In our last blog, we began discussing one of the most challenging problems to solve for educational leaders: changing the mindsets of teachers to embrace new ideas, reforms, and changes. We know that action often precedes changes in beliefs, but getting people to act is often a challenge for many school leaders.
To understand this problem more in-depth, we discussed a model created by Gregoire (2003) that helps leaders understand the process by which teacher accept or reject new ideas and change their mindsets. As a reminder, her model labeled the Cognitive-Affective Model of Conceptual Change (CAMCC), uses both cognitive and affective processing to understand how teachers accept or reject new ideas. In brief, the model suggests
- A change message is presented to a teacher in a specific situation.
- The message may threaten the teacher’s identity, so she implicates herself around the idea. If the teacher believes she is already using the idea, she makes a “benign positive appraisal” because she lacks the motivation to process the idea more in-depth.
- This positive appraisal cues the teacher to use surface-level processing.
- The teacher decides to yield or not to the idea. If they do yield, the idea assimilates into old beliefs which leads to only superficial change. If yielding does not occur, no change in belief structure happens.
- On the other side going back to Step 2, if teachers know they are not using the new idea, this creates anxiety and an appraisal of this stress.
- The stress appraisal causes the teacher to go through both an affective and cognitive judgment of herself to determine if she has the motivation, self-efficacy, and capacity to take on the idea.
- If the teacher feels she cannot meet these demands, she labels the change idea as a threat. The teacher then employs a fixed mindset and works to avoid the change using the same regular processing discussed in Step 3.
- If the teacher feels she can meet the demands of the change idea, she labels the idea as a challenge and uses an approach intention similar to a growth mindset. The teacher tells herself that with effort, practice, and support the new change skill can be mastered.
- The teacher then does more in-depth processing of the idea comparing it to their current beliefs and practice.
- After this processing, a teacher still has to yield to accept the idea. If they do yield and accept, the actual conceptual change will occur after professional learning and practice with the ideas.
What School Leaders Can Do
Once school leaders understand the Cognitive-Affective Model of Conceptual Change (CAMCC), they can intervene and use specific strategies at certain points of the process with groups and individuals to help with mindset changes.
- First, leaders must become experts at explaining and using this model with teachers. Too often as leaders, we ask for blind acceptance not knowing how teachers accept or reject ideas. The same goes for teachers; they often accept or reject ideas too quickly without knowing the implicit process they are going through.
- Second, leaders must become experts at framing the change idea to implicate current practice. Too often leaders give out general information that leads teachers down the “benign positive appraisal” route so as not to create conflict. Instead, leaders must give a solid explanation of 1) the need for a change 2) an exact explanation of what the change looks like or principles of the idea, and 3) how people will be asked to process through the ideas.
- Third, leaders must not be afraid to confront the “I already do this” mentality in their explanation. They can do this by explaining or demonstrating a contrast between new ideas and old. This contrasting will prevent a first move down the “I already do this” path.
- Fourth, leaders must surface how to appraise the stress and anxiety reaction more carefully. By using the model as a set of explicit steps teachers go through, leaders can help teachers anticipate the affective states they will travel through. Appraisal of anxiety can be done by having teachers write about their feelings of motivation and self-efficacy for the change, then develop specific strategies. The well-researched Levels of Use and Concerns-Based Adoption Model (Hall &Hord, 2015 ) can be of great assistance at this stage noting the typical stages teachers go through during change.
- Fifth, leaders must help teachers systematically compare the reform idea with current practice. This step is probably the most important one to prevent outright rejection or assimilation into current beliefs. To do this, leaders create a two-column chart with new principles or specific change ideas on the left side. The right is left blank, and during a meeting, teachers are asked to compare and contrast their practice with the new ideas by sharing both what they do and why that is the same or different. By collecting these, leaders can see where the most prominent differences may exist, and how teachers are interpreting these ideas. This comparison, of course, requires leaders to develop and have a well-defined set of principles or descriptors for the change idea.
- Sixth, leaders must help teachers continually refer back to this processing plan to determine growth and support next steps.
In sum, school leaders in today’s environment must be able to know the in-depth principles of their change ideas and also how to support teachers throughout the required changes. Too often we see a teacher’s emotional reaction as something to be pushed to the side or ignored. Instead, this model advocates that embracing and supporting both the cognitive and affective states of teachers needs to be a significant part of a school leader’s tool kit. Next week, we will explore a specific example to show how a leader can employ this model and steps to help teachers.
Gregoire, M. (2003, June). Is it a challenge or a threat? A dual-process model of teachers’ cognition and appraisal process during conceptual change. Educational Psychology Review, 15 (2), 147-179.
Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2015). Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.