By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: PDCA cycles
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Monday, December 4, 2017

Improving student behavior schoolwide

Let's say your school has a big problem with tardies. It seems that tardies are out of control. What do you do?

A quick search of tardy solutions reveals candidates.

  • Reduce systemic causes for tardiness between classes: overcrowding, lockers, bathroom breaks, widely separated classes
  • Student factors: socializing, students standing in halls blocking traffic flow
  • Student attitude factors: student apathy, defiance
  • Teachers and tardies: teachers who experience lots of tardies may need improved skills in classroom management or creating engaging lessons
  • Student factors for tardies-to-school: home environment that does not value arriving at school on time, transportation issues, staying up late, waking up late; consider later start times especially for teens, ensure that busses run on time

There are lots of things to try. Some might work, some might not. Some may reduce tardies a little, others might reduce tardies a lot.

We could just start trying solutions randomly but there is a more orderly way to do it. It's called the PDCA cycle and is widely used outside of education for continuous improvement.

PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Analyze. 

  • Plan what you're going to try. How long will it take? How will you measure improvement? How much improvement do you expect? Who needs to be involved? Is it a change you can do or does the entire faculty need to buy in?
  • Do, i.e., implement the plan.
  • Check whether the intended improvement has materialized.
  • Analyze whether the change is effective and efficient. Has it worked well enough to be continued? Should we throw it out and try something new? Or should we keep it and add another change? Or have we solved the problem?

It's hard to predict how well solutions to complicated problems are going to work in your environment. What worked for others may not work for you, and vice versa. So, experiment but expreriment in a orderly way so you can learn along the way.

The key to success is to run lots of experiments quickly and cheaply in order to discover the right solution(s). Repeat the PDCA cycle until the problem is solved. Do it in an orderly fashion following the simple PDCA cycle, keeping track of your plans, results and analyses for each cycle.

You will be glad you documented your attempts and progress when your superintendent asks, "Hey, how did you solve that tardy problem?"

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Keywords: PDCA cycles, continuous improvement

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