Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quality in the Most Necessary Place

The October Influential Voice topic discusses the evolving nature of quality and how it is going to places that are “non-manufacturing” related.  The common thread is that quality is a function of process.  We face it every day where the human desire of producing results meets the need of the discipline in following a process to create a result. In its basic form, to get something you have to have a process to make that something.  Quality takes on two approaches – discipline to the process (producing process failures) and meeting customer expectations (producing desired results).
Where quality has been greatly talked about but poorly enacted is in the education industry.  What pundits fail to realize is that usually there is wide variation to the customer’s expectation of a good quality education.  Some will argue that you can only receive a quality education from a named school in a named program or receive a specific degree. Others say that a quality education produces people with appropriate survival skills and others insist that knowing specifics facts prove that you received a quality education.  I would argue that future society needs elements of all three and unfortunately we have not done a good job to talk about the processes that create these results.
There are two bloggers who I enjoy that talk about the science of learning.  Fellow Influential Voice Guy Wallace has been involved in building, fielding, studying, and improving training and learning systems his entire working career.  He got started under the tutelage of Geary Rummler, one of the founders of Motorola’s Six Sigma program and Motorola University. Exploring his website is a training geek’s dream. There are loads of information, webinars, PowerPoint presentations on the art and science of instructional system design and learning.  He is a strong proponent that learning is not affected by style.  If more educators used one-tenth of the information found on his website our education system would be significantly better.
Another blogger that I have found that I particularly enjoy, and have mentioned in earlier blog posts, is Annie Murphy Paul.  She does write for traditional print media but I find her blogs much more engaging.  Her October 15 post takes the lack of learning styles one step further.  All learners benefit when information is put forth in diverse ways that engage a multitude of the senses,” states Paul.  So why does our current education system steer away from this and push standardized learning as the answer to improved education performance? In her blog posts, Annie infers that learning is a process. The problem is, and it is a common one for improvement practitioners, is that process owners don’t understand their process!
Now ASQ does have, as part of their community, Quality as applied to Education.   I feel that we are applying it to the wrong perspective.  Rather than trying to improve an industry, why are we not applying our techniques to the learning process?  I am not espousing going back to Koalaty Kid program but we have a huge amount of talent in higher educational institutions available to tackle this problem. For our future, learning is the new frontier where quality professionals can best impact society.