Finding Joy In Learning: Applying Deming’s Theory to Schools

By John Hunter, founder of

Presentation by Michael King and Jane Kovacs at the 2015 Deming in Education conference – Finding Joy In Learning: Applying Deming’s Theory to Schools.

YouTube video

The speakers work for Quality Learning Australasia (QLA). QLA’s website has quite a bit of useful information.

One of the tools they used in the presentation is a Lotus diagram which is used to help organize your thinking and learning.

Michael King:

Improvement and learning are flip sides of the same coin. You won’t get improvement without learning, and learning drives improvement… Theory is important.

This idea echoes what Ian Bradbury said in his 2012 presentation – Deming 101: Theory of Knowledge and the PDSA Improvement and Learning Cycle. To improve we need to have a theory on what will lead to improvement and then test that in practice (using the PDSA cycle). We learn from that experiment and most often should choose to iterate several times as we refine our learning. And then when we learn enough to be confident adopting these methods (and often adopting them more widely) is wise we do so (while continuing to evaluate if it works as expected as we adopt it as a standard practice).

If you are a bit confused by the 1st year student’s “PDSA” you would be correct in thinking it isn’t a PDSA cycle. His description was really about using a checklist to avoid common mistakes. PDSA is experimenting with changes to improve a process A checklist is a very useful strategy that can be used to make sure you check something (like the student’s writing sample) to verify certain standards are met (or that the proper steps in a process are taken). The high school students did really do projects using the PDSA cycle.

The aim of using the PDSA cycle is to learn about a process in order to improve and involves experimenting with changes to learn and determine if the changes are an improvement. As I have mentioned (on this blog and my Curious Cat Management Improvement blog) many times those most successful using the PDSA cycle iterate through the cycle rapidly numerous times for any improvement effort. This rapid iteration is often a challenge for organizations when they are getting started using the PDSA cycle.

They also discuss a tool that I believe is extremely valuable and that I wrote about here before: A Powerful Tool: The Capacity Matrix.

Related: Joy in Learning, Deming Institute Podcast with David LangfordInquiring Minds: Improving Elementary Science by Linda Lippe

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