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Start by considering what the product is that you produce as an organization and what core processes are needed to produce that product. In the case of education, the product is learning or a change in behavior as a result of learning something.
Now look at quality in light of behavior change. What do you design and develop that causes behavior changes. Certainly that would include teaching methods, but also the curriculum, course length, how the day is structured, homework, grading, extracurricular activities, grade levels, meals served, etc.
Consider a factory that makes a product. The factory worker uses work instructions, methods, and tools to create the product. The system the worker uses consists of these very same work instructions, methods, and tools. Problems or defects with the product produced, as a result of these work instructions, methods, and tools, require changes to the system. The product is not the work instructions, methods, or tools. Seems obvious but, how would this work in education?
Let’s take a look at the teacher in a school. The teacher uses work instructions, methods, and tools to create the product we call learning, just like a factory worker. If the product produced (learning) has problems or defects (i.e. learning is not occurring as expected) then the teacher must change their work instructions, methods, or tools in order to decrease the defect rate and increase the quality of the product. Teaching is to a school as working is to a factory.
There was a European study done in 1997 regarding the Application of ISO 9000 Standards to Education and Training. Although it references the old ISO 9000:1994 standard instead of the current ISO 9001:2008 standard, it is still a worthy interpretation of ISO 9000 for education.
People Don’t Create Defects. Systems Do.
People use the system (made up of work instructions, methods, and tools) to create products. Neither teaching nor working is the product. They represent the system used to create the product. The consumers consist of the students, parents, and society whom all consume or benefit from the learning.
The effectiveness of any system is a function of product flow. Variations and defects obstruct the product flow causing rework, delays, and unsatisfied customers. The work instructions, methods, and tools need to be aligned to deliver maximum learning at a maximal product flow (progression through the grade levels). Effectiveness occurs when the two are aligned to produce the highest composite result.
Education Quality Basics
Purchasing – Think about art supplies, books, equipment, meals, sporting goods, or furniture. If there are purchasing specifications that are important to learning than those items need to be controlled. Do you have an obligation to provide safe and healthy meals? What about sufficient supplies, equipment or furniture for learning?
Production & Service Provisions – Think about the work instructions or teaching procedures to ensure some type of consistency or uniformity. How are these controlled, revised, distributed, and validated (how do you know they worked?). Can you trace or track learning (or the lack there of) to a specific teaching method or event?
Customer Property – Think about what kids bring to school: coats, notebooks, books, supplies, etc. Do you have an obligation to care for their property, provide lockers, or control access? What do you do if an item is damaged or misplaced?
Control of Non-Conforming Product – A non conformance can be in the teaching methods, student behavior or performance, or purchased items needed for learning. What do you do with broken furniture, equipment, or lockers? What is your process for removing it from the learning process so that it does not hinder other students from learning?
Corrective Action – What is the process for monitoring, reviewing, and adjusting the learning system as a result of complaints, comments, or audit findings? Each incident should be tracked, investigated and resolved. A good complaint handling process is the best ways to instill a culture of continuous improvement in your organization.
Preventive Action – Do you review your methods and make changes BEFORE you receive complaints? If you get a complaint your action is corrective, if you fix it before you get a complaint than its preventive. So what are you doing to prevent complaints?
A class is like a manufacturing cell in a factory. The batch size is the number of students. But one class does not make a graduate. A student must pass through numerous classes or manufacturing cells in order to come out an educated student. How your students progress through the cells in your facility determines the learning effectiveness of your quality system.