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PDSA for Teachers

1. First make sure your system is stable 
If an aspect of the school's operation is frequently disrupted then there may be little point in attempting to improve it directly. Cause and effect can be remote from each other in time and place in any system, eg, 

  • badly managed class routines may undermine the improved use of cooperative learning, or, 
  • poor school information systems may make team building virtually impossible ...


One very common source of instability in systems (eg schools) arises from people in the system failing to meet the expectations of the system. 


Distinguish between 

  • common cause variation which arises from within the system and can be dealt with by improving the system, and,
  • special cause variation which arises outside the system and needs to accommodated by other means.


Broken Windows provides a useful approach for starting to work on this aspect of schools. Schools will recognise that this approach has consider able potential in relation to behaviour management but its real potential is much wider than yet another approach to badly behaved children.


2. Improve a stable system by PDSA
Continuous improvement
adds up very quickly with this cycle. (It is actually a 'spiral')

  • Plan how things will be done (specify the process that will achieve the specific purpose being addressed)
  • Do it as agreed (everyone follows the process - no tampering)
  • Study the process in action and check how things went
  • Act to improve the process after a post mortem: adopt, adapt, reject ...

and there is no end to what might be possible: continuous improvement has real potential. 

RPS has adopted the PDSA cycle for continuous improvement

  • PLAN means ensuring that the processes, personnel, organisation, facilities, materials and equipment are capable of producing the quality outcomes chosen. Central to the plan are clarity of each step of the process (see Midyear Reporting)
  • DO simply means to take action as planned with the provision available.
  • STUDY means to check or review, viz,
    • Observe the process in action 
    • Evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the ways and means used to achieve them
    • Evaluate the actual quantity and quality of outcomes achieved, and
    • Learn from the doing in order to make further improvements in the processes, organisation,...
  • ACT means to respond, viz to make the changes in the process that are shown to be valid from studying the process & outcomes. The possibilities include the options to adopt ie, standardise adapt by some refinements to achieve further improvement retry in order to learn more, and/or reject.


By using the PDSA cycle the School has completed detail planning for all major events for the next twelve months at any point in time.


It is important to consider the context and level at which PDSA is being applied. It can be applied in a large scale, whole system scientific manner or it can become part of the culture and be imbedded in all activity with the study drawing on tacit knowledge as well explicit objective data.


See also P-D-S-A-> for Teachers including


And a range of examples of PDSA being used by students, eg,