on April 24, 2004
Jenkins' work fairly closely parallels Dr. Demings' writings on Quality. He begins by discussing the six elements necessary to quality systems: aim, customers, suppliers, input, process, output, and quality measurement. He moves on to the discussion of motivation/demotivation, variation, and use of charts in running classes, PDSA, the web, and then more expounding on Demings theories in relation to education. Actually, the major discrepancy in the book is his lack of understanding of the theory of systems. Basically, he seems to have an imprecise understanding of both the underlying application of Deming's principles to true school improvement and how quality tools (statistics) can be used to support improvement. He discusses aim and process, but never links the idea that measuring individual tasks does not necessarily give the needed information for improving learning. The measures he discusses for tracking and fostering improvement are not process measures, they are task measures. This is further shown through the determination of what will be measured; the "required" learning is determined by the grade level teachers, who test that particular learning to measure improvement. This is part of the fractured learning that he talks against. Determination of what is truly important is determined by understanding what the customer needs, designing processes to achieve those requirements, then determining what measures will be used (formative) to make improvements within the process, and what measures (summative) will be used to see if the process was successful. The learning he advocates is within siloed stacks rather than an integrated approach that links learning to the processes that produced it. Explaining that learning is "to help you help others" would generate little motivation or energy for learning that he stresses; rather, linking this learning to the real world, or practical applications is much more successful. This is a superficial approach that only touches the required understanding of outcomes and what is necessary for improvement.
He vacillates between saying statistics are not good:"Statistics is a powerful way to create a shortage of good people" (p. 50); and stressing the importance of using statistics. He makes similar discrepancies in using scatter and control charts to show "correlation" and then stating in a later chapter that you cannot show correlation by control or scatter charts. A correlation coefficient is a different operation, and even statisticians will not say that a correlation shows causation, just that it suggests cause. He states early in the book that posting graphs of student progress is demotivating, then says student graphs to show progress are a great motivator for students in charting their advancement.
Statistics are not a simple process: understanding them requires more than a mastery of the equations on which they are constructed or aping the working of Deming or others in how they could be used in education.
on January 13, 2004
Now in an updated second edition, Improving Student Learning: Applying Deming's Quality Principles In Classrooms by education expert Lee Jenkins is a guidebook specifically intended for dedicated educators seeking to promoting successful learning among all their student charges. From keeping the brightest students interested in the subject being taught; to listening more closely to what students say; to better interpreting test results and making positive use of the information they gather, Improving Student Learning is an important addition to Educational Studies reference shelves and reading lists. A supplemental section on CD-ROM enhances this superbly presented classroom instruction improvement guide for teachers at all grade levels from preschool to post-graduate.