An essential part of program development
I mentioned kaizen (continuous improvement) at the end of my talk on ER program design.
Kaizen is making things better, continuously. Basically finding and solving problems over and over again. Over time, this results in huge improvements and the evolution of programs.
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to work with my colleague Dan E at Tohoku University, who is a master of kaizen. Thanks to this, our extensive reading program is several orders of magnitude better than it was when we started collaborating.
At Cambridge English as well, thinking back to when we started over ten years ago the school and the classes are unrecognizable. Almost everything we do, we do better now.
But kaizen does not happen automatically. It requires teachers to have the desire and the ability to make changes. It also requires a culture of development, where problems lead to solutions that are implemented across the board. Communication is essential and talking about problems with colleagues leads to better solutions.
Some examples of kaizen at Tohoku University:
- improving worksheets so that students understand them better
- developing bilingual explanations
- sharing effective class activities
- developing protocols to deal with cheating
- having students write book reports in class instead of for homework
Examples of kaizen at Cambridge English:
- developing electronic and paper record keeping
- writing student names in romaji on everything (books, notebooks, attendance cards)
- developing lesson plans
- choosing materials
- organizing the classroom
As you can see, nothing groundbreaking. The main point is that improvements are continuous, problems are dealt with as they come up, solutions are reached through communicating with colleagues and are implemented by everyone.
Kaizen is barely noticeable in the short term, but over a longer period the improvements are staggering.
Do you have any positive or negative experiences with kaizen?