Initial Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM)

See more Change Theories »Summary written by Brenda Garrison, Community College of Denver,

The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) is a theoretical model for facilitating change that helps leaders and researchers understand, lead, and monitor the complex process of change in education.


The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) is a theoretical model for facilitating change that helps leaders and researchers understand, lead, and monitor the complex process of change in education (Hall, et al, 1974). The researchers' focus is on users who are attempting to implement an expected change. CBAM represents a developmental process for adopting innovations in schools, focusing on individuals' increased use. This increased use is enabled by Change Facilitators' strategies and actions, known in this model as Interventions.

Change Facilitators use CBAM's three main research-verified constructs when planning and implementing Interventions: Stages of Concern (SoC), Innovation Configuration Map (IC Map), and Levels of Use (LoU).

These components allow the Change Facilitators to assess individual motivations and needs when adopting an Innovation. In this way, Change Facilitators reduce perceived threats to users, thereby increasing the likelihood that the Innovation will be adopted with Fidelity before it is adapted or changed (Hall, et al, 1973).

The effective implementation of a new program is a highly personal developmental process. The diagnostic dimensions of CBAM are three components for assessing and guiding this process:

  • Innovation Configurations: An Innovation Configuration Map provides a clear picture of what constitutes high-quality implementation. It serves as an exemplar to guide and focus staff efforts.
  • Stages of Concern: The Stages of Concern process, which includes a questionnaire, interview, and open-ended statements, enables leaders to identify staff members' attitudes and beliefs toward a new program or initiative. With this knowledge, leaders can take actions to address individuals' specific concerns.
  • Levels of Use: The Levels of Use interview tool helps determine how well staff, both individually and collectively, are using a program. Levels range from nonuse to advanced use. When combined with the Innovation Configuration and first-hand observations, this information can help staff effectively implement a new program.

Example of Use

Design Change Efforts: CBAM has been used effectively in a wide variety of educational contexts, such as K-12 science, nursing, dental and medical schools, to sustain implementation of a variety of approaches to curriculum, instruction and assessment. It has also been successfully used in a variety of settings, including Australia, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, Afghanistan, Ghana, Sweden & Belgium (Norman, Van der Vlueten, Newble, 2002).

Assumptions & Limitations


According to Hall & Hord, 2020, change at all levels is complex and dynamic. Within that complexity, twelve principles of change are foundational to CBAM (Hall & Hord, 2020, 11-24):

  1. Change is Learning; It's as Simple and Complex as That
  2. Change is a Process, not an Event
  3. Implementing Change is a Whole System Effort
  4. Organizations Adopt Change; Individuals Implement Change
  5. The School is the Primary Organizational Unit for Change
  6. District- and School-Based Leadership is Essential to Long-Term Change Success
  7. Facilitating Change is a Team Effort
  8. Interventions are Key to the Success of the Change Process
  9. Appropriate Interventions Can Reduce Resistance to Change
  10. All-way Communication is Needed All the Time
  11. Mandates Can Work
  12. Sustaining Change Requires Additional Time, Interventions and Leadership.


Although CBAM has been used in a wide variety of educational settings, it was developed and researched primarily within K-12 settings. Its applicability to Higher Education may be limited by two core assumptions. First, unlike Diffusion Theory, with its emphasis on users' decisions to adopt an innovation, CBAM is based on the assumption that the innovation will be adopted. In addition, its emphasis on implementing new programs (such as curriculum adoptions and educational kits) with fidelity, may not adequately address the complexity of change in Higher Education.

Each of these factors may not apply, however, during COVID 19, because the switch to online instruction is not something faculty make a decision about. In addition, online instruction requires a greater level of fidelity in online course design principles.

Guide Research Related to Change

Here are some possible areas for research related to CBAM:

  1. Verify the model within higher education.
  2. Correlate instructors' Stages of Concern with their self-efficacy.
  3. Studying change facilitation as an aspect of leadership in higher education.
  4. Correlating Levels of Use with student achievement, especially in math.

Related Instrument/Metrics

Change Facilitators may contact the American Institute of Research (AIR) for the Stages of Concern (SoC) and Levels of Use (LoU) questionnaires. AIR also provides analysis of the results of these surveys as well as professional development in supporting change facilitation.

Related Theories

Intellectual Heritage

CBAM's theoretical foundation is Havelock's theory of Linkage, which combines three other theories: 1) Research, Development, and Diffusion; 2) Social Interaction Perspective; and 3) Problem-Solver Perspective. CBAM differs from Linkage, however, in its assumption that innovations will be adopted, in contrast with the assumption that the user decides to adopt an innovation.

In addition, CBAM builds on the work of Fuller and others (1974), who discovered that teachers' general concerns are part of a predictable pattern ranging from concerns about self (e.g. "Am I knowledgeable about the content I'm teaching?") to concerns about the task of teaching e.g. "Do I have the time and materials I need to make this work?") to concerns about impact on students (e.g. "How will this material help students do well in the next math course?"). (Hall, Wallace, and Dossett, 1973).

The combination of these theoretical foundations leads to CBAM's emphasis on understanding instructors' needs and meeting these needs through appropriate support and planning. As a result, instructors will progress from a mechanical use of the innovation to higher levels of use, such as Collaboration and Refinement.

Original Publication of Theory

Change in Schools: Facilitating the Process (1987), Gene E. Hall and Shirley M. Hord, State University of New York Press, Albany

Other References

Frances F. Fuller, "Concerns of Teachers: A Developmental Conceptualization," American Educational Research Journal 6, no. 2 (March,1969): 207-226.

George, Archie A, et al. "Extent of Implementation of a Standards-Based Approach to Teaching Mathematics and Student Outcomes." Journal of Classroom Interaction, vol. 35, no. 1, Spring, 2000, pp. 8–25.

Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (1987). Change in schools: Facilitating the process. New York: State University of New York Press.

Hall, Gene E., and Shirley M. Hord. Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes. Pearson Education, Inc., 2020.

Norman, Geoffrey R., et al. International Handbook of Research in Medical Education. Kluwer, 2002.

Note: This summary is written as a secondary resource to help researchers and practitioners learn about potentially relevant change theory. We encourage authors to read the original references rather than citing this summary in published work or grant proposals.