Stages of Change

I just finished Michael Allen’s Designing Successful e-Learning. One thing he does that I think is really smart is to encourage readers to think about instructional design through the lens of change management. Specifically, he points to Prochaska and DiClemente’s model, which describes change management as happening in the following phases.

Precontemplation: I’m fine.
Contemplation: OK, maybe not totally fine, maybe it could be better. I kind of wish it were better.
Preparation: You know what? Let’s do this. Let’s do something specific to change.
Action: I’m changing! I’m doing it!
Maintenance: I’m remaining vigilant that I don’t slip back into old ways.
Termination: I can’t imagine acting the way I used to. That seems like a different person.

The idea here is that while this model was crafted to describe addiction, it can be applied to learners as well. All instruction is about helping learners change. In what stage of change are your learners?

This approach to change is a provocative one because the instructional design toolkit for affective change is shallow. When faced with the need to encourage learners to want to change, we tend to write WIIFMs or give pretests. We tend to think in the boundaries of the course, and not on the groundwork that needs to be laid before learners ever set foot in the classroom. We have a lot to learn here.


2 thoughts on “Stages of Change

  1. Ellen

    I’m about to start two courses at the U of M, and I can’t for the life of me make these stages fit “me as learner.” Is this perhaps because I’m auditing the classes, so I will just be there because I’m interested? It’s not like I really plan to do anything about what I learn. But I guess you never know. The courses are :Women in Early America, 1600-1880, and Political Psychology of Mass Behavior.
    OK, actually the stages might apply to whoever is doing the mass behavior, or what someone wants them to do. Hmmm.

    1. robertmulcahy Post author

      Yeah, by self-selecting into something completely optional, you have already decided that the topic area represents something you don’t know about that would benefit you. You’ve zoomed to the preparation phase. I think the stages of change model is more interesting when you apply it to cases where learners are planning to attend a course because they have to, not necessarily because they want to. Or maybe they don’t have any issues going to the course but don’t particularly see a need for change in themselves. Best case for a course designer is when learners come to the course already motivated to apply what they learn. How can we be more savvy about creating catalysts for demand even before learners step into the classroom?


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