Panel Paper: Buy-in to Educational Reform: The Development of a Conceptual Model and Measurement Scale

Saturday, April 8, 2017 : 2:50 PM
Founders Hall Room 470 (George Mason University Schar School of Policy)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Eric M Grebing, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Objectives: Throughout the literature on program implementation, researchers consider stakeholder buy-in as a prerequisite for successful, sustainable change (Turnbull, 2002). Despite the frequent mention of its importance, however, the construct of buy-in is understudied (Kramer, Cai, & Merlino, 2015). Even in cases when researchers measure stakeholder buy-in, the measurement is often relegated to the background as research findings focus primarily on the implementation of program activities and progress toward goals. This paper helps to fill a gap in the research by describing a conceptual model of buy-in and four survey scales developed to measure the construct. The paper also discusses initial results of the deployment of the scales to measure early levels of buy-in for a regional whole school reform effort. Such measurement will enhance the field of education by helping implementers of educational innovations receive feedback regarding levels of stakeholder buy-in and suggest areas in which implementers can enhance support.

Conceptual Framework: The conceptual framework recognizes that buy-in exists simultaneously as an individual and social construct. Individual components such as understanding, beliefs, and attitude toward change interact with social connections and organizational culture to influence buy-in. Attempting to measure aspects of the construct, the framework explores four components of buy-in: Awareness, Understanding, Belief in Change, and Commitment to Action. Each component exists both at the individual and group level and the model suggests that measurement should take place at both levels.

Methodology: Drawing from education implementation and organizational theory literature, the conceptual framework synthesizes underlying constructs that contribute to buy-in to educational interventions at the individual and organizational levels. A study of these constructs and modification of instruments used in prior research on buy-in (Turnbull, 2002) led to the development of an instrument to measure the constructs of awareness, understanding, belief, and commitment to action regarding a whole school reform program. The survey was pilot-tested with 15 principals and teachers and questions were revised in response to respondents’ feedback. Following pilot testing, 765 educators across 15 program schools in a Midwestern metro area responded to the buy-in scales as part of a larger baseline survey on program implementation. Factor analysis was then used to validate the scales in alignment with the conceptual model.

Results: Each of the four scales had high reliability, ranging from .88 to .96, and the factor structure showed alignment of the items to the conceptual model. Results demonstrated a weak but statistically significant correlation between awareness of the program and belief in the importance of the targeted changes. The baseline survey also indicated that a high percentage of program participants were unaware of the program details or were unaware of the program entirely. Future research will use the scales to track changes in buy-in to the project over time and connect the scale results to measures of implementation fidelity. Other potential applications involve generalizing the scales for use in other education reform contexts.