Prepping for Change: The ADKAR Model

The Academic Integrity Office at the University of California, San Diego will be posting THREE new positions in the coming days: a Senior Case Coordinator, Case Coordinator, and an Education Coordinator. These positions were created, in part, as a result of some major policy and procedural changes to be implemented in the Fall 2019 quarter. (Keep an eye on this week for the job postings!)

While this is fantastic news, and I’m very excited about the changes coming forward this year, it also means that in less than 4 months, we have to ready a larger AI Office and the entire campus community to act according to the new procedures. Needless to say, as the primary lead on this change, I’m struck at times with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. In other words, will I be able to pull this off?

And that’s when I remember to go back to ADKAR – a tested and proven model for the people side of organizational change.

I decided to talk about ADKAR in today’s blog post not only because I’m thinking about change, but because I know that others struggle with it as well. How do we get faculty to report academic integrity violations according to policy? How do we move students’ perceptions of cheating and change their behaviors? How can we get our institutions to make the changes necessary to respond to the increasing threat of contract cheating?

These are the questions with which many of us struggle and the ADKAR model might help us answer.

So, today, I’m going to do a brief introduction to the ADKAR model. I’m no expert, but I have had training on the model and have studied organizational change for a while (starting in my Ph.D. program).

ADKAR is an acronym for: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability & Reinforcement. It is a model of change tested with over 4500 participants over the last 20 years. And, in that testing, they found that people are most likely to be able to change if they first have an awareness that change is needed and helpful. Think about it – why would anyone change their behaviors or minds if they weren’t even aware of the need for change? Why would faculty report cheating if they weren’t aware of the downsides of not reporting or the upsides of doing so? You see this awareness phase in many models of change,  so it appears to be universal. Think about awareness weeks or months (think Black History Month); in our world, the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating is a method for generating awareness. Raising awareness requires multiple communications in multiple mediums, all of which are sending a consistent message to the entire organization.

Next, after awareness is generated, we need to inspire in people a desire to make the change or support the change that is being presented to them. Ideally, you involve the most highly impacted people in the planning of the change; after all, it is quite difficult to generate desire in people if you are presenting them with a change with which they were previously unaware or uninvolved in (hence why the first step is so critical). But, you cannot always do that. So how do you create this desire? People can often be naturally selfish so usually the desire must be seeded by what is in it for them. Will their lives be easier, better or more fun? Will it better enable them to reach their goal(s) or achieve something? This is tricky in the world of academic integrity because for students, cheating can be an easy way to achieve a short-term goal (i.e., a grade). What ADKAR tells us is that unless we figure out a way to generate in students a desire to change from cheating to integrity, then our other efforts to prevent may be wasted efforts. We can create this desire by listening and understanding objectives, removing barriers to the change, make it personal, and provide incentives for the changed behaviors.

Once people have an awareness of the need for change and a desire to support that change, we must help them gain the knowledge that is needed to implement that change. Without knowledge, awareness and desire is useless. Think of the person who is aware that they have diabetes and need to change their eating habits, and they have the desire to do so, but they cannot change because they are unable to differentiate between detrimental and beneficial eating habits. Likewise, faculty may have an awareness that active learning can enhance integrity and learning, as well as the desire to flip their classroom, but they need knowledge of active learning pedagogies before they can actually make the change. So, when we’re looking to change faculty academic integrity practices on our campuses, we have to keep in mind that some practices will require more knowledge growing activities than others. Knowledge-growing activities include formal training and education programs, one-on-one coaching, and active communities of practice. Being cognizant of the need to grow knowledge will keep us from asking too much too fast of our faculty, students, and staff.

After there is awareness, desire and knowledge, people now need the behaviors and skills that will make them able to implement the change. This means training programs have to be implemented to tool up our students, faculty and staff for the change, and ongoing training needs to be available so people feel supported – especially within the first year of the change. For example, if we want our faculty and staff to be better able to detect contract cheating, we need to train them in the methods for spotting the usual signs as well as methods for speaking to students about their concerns. If we want students to make better ethical decisions under stress and pressure, then we need to equip them with the skills necessary to make those better decisions.

Finally, once there is the awareness, desire, knowledge and ability, people need reinforcement to make the change “stick”. This means that we need to keep our focus on the change for a year or two by collecting data on change progress, so that we can identify where there are gaps, pockets of resistance, or skill deficits; this will enable us to implement appropriate performance management and training so that people can continually refine and advance their skills. And, we need to celebrate successes and wins (small or big). Ensuring that people are supported in their change efforts and celebrated in their change successes, will weave the change into the fabric of the organization over the long-term.

That’s the ADKAR change model in a nutshell. Of course, everything is always easier said than done. So, I’ll write another blog post a year from now to let you know how/if the ADKAR model helped me manage change on my campus.

About the Author
Tricia Bertram Gallant, Ph.D. is the author of Academic Integrity in the Twenty-First Century: A Teaching and Learning Imperative (Jossey-Bass, 2008), co-author of Cheating in School: What We Know and What We Can Do (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), editor of Creating the Ethical Academy: A Systems Approach to Understanding Misconduct & Empowering Change in Higher Education (Routledge, 2011), and section editor for the Handbook of Academic Integrity (Springer, 2016). She is the Director of the UC San Diego Academic Integrity Office and Board Member of the International Center for Academic Integrity, and has been an ethics lecturer with the Rady School of Management. When Tricia blogs, the content is hers and should not be attributed to her employer or ICAI.