Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is Quality Management in Education or Quality Learning

Tribus, M. (n.d.) Quality Management in Education. Haywood, California: Author. Retrieved August 5, 2009 from
What is the aim of applying quality management to education?
  • to enhance the productivity of teachers
  • to allow teachers and students to find greater joy in their work
  • to ensure that students are more likely to make a positive contribution to society when they leave school

What is quality management?

It is a new, or different way of approaching the task of managing an organisation which endeavours to:

  • harmonise the efforts of all players
  • help workers to approach tasks with enthusiasm
  • help workers to participate in work improvement
  • change the relationship between managers and workers
  • take a 'systems view' of things
  • connect the organisations processes to its mission/purpose
  • provide every member with opportunities for personal growth/development
  • allow workers to be active, creative contributors
  • constantly innovate and improve
  • ensure that the interests of the workers and the greater good are served simultaneously
  • help managers to create a nurturing environment, acting as mentors and facilitators
  • shape a favourable future despite inevitable external change
  • encourage teamwork
  • encourage shared values and knowledge of the mission

This, to me, sounds like utopia! Things that have been missing for me in my work experiences are nurturing, mentors, a shared vision/purpose/mission, being encouraged to pursue personal growth, being encouraged to contribute creatively, and teamwork.

Principle 1 The people work in a system. The job of the manager is to work on the system, to improve it continuously, with their help.

Unfortunately, school systems are rarely interested in hearing suggestions for improvement from their teachers, and teachers don't always want to receive feedback on their teaching from students. Rather than specific, personal criticism, what is needed is a definition of what a quality experience would be.

Principle 2 Quality is never your problem. Quality improvement is the answer to your problem. Whatever the problem, begin by asking the question, "What does it mean to solve this problem with quality?" Then proceed to make your decision by putting quality first.

Quality is about how the teaching and learning experience unfolds. Students should be encouraged to discuss "Why am I here?", "What am I trying to do?", "What can the teacher do to help?", "How will we know when we're doing it?".

Principle 3 If you want to improve the product, put your attention on the process whereby the product is made.

It's obvious: if you want to improve students' achievements, concentrate on improving the teaching/learning process.

Principle 4 If you try to improve the performance of a system of people, procedures, practices and machines by setting goals and targets for the individual parts of the system, the system will defeat you every time and you will pay a price where you least expect it.

It's good to set goals for education, but don't use individual outcomes as the sole measure of success. Rather than test results, what should be foremost is ensuring that students increase their knowledge, know-how, wisdom and character. Different levels of competency should be defined for each aspect of learning, decided jointly with students. Teachers also need to help students to increase their autonomy, and develop the skills of defining problems and deciding what quality solutions are.

From Quality Learning Australia Pty Ltd. (2009). Principles of Quality Learning and Improvement. Retrieved August 5, 2009 from

Quality Learning Australia also have a list of principles (12!).

  1. People work in a system. Systems determine how an organisation and its people perform.
  2. Shared purpose and a clear vision of excellence align effort.
  3. Activities are components of processes. Improving systems and processes improves performance, relationships and behaviour.
  4. Clients define quality and form perceptions.
  5. Sustainability requires management of relationships with stakeholders.
  6. Improvement is rarely achieved without the planned application of appropriate strategies and methods.
  7. Knowledge and improvement are derived from theory, prediction, observation and reflection.
  8. Facts and data are needed to measure progress and improve decision-making.
  9. Systems and processes are subject to variation that affects predictability and performance.
  10. Removing barriers to intrinsic motivation improves performance.
  11. Change is a process not an event.
  12. It is everybody's job to improve the systems and processes for which they are responsible by working with their people and role modelling these principles.

These principles are obviously more detailed that Tribus' four, but have the same flavour and general direction. Quality Learning Australia seems to have made an effort to be more concrete.

Streeton Primary School. (2000). The 12 quality principles. In G. Askew (Ed.), Q is for Quality (pp. 12-24). Yallambie, Victoria: Author.

This final article considers some examples of practical applications of the 12 quality principles. They are ordered, and expressed, a little differently than on the Quality Learning Australia website.

The examples include:

  • All members of the school community know the key phrases used to identify the school. But, more importantly, they can explain the meaning behind these statements.
  • Plans are documented. Everyone has access to them and understands them.
  • A teacher listens as students talk about their needs, and uses tools to identify preferred modes of learning. Using this information the teacher and students develop individually orientated programs.
  • Processes are in place to ensure the communication and recognition of ideas.
  • Staff and students use a variety of tools to help with brainstorming, problem solving and decision making.
  • The leadership team sets aside time to reflect on particular systems within the school, studying data and working on these systems to improve them.
  • When difficulties arise, students and staff see them and their possible solutions in the light of the school's shared values and processes.

As I said at the beginning, utopia!

No comments: