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An Analysis of Teacher Concerns Toward Instructional Technology

- Glenda C. Rakes, University of Tenneessee at Martin
- Holly B. Casey, University of Louisiana at Monroe


Many teachers, especially more experienced teachers, have been unable to find effective ways to use technology in their classrooms. One possible explanation for this lack of success is that the use of technology in the classroom has been viewed in terms of simple skill acquisition instead of as a change process that affects the behavior of individuals on a very profound level. This study analyzed the concerns of PK-12 teachers (n=659) toward the use of instructional technology using the Stages of Concern Questionnaire. Results indicate that the highest two stages of concern for the respondents reflect intense, personal, lower level concerns along with a desire to learn from what other teachers know and are doing. The lowest stage of concern for the aggregate data indicates that the respondents have minimal to no concerns about the relationship of students to the use of technology.


The ultimate goal of instructional technology integration into PK-12 education is improved student achievement, but teachers must view technology in a positive manner, be comfortable with the technology, and use it effectively before improved student achievement can occur. Teacher technology training frequently produces less than desirable effects for a number of reasons including lack of time, funds, and direct connection of the technology training to the curriculum. As a result, the effect of technology on classroom instruction frequently fails to live up to its potential.

Even teachers who hold positive attitudes toward technology may have difficulty transferring these attitudes into productive actions. Millions of dollars have placed technology in PK-12 classrooms, but there has been considerably less attention paid to helping teachers make the transition into a technology-rich learning environment which would, in turn, impact student learning (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999). As greater numbers of technology installations occur in schools, the demands on classroom teachers to integrate technology into instruction increase. Many teachers, especially more experienced teachers, have been unable to find effective ways to use technology in their classrooms (Smerdon, Cronen, Lanahan, Anderson, Iannotti, Angeles, & Greene, 2000). One possible explanation for this lack of success is that the use of technology in the classroom has been viewed in terms of simple skill acquisition instead of as a change process that affects the behavior of individuals on a very profound level.

Fuller (1969) and Hall (1978) conducted studies on teacher concerns toward innovation which resulted in the development of theories regarding change. Frances Fuller theorized that preservice teachers were preoccupied with concerns about self, task, and impact. Hall, Wallace, and Dosset (1973) discovered those three sequences of concern were present when inservice teachers faced implementation of innovations. Their work resulted in the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM). Concerns theory asserts that a set of characteristic concerns emerges during the change process that are common to most innovations. Hall's hypothesis specifies seven stages of concern through which individuals progress when something new is introduced into their environment. The resulting Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ) has been used successfully since its initial validation and continues to have solid support in the literature (Atkins & Vasu, 2000; Casey & Rakes, (2002); Hope, 1997; Rogers and Mahler, 1994; Sashkin,& Egermeier, 1992; Wells & Anderson, 1995).  

Teachers do not always follow this theoretical progression for many reasons. Neither do these clusters of concerns imply a lock-step, linear progression. Indeed, research shows that typically teachers will have concerns at more than one of the Stages of Concern at any given time. Teachers often display a combination of concerns reflected in two or more stages that are relatively more intense than their other concerns (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1979; Hall & Griffin, 1982; Hall & Hord, 1987).The stages of concern (from lowest to highest levels) include Awareness (0), Informational (1), Personal (2), Management (3), Consequence (4), Collaboration (5), and Refocusing (6) and are shown in Table 1 below.  

Table 1.  Stages of Concern summary.

Stage of Concern                      Expression of Concern

0 Awareness                         What is it? I am not really concerned about it. (reactive)

1 Informational                      How does this work? I would like to know more about it.

2 Personal                             How will using this innovation affect or impact me?
What is my role in this?

3 Management                       How can I fit it all in? How can I master this? I
seem to be spending all of my time getting materials ready.

4 Consequence                      How is my use of the innovation affecting learners?
How can I refine it to have more of an impact?

5 Collaboration                      How can I relate what I am doing to what others are doing? How do others do this? What is the maximum potential of doing this?

6 Refocusing                          I have some ideas about something that would work even better. Is there a better way?  (proactive)

The Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) has become a change model widely used by those individuals planning for staff development accompanying any educational innovation. The composite of feelings, preoccupation, thought, and consideration given to an issue or task is called concern. To be concerned means to be in a mentally aroused state about an innovation. Hall and Hord (1987) stressed the relevance of information regarding individuals impacted by the change. Personal comfort with instructional technology is essential to an individual's concern with its implementation and impact (Martin, 1989). According to Hall (1976), an individual's concerns directly affect performance; and since concern levels correspond with levels of performance, lower level concerns must be removed before higher level concerns can emerge.

