Stages of Change

I just wrapped up a two day return to Joplin, Missouri with a chance to work with all of their building administrators in joint sessions with their instructional coaches. We examined longer term and “this next year” school improvement plans. We identified the student behaviors needed to reach critical achievement goals and the teacher behaviors most likely to generate those desired student responses.  Lastly, we examined the leadership roles that would initiate and support the desired teacher behaviors.

After assessing current teacher practices and the changes needed, I discussed my ideas about working with teachers who are…



Getting Ready



and how coaches and administrators support the needed changes. (See earlier blog and power point.)

Renee White, Project HOPE Manager (Mental Health in Schools) in Joplin was a participant in the session and shared with me at break that she thought there were connections between my descriptions and a six-stage model of change to help professionals understand their clients with addiction problems and motivate them to change.

The six stages of that model are:








Individuals in the precontemplation stage of change are not even thinking about changing their behavior. They may not see it as a problem, or they think that others who point out the problem are exaggerating.

There are many reasons to be in precontemplation —reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization:

Reluctant precontemplators are those who through lack of knowledge or inertia do not want to consider change. The impact of the problem has not become fully conscious.

Rebellious precontemplators have a heavy investment in their current behavior and are resistant to being told what to do.

Resigned precontemplators have given up hope about the possibility of change and seem overwhelmed by the problem. Many have made unsuccessful attempts to change in the past.

Rationalizing precontemplators have all the answers; they have plenty of reasons why their current practice is not a problem, or why it’s a problem for others but not for them.

I see this fitting my explanation of teachers who are unwilling to change or unaware of the need to change.


Individuals in this stage of change are willing to consider the possibility that they have a problem, and the possibility offers hope for change. However, people who are contemplating change are often highly ambivalent. They are on the fence. Contemplation is not a commitment, not a decision to change. People at this stage are often quite interested in learning about the change. They consider the pros and cons of their behavior, and the pros and cons of change. They think about the previous attempts they have made to change.

I saw this fitting my description of “getting ready” . These teachers know they need to change practice, they just are not ready to do it now.

Determination: Commitment to Action

All the weighing of pros and cons, all the risk-reward analysis, finally tips the balance in favor of change. Not all ambivalence has been resolved, but ambivalence no longer represents an insurmountable barrier to change. Individuals in this stage appear to be ready and committed to action.

Individuals in this stage of change put their plan into action. This stage typically involves making some form of public commitment in order to get external confirmation of the plan. Making such public commitments not only helps people obtain the supports they need, but it creates external monitors. People often find it very helpful to know that others are watching and cheering them on. Nothing succeeds like success. A person who has implemented a good plan begins to see it work and experiences it working over time, making adjustments along the way.

This fits my category of started…..teachers who have taken action but are not yet seeing the results of their efforts in student changes. I label the role of the coach at this point as cheerleader.

Maintenance, Relapse and Recycling

The action stage normally takes three to six months to complete. Change requires building a new pattern of behavior over time. This stage of successful change is called “maintenance.”

In my description, this stage is developing…. The teacher is seeing the payoff of the change in student behavior and student achievement.


The ultimate goal in the change process is termination……… the individual has complete confidence that he can cope without fear of relapse.

In my description, the new teacher behavior is internalized…. it occurs unconsciously.

Thanks Renee, I love looking at things through another lens!

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3 Responses to “ Stages of Change ”

  1. Willie Nelson Says:

    Awesome connection!

  2. Pam Garcia Says:

    It’s very helpful to me, as a coach, to see the stages of change in this way.

  3. Steve Says:

    Glad you found this comparison valuable.
    Feel free to pass it on

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