Revisiting the Arena Framework

Earlier in the course, we applied the Arena Framework to our own teaching context.

As I’ve progressed in this course, I’ve been thinking a lot about the depth change. Rodger’s Diffusion Theory of Innovation (2003) conceptualized change as a bell curve of a given population adopting an innovation. In this regard, success is viewed as a percentage of a school’s population using the innovation and is something that Sarah alluded to where she mentioned: “diffusing the relevance of this technology to staff has always been my biggest problem” (Grant, 2018).

IMG_0797 2.jpg

The Arena Framework (Davis, 2017) develops a more nuanced understanding of the population and the complexities of the environment in which the change occurs. This model gives a second dimension where change can be conceptualized as having a wide context for changemakers to consider when implementing an innovation.


(Example of the Arena Framework applied to my current teaching context).

As I completed assignment 1, something I began to think about a lot more as the ‘missing piece’ of the puzzle’ is the idea of depth.

The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (Evans and Chauvin, 1993) had me think more carefully about the question of depth of the change that resulted in the introduction of an innovation. In this model teachers go three stages of concern when an innovation is introduced concerns about self (can I do this), concerns about the task (what do I need to do?) and concerns about impact (will this be better?)

Yet I wondered do leadership also go through a similar process when they are leading change?

I remixed George Couros rubric of compliance, engagement and empowerment into a visual note.IMG_0787 (1).jpg

The metaphor of an Iceberg is a useful way to view complexity.

If we were to look at my case study of Instagram in the classroom – a compliance focus would see my goal as increasing usage by teachers and parents and the uses of the tool would be limited perhaps, to substitution where the innovation does something better but with little change to practice.

In short, this results in a ‘let’s do this here’ (Bond-Clegg, 2018) approach. Which Tarryn Bond, a teacher at the International School Ho Chi Minh, explains where an innovation from one school is transplanted into another with very little consideration about the why and how the innovation will be used in this school context.

Compliance-focused professional learning would be very much focused on ‘sit and get’ with clear expectations about usage by leadership. In this regard, the innovation stays at the surface of learning not changing teacher practice beyond the must-dos set down by school leadership.

In the case of Instagram it might be introduced at a staff meeting, with clear expectations around the number of quality of posts. Yet there is no connection to how the innovation connects to the school’s vision of learning. As a result, the innovation is another thing on a teacher’s ‘to do’ list.

Moving below the surface the population is where the innovation engages a population. The population might use the innovation more often than initial requests because they find that it suits the purpose. Small changes in practice begin to emerge as a result of the teachers use innovation however they are still within the bounds of the initial vision.

Professional learning comes from coaching conversations between teachers as well as between teachers and leaders. In the case of Instagram, the posting of photos on an Instagram account might improve the quality of dialogue between home, school and the child’s wilder whānau. Teachers might share comments or the number of likes they receive from families with their colleagues, leading to conversations about the content of the posts. Parents might share posts within their ecosystem, leading to wider discussions about the child’s learning into the extended family.

Empowerment is down deep and may be hard for leadership to see unless they take an inquiry as a leadership stance (Sherratt, 2018a) which Sam Sherratt, the PYP coordinator at the International School of Paris, sees traditional moulds of school leadership reconfigured so that changes becomes a result of problem-focused interactions. As a result, the innovation is beginning to be used in novel ways by the population which results in changes to teaching and learning. Teachers support others to adapt their use of the tool which results in changes to teaching and learning due to the ongoing conversations that go on.

For instance, the use of hashtags in Instagram is a way to formulate an ongoing and multi-author narrative of learning across the school may be the catalyst for a teacher to re-think models of their own teaching and learning. Through the use hashtagging the teacher is better able to see learning experiences through multiple disciplinary lenses rather than siloed subjects. Something that can be seen in the evolution of Sam’s thinking from talking of hashtagging in 2011 (Sherratt, 2011) to establishment of Studio 5 at the International School Ho Chi Minh City (Sheratt, 2018b) where learners are planning their own days and units supported by the use of blogfolios where learners can tag entries.

Revisiting the Arena

Instead of a ‘birds eye’ I tipped the arena onto its side to consider the depth of change that may underneath the arena. I’ve kept with my three layers – compliance, engagement and empowerment. Not all innovations will require a level of empowerment across different areas of the arena. Nevertheless, an understanding of context and a focus on the overall usage of an innovative organization is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to changes teaching and learning as result of the introduction innovation. This requires changemakers to consider how they will create a culture of empowerment as a result of the introduction of a new technology.



Couros,  G. (2017) What we ask of Our Students and What We Do. Blogpost retrieved from:

Evans, L. and Chauvin, S. 1993. Faculty Developers as Change Facilitators: The Concerns-Based Adoption ModelTo Improve the Academy. Paper 278. (Hosted by The DigitalCommons, University of Nebraska – Lincoln)

    Davis, N. (2017). The Arena framework and a story. In Author, Digital technologies and change in education: The Arena framework (pp 9-33). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

    Grant, S. (2018). Enhancing Change in Today’s Schools. Blogpost retrived from:

    Rogers, E. M. (2003). Attributes of innovations and their rate of adoption. In Author, Diffusion of Innovations. 5th ed. (pp. 219-266) New York, NY: Free Press.

    Sherratt, S. (2011) When Teaching is like fishing. Blogpost retrieved from:

    Sherratt, S. (2018a) Evolution Starts Here, Part 1: Inquiry-Based Leadership. Blogpost retrieved from:

    Sherratt, S. (2018b) Studio 5 took more than 7 days. Blogpost retrieved from:

    2 thoughts on “Revisiting the Arena Framework

    Add yours

    1. Hi Stephanie, I am interested in tipping the Arena on its side. Compliance, engagement and empowerment are all considerations for me also. When looking at my context (a data base), we decided to go back to revisiting our vision as a starting point. From there we need to look at the outcomes needed from the technology from the Managers perspective as this will require an element of compliance. Engaging everyone is necessary and then empowering all so that we don’t have a situation created where we rely on one or two ‘experts’ to run the database. From past experience when the experts stepped aside or moved on, the system fell over. This is consistent with comments that Davis (2018) makes in her book. As well as your comments resonating with me, I am liking your graphics, what do you use to create them?


      1. Hi Jane

        Thanks for your comment.

        I really love to be empowered, I’m happy when I am engaged and find myself pushing back against compliance when I don’t see the purpose. Nevertheless without some come vision and tools, things get chaotic.

        I like what you said about avoiding having only one or two experts but I wonder if there’s something in a schools DNA that promotes that? How often do we send one teacher on a course and then expect them to lead professional development for their school.

        I use Adobe Draw to create my graphics on my iPad. For my quote pictures I use Adobe Spark Post.


        Liked by 1 person

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