The Present Study

The following research question was investigated: What are technology using teachers' concerns about instructional technology as measured by the Stages of Concern Questionnaire? The question was answered using the theoretical basis of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) (Hall, Wallace & Dorsett, 1973). CBAM is a research-based framework that explains the process individuals follow as they undergo the process of change. The Stages of Concern Questionnaire is designed to capture teachers' current concerns about adopting such an innovation which, in this case, is instructional technology.


For purposes of this study, the following assumptions were made:

1. Participants understood the instrument.

2. Participants responded honestly to the instrument.

3. The Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ) was the appropriate tool for this study.

4. Participants responding to the survey were representative of technology-using teachers in the United States.

5. Technology-using teachers generally have Internet access.


1. The analysis of teachers' concerns was limited to their concerns toward instructional technology as assessed by the Stages of Concern Questionnaire.

2. Only PK-12 teachers with Internet access were surveyed. This may have contributed to a small skew in the data.


The Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ) uses a Likert scale response format to measure seven hypothesized stages of concerns individuals have toward implementing change. The questionnaire contains 35 statements (five statements for each stage) that allow respondents to describe a concern they currently feel on a scale of 0 to 6. A response of 0 indicates a very low concern; a response of 6 indicates a very high concern. The SoCQ instrument is shown in Table 2 with the statements grouped by stages with the accompanying item number on the instrument as presented to respondents.

Table 2. Stages of Concern Questionnaire grouped by stages.

 Statements on the Stages of Concern
Questionnaire Grouped by Stage

  Stage 0 - Awareness
Item #  Statement
  3 I don't even know what is.
 12 I am not concerned about this innovation.
 21 I am completely occupied with other things.
 23 Although I don't know about this innovation, I am concerned about
things in the area.
 30 At this time, I am not interested in learning about this innovation.
   Stage 1 - Informational
   6 I have a very limited knowledge about the innovation.
 14 I would like to discuss the possibility of using the innovation.
 15 I would like to know what resources are available if we decide to adopt
this innovation.
 26 I would like to know what the use of the innovation will require in the
immediate future.
 35 I would like to know how this innovation is better than what we have now.
    Stage 2 - Personal
  7 I would like to know the effect of reorganization on my professional status.
 13 I would like to know who will make the decisions in the new system.
 17 I would like to know how my teaching or administration is supposed to change.
 28 I would like to have more information on time and energy commitments
required by this innovation.
 33 I would like to know how my role will change when I am using the innovation.
   Stage 3 - Management
  4 I am concerned about not having enough time to organize myself each day.
  8 I am concerned about conflict between my interests and my responsibilities.
 16 I am concerned about my inability to manage all the innovation requires.
 25 I am concerned about time spent working with nonacademic problems
related to this innovation.
 34   Coordination of tasks and people is taking too much of my time.
   Stage 4 - Consequence
  1 I am concerned about students' attitudes toward this innovation.
 11 I am concerned about how the innovation affects students.
 19 I am concerned about evaluating my impact on students.
 24 I would like to excite my students about their part in this approach.
 32 I would like to use feedback from students to change the program.
   Stage 5 - Collaboration
  5 I would like to help other faculty in their use of the innovation.
 10 I would like to develop working relationships with both our faculty and
outside faculty using this innovation.
 18 I would like to familiarize other departments or persons with the
progress of this new approach.
 27 I would like to coordinate my effort with others to maximize the
innovation's effects.
 29 I would like to know what other faculty are doing in this area.
   Stage 6 - Refocusing
  2 I now know of some other approaches that might work better.
  9 I am concerned about revising my use of the innovation.
 20 I would like to revise the innovation's instructional approach.
 22 I would like to modify our use of the innovation based on the experiences of
our students.
 31 I would like to determine how to supplement, enhance, or replace the

Source: Hall, G. E., George, A.A., and Rutherford, W. A. (1998). Measuring stages of concern about the innovation: A manual for use of the SoC questionnaire (p. 25).

The Stages of Concern Questionnaire was originally validated in 1979 (Hall, George, & Rutherford) and has been validated numerous times since its creation as it has been used in many studies over the past 20 years. Cronbach's alpha was used to establish the instrument's internal validity, with a sample (n=830) of teachers involved in team teaching and professors concerned about innovation. A sub sample (n=132) participated in a test-retest of the instrument over a two week period. Alpha coefficients ranged from .64 to .83, and the test-retest correlation ranged from .65 to .84, indicating the internal consistency and stability for each of the seven stages (Hall et al., 1979).


