit into their summer break and is still feeling burnt out from teaching over the pandemic, this article was a wonderful find. There were several challenges over the pandemic, and I think you highlighted key pieces to focus on to address some of those challenges. The idea of positive wellbeing connected to “building strong relationships” is paramount to having made it through this last year. Having a strong support system is essential for managing stress, working through problems and moving forward in a positive manner. The information and ‘hot tips’ you share in this article are great areas to focus on to help develop these strong relationships and a positive wellbeing.

    Reflecting on this past year, I think using the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) would have made a significant impact on how changes and stress in our building were being looked at. From this evaluation tool, areas of struggle could have been addressed, adjusted and managed as necessary. This is vital to ensuring staff in the building are feeling supported and successful during such turbulent times, and something that I fear was a need that was not fully met. This tool would have let teachers be heard and allowed them to share their experiences with their leaders. I believe is incredibly important when fostering change. Having a better understanding of program evaluation at this point in my career, and having read this article, I would be interested in applying CBAM in the future (hopefully in a context not related to the pandemic!)

    I also feel that you third ‘hot tip’ would have been very applicable by using Innovation Configuration (IC) maps to help determine and describe the pathways a teacher could take to get to the “ideal state of implementation as they adjust to the unique and evolving circumstances” during the pandemic. Often it felt like we were all lost at sea, and all of us were in a similar boat to be sure, but if we had something additional to guide us, I think it would have made the process easier and feel less daunting.

    Thank you again for sharing this information!


  4. Hi Katie and Tameka,

    As an educator who has taught students during the Covid-19 pandemic, I appreciate the article. I think you have done a great job outlining the tips that administrators can take to support their staff through the many changes that the pandemic has brought. As I read through your steps it got me thinking about what my administrators/leaders in the education system have done to support staff and students. I think the first two tips, knowing teacher concerns and identifying how teachers are adjusting to change were put into effect. But the IC mapping of the changes was not used.

    Although I am an educator I have been taking a course on program evaluation and one of the recent topics brought up was is it the evaluator’s fault if stakeholders do not take the advice outlined in the findings. Weiss (1998) argues that “evaluators should not be held accountable for the failures to use results” (Weiss, 1998, pg 22). But Shulha & Cousin use the word of Patton who believes evaluators should have “an active role… in promoting and cultivating use” of the results (Shulha & Cousin, 1997, pg 197). This insinuates that evaluators are at some fault if results are not used. Considering your third hot tip seemed to focus more on the well-being of educators and students. I’m curious to know what your opinion is on this dilemma.

    Thank you!

    Shulha, L.M., & Cousins, J.B. (1997). Evaluation Use: Theory, Research and Practice Since 1986. American Journal of Evaluation, 18 (1), 195-208. https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.queensu.ca/pdf/10982140/v18i0001/195_eutraps1.xml

    Weiss, C.H. (1998). Have We Learned Anything New about the Use of Evaluation? The American Journal of Evaluation, 19 (1), 21-33. https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.queensu.ca/pdf/10982140/v19i0001/21_hwlanatuoe.xml

  5. Dear Katie and Tameka,

    I am so happy that I came across your post on this website. I am currently a teacher who is pursuing my Professional Master’s of Education through Queen’s university, and am enrolled in a course learning about program evaluation. I cannot begin to express how much I appreciated your post and the well though-out answers that were provided to educational leaders. It is absolutely true that teachers have been under an unmeasurable amount of stress throughout COVID-19. Many teachers have been expected to teach online at the drop of a hat, create a hybrid model of learning, or to teach a full instructional day and support students online after hours.

    I think the CBAM model provides clear steps of how educational leaders can support teachers. I especially admire the recommendation at the end of Hot Top #1 where it is mentioned that “Once leaders have a clear picture of how to evaluate their teachers’ concerns, they can provide appropriate and differentiated supports based on the needs their teachers express”. The emphasis on differentiated supports for teachers, just as teachers do for their students, is definitely a valued approach to make sure that each teacher’s specific needs are met. While reading the hot tips, I felt well-represented and that the things I wish leaders would consider were articulated.

    I also thought that the consideration of how teachers feel about changes implies that leaders should listen first and act second. Sometimes, these steps can get mixed up causing unnecessary, added stress within a program or organization. I support how teachers are able to express their concerns and feelings first, as the starting point of dialogue in a conversation about teacher wellbeing.

    I am sure that leaders also appreciate the suggestions given to them such as the CBAM model, Levels of Use interview tool, and Innovative Configuration maps.

    Thank you for creating this post in light of Teacher Appreciation week. I feel seen, heard, and very much appreciated.

    Kind regards,

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