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Reforming Education Using Lean Thinking

January 25, 2015

Being trained in the management system inspired by Toyota, referred to as Lean Thinking, has guided my approach to addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences, or developmental trauma. I thought I would take a Lean Thinking approach to addressing education reform. Here is what I came up with.

The problem statement I developed is fairly broad. It says that our education system is expensive, managed almost exclusive using a top down command and control system, does not flow, and produces a high percentage of defective work, as measured by the rate of dropouts and poor performance on academic testing.

A Root Cause analysis is also broad, and complicated by my inability to utilize a Kaizen to map out the process. So I am relying on my experience as a parent to ask the 5 Whys that we use in Kaizen.

My 5 Why’s led me to 3 possible inputs that produce the defects. They include 1) developmental trauma (Adverse Childhood Experiences); 2) nutrition deficits; and 3) academic proficiency. There are likely others, but the Lean Thinking process takes you to your level of current expertise, and mine I acknowledge is not very high.

Our only measurement system currently in place for education is through grading and assessment testing. Once a student is placed into a specific grade, they flow with that grade—not according to achievement and present ability. Classes do not flow either. All students progress at the same rate. Training is conducted by batch. The class is the batch, both as to grade and subject.

No assessments are conducted for developmental trauma impediments to learning. No nutritional deficits are considered when looking at achievement levels. Research into each topic on the influence they exert on education levels would lead one to conclude that we should consider the impact of trauma and nutrition on learning. In fact, teaching may be a lesser input considering the impact trauma and nutrition might have in helping remove a student from the classroom. Trauma affects social, emotional and behavioral development. Any of these domains can affect the ability of a student to learn.

So what are possible solutions? I believe assessment for trauma and nutrition should be included in how we assess students for determining their class selection. When either impacts the student’s ability to learn, we should train the student on both the impact of trauma or nutrition on their performance and do all we can to develop a strategy for improvement and assist their improvement efforts. We can also provide supplemental nutrition and healing assistance for trauma.

We can also help education flow better by discontinuing the batch teaching and arrange for flow training. If we have standard work for learning, we can train to the standard work and allow the students to move at a pace of their own choosing. If they are advancing fairly rapidly in one area, they should be allowed to move to lessons at the pace of their advancement. We should also consider the benefits of practice and allow more time for students to repeat the material until master.

I am sure that there is so much more that can be done. I would like to encourage a progressive school district to try this and see if we can benefit all of our students. By using a comprehensive problem solving tool like Kaizen, with a team that includes students, parents, teachers and administrators, perhaps we can revolutionize education.

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