Can the Lesson Study Model work in the US? Look to US manufacturing for the answer.
There is a lot of interest in the US Education establishment about implementing Japanese style “lesson study models”. Consultants try to make it sound like it is a new idea. It may be new to US education, but it is not a new idea to the US. It is one manifestation of the continuous improvement quality movement in the Education arena. This quality movement requires three things: the desire to strive for continuous improvement, the willingness and ability of all members to work together to improve and a system for improvement. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Japanese were trying to rebuild their manufacturing infrastructure after WWII and the had a desire to get better and were willing to work together to do it, but they needed a system. They looked to the US for their inspiration. They found it in W.E. Deming, a statistician. Ironically, the US manufacturing establishment ignored his system of continuous improvement, but the Japanese embraced it and his system of 14 points permeated their society. The Japanese improved their quality so much that in the 1970’s Japanese automobile quality (which was a joke in the 1960’s) became the standard by which other goods were judged. At the same time, US manufacturing quality became a joke. The US manufacturing industry, after losing significant market share (e.g. in automobile manufacturing) to the Japanese, embraced Deming’s concepts in the 1980’s and 90’s. The quality of US goods is now equal to the rest of the world. There are many things that the education community can learn from Deming and US manufacturing as we help our students compete with other students from around the world.
For example, how did the US manufacturing industry make the difficult change?
- They realized they did not have a choice. They were losing significant market share every year.
- They realized that it was a systemic change that required all members of the organization to embrace Deming’s 14 points. This was not a “flavor of the month” program some consultant thought of. It was a way of being.
- They realized it was a long term process that would take years if not decades.
Does Deming’s 14 points actually apply to Education? Yes. In fact many of the “new” ideas that are being rolled out in public education are just Deming concepts put into education lingo.
For example, it is becoming common thinking that high stakes end of the year testing is not useful and may be harmful. Deming’s points out that we should “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place. Eliminate fear.” In education lingo Deming would encourage formative assessment and student feedback as part of the learning process and there would be no need for end of the year tests, when it is too late to affect student learning.
I have attempted to put Deming’s 14 points into Education lingo. Below in bold are my version of Deming’s 14 points. The non-bold words are Deming’s 14 points from the website: http://bit.ly/1kjqavj . I have grouped some of them together so that there are 10 points, not 14. As I wrote these, I thought of the principals and assistant principals as the supervisors and the teachers as the workers, but these points apply just as well to the teachers as supervisors and the kids as the workers.
1) It’s about the kids and getting them to learn and perform on par with the best students in the world. Everyone from the janitor to the principal should be focused on that.
- Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
- Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
- Teaching (and leading) the way we have always taught is not working.
- Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
- Standardized tests at the end of the year are ineffective because it is too late at that point. Frequent formative assessments are critical. Build the quality into each day’s teaching with many feedback loops.
- Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
- There is no end to improvement. No more “this is the way I have always taught and it has worked for me.”
- Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
- Teachers need to be learning and improving constantly and this is a group as well as individual process. Teachers need to collaborate and share best practices. Lesson study models and microteaching are effective ways to improve teaching.
- Institute training on the job.
- Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
- Administrators and department chairs need to move from evaluation once or twice a year for a ranking/grade of the teacher to many smaller less formal evaluations with the goal to help the teacher get better.
- Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
- Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
- Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
- Teachers need to talk to and work with each other. Physics needs to talk to math (e.g. math needs to teach vectors before Physics uses them). English needs to talk to History. Precalc teachers need to talk to Calc teachers.
- Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
- Focus on the learning process and the kids, not standardized test scores. Do that and the test scores will take care of themselves. Take down those posters that say “your altitude is determined by your attitude”. Teachers and administrators need to MODEL grit, continuous improvement, curiosity, collaboration, positive attitude etc…
- Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
- Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
- Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
- Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.