The sample was purposively selected from PK-12 teachers who subscribe to four email lists. All respondents (n=659) were PK-12 teachers, including at least two respondents from each of the 50 states, who currently use instructional technology in some form related to their teaching. All transactions were electronic. The Stages of Concern Questionnaire was converted to hypertext markup language (html) and placed on the Internet. Email messages were sent to mailing list and listserv managers, asking them to share the URL for the online instrument with their participants. The responses were emailed back to a server and the data were transferred into a password-protected account. The data was transferred from that account into a spreadsheet for statistical analysis.  

There is a moderate body of literature which discusses the methodology and validation of online surveys (Batagelj & Vehovar, 1998; Bauman, Airey, & Atak, 1998; Coomer, 1997; Schmidt, 1997; Watt, 1997, 1998). Hill (1998) concluded that sample size in Internet-based surveys cannot be prescribed by traditional means. She concluded that there is no single method for determining sample size in an online survey. However, Hill states that there is seldom justification in behavioral research for sample sizes of less than 30 or larger than 500. She notes that a sample of 500 assures that sample error will not exceed 10% of standard deviation, about 98% of the time. Demographic information is seen in Table 3 below.

Table 3.   Respondent Demographics
Variable                                               n                                  percent

Grade Taught              

PK-K                                      26                                3.9

1-3                                           140                              21.2    

4-6                                           140                              21.2

Middle School                          120                              18.2

7-9                                           23                                3.5

7-12                                         69                                10.5

10-12                                       141                              21.4

Highest Degree Earned            

Bachelors                                 245                              37.2

Masters                                    204                              31.0

Specialist                                  182                              27.6

+30 hours                                 24                                3.6

Doctorate                                 4                                   0.6

Years Teaching Experience                     

            0 - 5 years                             102                                     15.5

            6 - 10 years                           120                                     18.2

            11 - 15 years                         108                                     16.4

            16 - 20 years                           98                                     19.0

            21 - 25 years                         103                                     15.6

            over 25 years                        128                                     19.4

Hours of Technology Training Received in the Past Year

            0-30                                      334                                     50.7

            31-50                                    129                                     19.6

            51-70                                      59                                       9.0

            70+                                       137                                     20.8

Home Computer

            yes                                        629                                     95.4

            no                                           37                                       5.6

            missing cases                             2                                       0.3

Length of Technology Use

            0-3 months                              13                                       2.0

            3 months 2 years                  67                                     10.2

            2 years 3 years                     70                                     10.6

            over 3 years                          505                                     76.6

            missing cases                             4                                       0.6

Time for Technology Training/Preparation Provided During School Hours

            yes                                        210                                     31.9

            no                                         449                                     68.1

Data Analysis

One way of looking at group concerns is to aggregate individual data by developing a profile that provides the average scores for each stage of the individuals in a group. Typically, the group averages will reflect the dominant high and low Stages of Concern of the entire group. Participant responses on the SoCQ were initially analyzed using SPSSX (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). Mean scores were converted to percentiles and plotted following the procedures outlined by Hall, George, and Rutherford (1998) using the SoCQ Quick Scoring Device. The first and the second highest stages of concern for all respondents were analyzed for possible patterns along with the lowest stage of concern. According to Hall, George, and Rutherford (1979), identifying the second highest stage of concerns along with the peak stage can develop a profound understanding of the dynamics of concerns of the group.

The raw score for each of the seven scales is the sum of the responses to the five statements on that scale. The mean scores for each item were computed. The mean scores were converted to percentile scores in order to interpret the results. The percentiles are represented numerically in Figure 1 and graphically in Figure 2 

Figure 1.  Group percentiles for each stage of concern.

   Stage                           0          1          2          3        4           5          6

   Percentile                  66        63        70        60        43        68        57


Figure 2.  Graph of the percentiles for each stage of concern.


Interpretation of the scores is based on guidelines contained in Measuring Stages of Concern about the Innovation: A Manual For Use of the SoC Questionnaire (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1998). The highest stage of concern for the aggregate data was Stage 2. A high Stage 2 indicates an intense personal concern about instructional technology and its consequences for the respondents on a personal level. Though these concerns reflect uneasiness regarding technology, they do not necessarily indicate resistance to technology. Personal concerns deal with what Fuller (1969) calls self concerns. A high Stage 2 score indicates ego-oriented questions and uncertainties about technology. Individuals at this stage reflect high concerns about the status, reward, and potential or real effects of technology. Individuals with intense personal concerns may, in effect, operationally block out more substantive concerns.

