GUEST BLOGGER: Jennifer Unger Director, The GroupWorks, Grafton, MA. Jennifer is a senior facilitator for TERC’s Using Data.

As a facilitator of learning, one of the great conundrums I see participants grappling with is the growing realizationhand waving magic wand that I, as the facilitator of their learning, may not be a magician, and that they must actually use the tools, resources and processes that I provide in order to initiate the changes that they desire. It is simply not enough to attend a working session and leave saying, “Been there-done that.”

Now I know this for a fact because I do it all the time—whether I am attending a Michael Fullan workshop or reading a really great book (most recently, Mike Schmoker’s FOCUS). Somehow, there is that deep, abiding belief that just engaging with their ideas will change me. While it may be a first miniscule beginning step, alas, I know that it will not change me any more than watching tons of exercise videos will help me lose weight. Change is something that I must DO and, as Ghandi said, BE

Which leads me to the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) that was introduced to me by my colleagues Susan Loucks-Horsley and Susan Mundry, and, its sister, the Innovation Configuration. Two of the foundational underlying assumptions of these models/frameworks are that change takes time and that change is a process, not an event.

CBAM provides a framework for understanding the concerns that we have about the change we are undertaking, what those concerns say about where we are in the stages of change, and what interventions would be most useful to us at this point in time. Innovation Configurations describe and benchmark what we might see at the different stages of change that help us to ascertain if we are “on target” and “making progress” in making the change.

Even though in some logical part of our brain we know, incontrovertibly, that change is a process and takes time, road sign that reads Changes next exitwe don’t want to operate that way. We want it now! But this approach can be dangerous (e.g., staff burnout, “this too will pass”, “yeah, well, we did this 7 years ago and it didn’t work then”, etc.), as well as expensive!

Here is a recent example. Working with a group of teachers, I learned that a curriculum (note: they were talking about a textbook) they had adopted (at great expense K-5) two years ago was “out.” Why? “It didn’t work.” Why? “Kids scores didn’t get better.” So, conclusion, the “curriculum” didn’t work. Really? I say that, because here is part of our follow up conversation:

Me:  “To what degree was the ‘curriculum’ fully implemented?”

Teachers:  “What do you mean?”

Me:  “Sorry, that is a bit abstract. Was everyone using the textbook when they were teaching mathematics?”

Teachers:  “Well, no. Some people used it more than others. It was hard to understand what we were supposed to do with some of the material. A lot of teachers were uncomfortable with it (the textbook).”

Me:  Of those that were using the text, were they approaching the content in the same way? Using the same instructional strategies to teach the content?

Teachers:  “Hum. I can speak for myself. I know I didn’t know what anyone else was doing. (Heads nodding in agreement.) Mostly everyone was doing their own thing.”

“Yes, and many teachers were complaining that it wasn’t working.”

So, did the “curriculum work”? We can’t really know, can we? Because we don’t know:  1) What level of implementation for the innovation had been met? 2) Where are teachers on the change continuum? 3) What established benchmarks for each level of implementation had been met?

Being clear about the change you want to see at each major stage of the implementation, understanding the levels of concern, and providing just-in-time resources and support will enable change to occur.

There is, unfortunately, no magic here—only hard work and persistence accompanied by a clear and unrelenting focus on the change you wish to see. Only then can you clearly measure and assess whether the change you implemented is having impact. No Fairy Godmother can wave her magic wand with a “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.”