What Can the Quality Gurus Teach Us?

I have been thinking lately about the quality gurus and how their philosophies relate to university student success. 

Walter Shewhart and Phil Crosby defined quality in terms of meeting stated specifications.  Did a product meet engineering specification?  At a university, we might use this approach to ask if a student showed mastery of a subject by achieving an A or B in a course.  Or does a university meet the accreditation requirements? 

Joseph Juran was known for his quality trilogy and focus on  including quality improvement.   From a student perspective, has the student increased his/her knowledge during a semester.  From a faculty perspective, do the learning outcomes assessments show improvement in learning outcomes over multiple semesters?  How is significant improvement in student learning outcomes achieved? With improve learning outcomes, more students should achieve higher grades.

W. Edwards Deming and his 14 points of quality management stressed the importance of the system in supporting the work to be done and the importance of customer satisfaction.   If the student is considered a customer, does the student feel he/she is receiving the course knowledge that will help them in their careers?  Then, the course will be considered of great value, eventually leading to alum support.  Is the entire educational system helping students to achieve their goals?  More is needed than to lecture a student to do better, instead explain to them the process of learning through improved teaching and advising.   Design the teaching processes that support the learning processes; these must be continually improved upon to support students.  Then the student learns more and is empowered by his/her learning. 

Noriaki Kano proposed the Kano model, that by exceeding a customer’s needs and exciting the customer about a product, customer satisfaction increases.  With time, customers’ excitement needs increases, so the product needs to improve. Likewise, at universities, if universities exceed students’ needs by inspiring them in the classroom with real-world examples and relevant projects, students will become more satisfied, learn more,  and most likely will earn higher grades .  But it is also true that the expectations are always increasing; the universities with innovative teaching will have excellent enrollments and graduation rates.  

Student-focused cultures that include these ideas  will have higher retention rates and satisfied alums. 

Cindy Veenstra, PhD, ASQ Fellow