ERIC Identifier: ED392368
Publication Date: 1994-00-00
Author: Wolverton, Mimi
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.| BBB32577 _ George Washington Univ. Washington
DC. Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
A New Alliance: Continuous Quality and Classroom Effectiveness.
Continuous quality management (CQI) first moved onto the education scene
slightly more than ten years ago. Some institutions of higher learning,
community colleges in particular, eagerly embraced its general precepts. Most
tried to ignore CQI and it greatest advocate, the American business community.
As best, a handful of stalwart organizations reluctantly tested CQI's
applicability in administrative areas and student support services. Few colleges
or universities ventured onto the academic turf of faculty and into their
classrooms. Convinced that continuous quality was one more passing fancy, many
faculty seemed content to wait it out. Now ten years later, CQI is still with
us, and while skepticism remains high, examples do exist of sustained CQI
endeavors in higher education where considerable inroads have been made into the
WHAT IS CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT?
The principles of
CQI rest on an underlying philosophy of quality, which leads an organization to
systematically analyze its systems for variance, make decisions based on fact,
consciously define the organization's internal and external customers and
actively seek input from both. It drives out fear by encouraging organization
members to risk making mistakes in order to learn more about the system. It
removes organizational barriers by establishing clear and open lines of
communication. It educates and retrains employees, and it thrives on teamwork
and interrelationships. In other words, CQI creates a structure conducive to
never-ending, incremental improvement by building cooperative labor-management
relations (Seymour, 1992; Cornesky, 1990).
In education, students became the focus, classroom effectiveness the concern,
and assessment the means by which educators gain feedback about what works and
what needs to be improved. Under continuous quality, a college or university
seeks to improve the quality of what it uses, does and delivers. The ultimate
goal is to enhance classroom effectiveness in order to improve student learning
(Chaffee and Sherr, 1992; Deming, 1982).
WHAT ARE THE EXAMPLES?
This report looks at
classroom-related CQI efforts at six institutions. Two organizations hold
research one status, two are comprehensive universities and two are community
The quality initiative in the Graduate School of Business at the University
of Chicago is faculty driven. It concentrates heavily on classroom assessment
and personal improvement through the use of quality principles. Although the
school's quality effort began in the late 1980s, it remains unintegrated across
At the College of Business at Arizona State University, continuous quality
improvement has been introduced college-wide by the dean. It combines active
learning and some teaming within the frame that the quality principles provide
and involves both curricular and pedagogical revisions.
A small group of faculty introduced CQI to the College of Engineering at
Arizona State University. Their approach includes a required freshman course on
active learning, assessment, team training and total quality management.
Competency-based grading, which centers on cognitive and affective levels of
learning, remains a highly contested element among large numbers of the faculty.
The Culture of Quality at Northwest Missouri State University began to take
shape in 1984. Under the direction of Northwest's president, faculty concentrate
on the processes of developing curriculum and assessing teaching and learning
experiences using quality principles.
Both the president and the provost at Samford University saw merit in the
university's embarkment into its Student First Quality Quest. This program cuts
across the entire university. Faculty regularly use CQI tools such as cause and
effect diagrams and Pareto and flow charts to diagnose curricular needs. Trained
student-teams conduct term evaluations of some courses.
In 1992 after a one-year pilot program at Rio Salado Community College (a
Maricopa College), the chancellor of the district moved Maricopa into Quantum
Quality. Implementation has been most successful at Rio Salado where there is a
heavy emphasis on total quality management training for faculty and staff. Other
campuses are experiencing mixed levels of involvement.
Miami-Dade Community College is a non-CQI institution, which some refer to as
an exemplar of total quality management. Its president-initiated,
faculty-directed Teaching/Learning Project includes a reward system that uses
teaching portfolios and a professional development program structured around
advancement criteria that relate to classroom effectiveness. Classroom
assessment plays a major role in Miami-Dade's efforts to improve student
WHAT ARE THE COMMON THREADS?
Each institution views its
students as customers, and there is a heightened awareness of their needs.
Initiatives with the greatest faculty involvement are those where top
administrators actively participate in the reform. Each college or university
customized its faculty development offerings to meet its own specific
requirements. Most combined active learning, continuous quality improvement
(under one name or another) and teaming. All included classroom assessment as a
key element. Each institution either realigned current fiscal resources or found
new funding sources to accommodate the considerable financial expenditure that
accompanied their moves into continuous quality improvement. People at all the
colleges and universities seem to understand that change takes time.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LINGERING MISGIVINGS ABOUT
Standardization. Professional schools, such as business and
engineering, seem to have success at setting standards. This may be the case
because the competencies, which their students must learn, more readily lend
themselves to measurement than do those needed by students of subjects like
creative writing and anthropology. In areas like these, who defines quality and
who sets standards that are measurable?
Benchmarking and Customer Focus. Benchmarking and meeting customer needs are
both cornerstones of continuous quality improvement. But does setting our sights
on goals, based on even the most current information, give us enough freedom and
flexibility to see the future? Will colleges and universities ensconced on the
register of CQI organizations relegate themselves to the perpetual role of the
want-to-be follower? If an organization decides to be an exemplar for others,
can it lead yet continually gauge its progress by where it sits in relationship
to its peers?
Teams. Teams take time, training and energy; they do not just happen.
Grouping people and assuming that they will work together productively often
scuttles the best of intentions. We forget to ask the obvious. Do faculty and
students know how to work in teams? And, if the answer is no, do we have the
impetus to teach them?
Quality. CQI organizations continually improve the quality of the processes
in which they engage on a daily basis. In effect, the challenge becomes doing
what we already do only better. Rarely do we question what we do. In a future
filled with financial uncertainty, greater public scrutiny and more calls for
accountability, exponentially exploding knowledge bases and increasingly diverse
constituencies, we must ask: Is continuous quality improvement enough?
Chaffee, E. and L. Sherr. 1992.
Quality: Transforming Postsecondary Education, ASHE/ERIC Higher Education Report
3. Washington DC: School of Education and Human Development, The George
Cornesky, R. et al. 1990. Using Deming: Improving Quality in Colleges and
Universities. Madison, WI: Magma Publications.
Cornesky, R., S. McCool, L. Byrnes, and R. Weber. 1991. Implementing Total
Quality Management in Higher Education. Madison, WI: Magma Publications.
Deming, W. E. 1982. Out of Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of
Seymour, D. 1992. On Q-Causing Quality in Higher Education. New York:
American Council on Education/MacMillan Publishing.