“Quality is everyone’s responsibility.” ~ W. Edwards Deming
The New York Times described W. Edwards Deming as an “expert of business management . . . that emphasized problem-solving based on cooperation.” Deming called for organizations to have a systematic approach to problem solving, encouraged teamwork and cooperation, stressed the need for education and leadership, and have an appreciation for a system. He described a system as “a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish an aim . . . without an aim there is no system.”
Inspired by Deming’s work, I have developed a system for my 8th grade American History class. This system has an aim, which we refer to daily: “The Land of Choices” that will be reached through continual quality improvement. From the very first day of eighth grade, we talk about where they want to be four years down the road. The discussion is not so much on what they will specifically do after high school, but rather what choices will be open to them. I want all of my students to develop the intellectual confidence necessary to complete a rigorous high school curriculum. We work to develop the knowledge, skills, abilities, and confidence to take challenging courses. This, in turn, will open up many opportunities for them. They will have successfully reached “The Land of Choices.”
We begin each unit with a capacity matrix. Acharting technique used to break down topic areas into steps for achieving a specific result; a capacity matrix identifies tasks, knowledge levels, and understanding of the topic area. Students know from the beginning, what specific information they will need for the unit assessment and use the matrix to chart their personal growth toward the understanding of that information.
The system of our class, which is graphically displayed for students in a detailed flow chart, is made up of three main pieces. We regularly have “Big Shows,” which are used as direct instruction for the entire class. Here, key concepts and connections are explained and examined. Additionally, students use the “Big Shows” to practice listening, note-taking, and summarizing skills. These “Big Shows” are put on my YouTube channel for students to view and review as needed.
There is also an online component to our class system. Using MyCyberSchool.org as our platform, students go to my online page to take practice tests, access and share information, download assignments, watch videos, access podcasts, and post to forums. Students have visited my page as early as 4:00 AM and as late as 1:00 AM – and everything in between. We have thousands of page views each and every month.
The third component of our class is the heart of the system. I employ Situational Leadership to differentiate the daily work done by students. Situational Leadership focuses on the specific readiness level to be successful for the student in a given task or unit of study. I adapt the daily work given to the student to best fit his or her readiness level. Using the capacity matrix as the roadmap, students may take differing paths, but they all end up at the same destination. This differentiation allows me to challenge students at a level most appropriate for them, thereby maximizing their growth potential.
The focus of our system is not about hurriedly covering the material. We seek continual quality improvement . . . for all students. We strive to not only improve the class average but also shrink the gap between the most successful and least successful students. Quality work and quality learning is the goal for all students. Quality is everyone’s responsibility.