When Stage 2 concerns are more intense than Stage 1 concerns as with this sample, these personal concerns override concerns about learning more about the innovation. Even when general, non-threatening attempts are made to discuss the innovation with a person with this profile, the high Stage 2 concerns are intensified and the Stage 1 concerns are reduced. In this situation, Stage 2 concerns typically must be lowered before the individual can look at the innovation with any degree of objectivity (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1998).

The second highest concern was Stage 5. This stage often reflects strong concerns about working with colleagues in coordinating the use of technology. The high Stage 5 typically indicates great concern about coordination with others in relation to the innovation. Since Stage 1 is also moderately high, it is likely that these respondents have concerns about looking for ideas from others, reflecting more of a desire to learn from what other teachers know and are doing, rather than concern for collaboration.

The low stage of concern for the aggregate data was Stage 4. A low Stage 4 indicates that the respondents have minimal to no concerns about the relationship of students to the use of the innovation.


These results indicate that the intense, personal concerns of teachers may have been sacrificed as emphasis has been placed on student achievement. If it is desirable for teachers to be concerned with the application and use of technology with and for students, teachers' personal concerns must be addressed first. Concerns about innovations appear to be developmental in that earlier concerns must first be resolved (lowered in intensity) before later concerns emerge (increase in intensity). If these early concerns toward technology remain intense, teachers may even attempt to discontinue its use, in order to reduce the intensity of these concerns. In general, however, it appears that a person's concerns about an innovation develop toward the later stages (i.e., toward impact concerns) with times, successful experience, and the acquisition of new knowledge and skill.

Administrators and trainers hoping to positively impact student learning through use of instructional technology first need to provide a clear demonstration of how the use of instructional technology tools can address the personal concerns of teachers. Use of a concerns-based training model rather than a skills-based training model is one method for addressing attitudes and feelings that may be inhibiting teacher use of technology. Several studies have concluded that appropriate training, sufficient time, and attention to teacher concerns result in a shift from lower self concerns to higher intense task and impact concerns (Atkins & Vasu, 2000; Casey & Rakes, (2002); Goldsmith, 1997; Hope, 1997; Vaughan, 1997; Wells & Anderson, 1995). This finding also supports those of Fuller (2000) who found that teacher technology support is more critical to student use than direct student support in a school. She also found that teachers who receive adequate, personal support for the use of technology tend to have students who use technology more and use it more effectively.

It is critical to note that another person cannot simply manipulate higher level concerns development. Holding and changing concerns is an individual matter. However, timely provision of experiences and resources can assist with concerns arousal and resolution, encouraging the development of higher level concerns. Providing training or other interventions that are not aimed at the appropriate concerns (e.g., attempting to force high level concerns) is an almost certain way to increase the intensity of lower, less desirable stage concerns. Training must target the individual concerns of teachers before moving on to concerns of how others, even their own students, will use the available technology.

Results also indicate a strong curiosity for increased information as to how other teachers are using technology. Although the demographic data indicates that computers are readily available to the majority of the respondents and that a substantial number of hours have been spent in technology training efforts, about two-thirds (68%) of the respondents indicated they are given no time during the school day to practice what has been taught. McKenzie (2000) says that making solid change with regard to the use of instructional technology necessitates time away from the "daily press" of teaching. Providing additional professional development opportunities for technology training should enable sharing and interaction among peers, not just with a trainer.

Despite millions of dollars invested in hardware and software, many teachers are still very uncomfortable with the use of instructional technology in their classrooms. Administrators under pressure to improve student performance are frequently reluctant to address teacher concerns, ultimately thwarting efforts to accomplish their goals.

From the perspective of concerns based theory, institutionalization of an innovation only occurs when a majority of the individuals within the target group have resolved (lowered) their concerns on Stages 1, 2, and 3. In order for any innovation to become a vital, lasting part of that institution, high intensity Informational, Personal, and Management concerns must be resolved (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1978). "If these early concerns remain intense, then the user is apt to modify the innovation or their use of the innovation, or perhaps discontinue use, in order to reduce the intensity of these concerns" (p. 13). The results of this study indicate that the institutionalization of instructional technology in schools has not yet occurred. Administrators and trainers seeking to make technology an integral part of teaching and learning first need to provide a clear demonstration of how the use of instructional technology tools can address the personal concerns of teachers.  


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