• Continuous Improvement in Teaching Strategies through Lean Principles

      Ely, Susan
      Faculty attempt to accommodate numerous learning styles to aid individual students in their comprehension and retention of course content, however, formal feedback from students is rarely gathered in a timely fashion. Most formal student course evaluations are conducted at the end of the semester, with survey results available to faculty after the semester has ended. While feedback from these surveys can be integrated into future offerings of the course, this type of survey prohibits adjustments during the semester, which could enhance learner outcomes. Lean manufacturing principles are used in a wide variety of professional sectors to create opportunities for continuous improvement by embedding systems for regular feedback and executing improvements. The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle is a lean manufacturing technique providing a framework for continuous feedback and analysis of a system paired with a mechanism for implementing changes and monitoring their success. The cyclical nature of the system accommodates reflection of the changes and the potential adjustments. This system aligns well with reflective teaching strategies, as it integrates ongoing student feedback, analysis of the data, reflection of classroom practices based on student perceptions, and timely adjustments to course delivery techniques to aid students in their learning. To test the effectiveness of this lean technique in a classroom, the researcher followed the PDCA cycle using GoogleForms and Blackboard as a method for collecting feedback from the students, multiple times throughout the semester. For this experiment, the course was divided into three modules, aligned with the administration of the three non-cumulative exams of the semester. At the completion of each module, a GoogleForms was made available to students via Blackboard. Participation was optional and anonymous, and the directions stated the purpose of the survey and the use of the data. The GoogleForms included questions using a Likert-format response to indicate their perceived effectiveness of teaching strategies and key learning objectives of the course, as well as an open response for any additional feedback. Once data was gathered, the researcher reviewed the data and reflected, with particular focus on how the course format and delivery could be adjusted to better meet student needs. Based on the results from Fall 2019, the PDCA cycle proved to be an effective tool for gathering meaningful feedback from students during the semester, while allowing for adjustments to be made in a way that increased students perceived effectiveness of teaching methodologies. Over the semester, the researcher made systematic changes to content delivery based on feedback received from the GoogleForms. The data from the surveys showed a statistically significant increase of student perceived effectiveness in teaching strategies, as well as an increase in perceived knowledge for key content areas. As such, the PDCA cycle was a valuable framework for facilitating continuous feedback, improvement and a measurable increase in student learning. The researcher also noted that students voiced their appreciation of the instructor being willing to make mid-semester adjustments to content delivery, based on their feedback. Students commented that the changes made significantly improved their understanding and retention of course materials. At this time, the researcher plans to expand the use of the PDCA cycle for continuous improvement in other courses and continue to evaluate the effectiveness of this tool in quantifying learner preferences and learning outcomes throughout the semester. References: Balzer, W., Francis, D.E., Krehbiel, T., & Shea, N. (2016). A review and perspective on Lean in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education, 24 (4), 442-462. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/QAE-03-2015-0011 Doman, M. (2011). A new lean paradigm in higher education: a case study. Quality Assurance in Education, 19 (3), 248-262. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/096848811111158054 Lu, J. & Laux, C. (2017). Lean Six Sigma leadership in higher education institutions. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 66 (5), 638-650. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJPPM-09-2016-0195 Stupnisky, R., Hall, N.C., Daniels, L.M., & Mensah, E. (2017). Testing a model of pretenure faculty members teaching and research success: Motivation as a mediator of balance, expectations and collegiality. The Journal of Higher Education, 88 (3), 376-400. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00221546.2016.1272317