Using LHE to Improve Academic Processes: Teaching and Curriculum
LHE provides a problem-solving approach that all faculty can use to continuously improve teaching and curriculum processes. The consistent use of this proven approach creates a common language and set of problemsolving activities and tools that are used individually or collaboratively to increase the value of individual courses, academic programs and degrees, and college- and university-level academic requirements (and other core academic processes related to the educational mission of the university). As detailed in Chapters 5 and 6, the Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) provides a formalized, structured, multistep model for a team-based approach to improving teaching and curriculum processes (e.g., updating/ redesigning a program or degree curriculum), in response to declining performance in a capstone course, or an uptick in requests for course substitutions by program majors. A trained and experienced facilitator would lead an RIE team, composed primarily of faculty from the academic program (students, alumni, employers, etc. could also participate broaden the team’s perspective), through a set of standard steps and activities to understand the process (e.g., visual mapping), identify waste and poor flow, determine the root cause of these problems, develop and prioritize solutions, and implement and monitor the updated academic process.
As noted in Chapter 5, there are many other applications of LHE besides the RIE that can be used (more easily and informally) by individual or groups of faculty. For example, faculty can apply the 3C approach to problem-solving to (1) define the Concern, (2) identify the root Cause, and (3) implement Countermeasures to fix the problem, using any number of Lean tools (e.g., Five Whys, Trystorming) to proceed through these three simple steps. Other LHE applications (e.g., applying 5S to organize course or laboratory materials, posting “kanban” performance boards in the department’s main office to visually monitor abnormalities from the expected timely progress of undergraduate majors through the program’s curriculum) offer continuous improvement approaches that are easily understood, communicated, and practiced by faculty members. Overall, the general LHE structured problem-solving process (e.g., determine the root causes of waste or impediments to flow, identify and prioritize potential solutions to eliminate or reduce them, and implement and sustain solutions) offers faculty a shared systematic approach for improving teaching and curriculum processes which results in more value to students in their classes. Their ongoing application of LHE would lead to continuous improvement of their academic courses, resulting in a more effective and satisfying educational experience for students and better preparing them for their careers and civic responsibilities.
Developing this LHE mindset can engage, further engage, or re-engage individual and clusters of faculty to continuously challenge and improve teaching and curriculum processes at the level of individual classes, academic programs and degrees, and college or university requirements, thereby raising teaching effectiveness and learning outcomes to higher levels (and moving the needle on the “10% problem”). Additional Lean tools can determine the root causes of waste and poor flow in these processes and help target and implement the most appropriate solutions to improve them. As an example, a professor adopting LHE might reconsider her current practice of grading students primarily based on two exams and a final, all completed during class time, to assess student learning during a traditional 15-week semester. She might question whether there is an alternative to this “batch and queue” nature of testing (i.e., testing knowledge in 5-week blocks rather than continuous flow of learning and assessment), or explore testing outside of class time (i.e., freeing up 3+ hours of class time for more value-added learning), or explore a whole new approach for students to demonstrate achievement of the established learning outcomes (e.g., brief, cumulative reflection papers throughout the semester).11 Together, an LHE mindset and Lean tools and practices help identify the wastes and interruptions to flow in teaching and curriculum processes that add no value and do nothing to meet the expectations of the beneficiaries (or the teachers). The systematic application of LHE is a long-term commitment to continuous improvement built on respect for people: respect for the beneficiaries of academic processes (i.e., providing the value students expect from their academic experiences related to teaching and curriculum processes) and respect for the faculty and other academic process owners (i.e., providing professional development on LHE principles and practices that draw on their expertise to improve teaching and curriculum processes and use their valuable time more effectively), all the while maintaining a deep respect academic freedom. Overall, the application of LHE to academic processes can provide mutual gain for all parties: meeting or exceeding the academic expectations of students; creating even better curricular and teaching experiences for faculty; and supporting student success and university effectiveness.