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Also called: PDCA, plan–do–study–act (PDSA) cycle, Deming cycle, Shewhart cycle
The plan–do–check–act cycle (Figure 1) is a four–step model for carrying out change. Just as a circle has no end, the PDCA cycle should be repeated again and again for continuous improvement.
Figure 1: Plan-do-check-act cycle
The Pearl River, NY School District, a 2001 recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, uses the PDCA cycle as a model for defining most of their work processes, from the boardroom to the classroom.
PDCA is the basic structure for the district’s overall strategic planning, needs–analysis, curriculum design and delivery, staff goal-setting and evaluation, provision of student services and support services, and classroom instruction.
Figure 2 shows their “A+ Approach to Classroom Success.” This is a continuous cycle of designing curriculum and delivering classroom instruction. Improvement is not a separate activity: It is built into the work process.
Figure 2: Plan–do–check–act example
Plan. The A+ Approach begins with a “plan” step called “analyze.” In this step, students’ needs are analyzed by examining a range of data available in Pearl River’s electronic data “warehouse,” from grades to performance on standardized tests. Data can be analyzed for individual students or stratified by grade, gender or any other subgroup. Because PDCA does not specify how to analyze data, a separate data analysis process (Figure 3) is used here as well as in other processes throughout the organization.
Figure 3: Pearl River: analysis process
Do. The A+ Approach continues with two “do” steps:
Check. The “check” step is called “assess” in this example. Formal and informal assessments take place continually, from daily teacher “dipstick” assessments to every-six-weeks progress reports to annual standardized tests. Teachers also can access comparative data on the electronic database to identify trends. High-need students are monitored by a special child study team.
Throughout the school year, if assessments show students are not learning as expected, mid-course corrections are made such as re-instruction, changing teaching methods and more direct teacher mentoring. Assessment data become input for the next step in the cycle.
Act. In this example the “act” step is called “standardize.” When goals are met, the curriculum design and teaching methods are considered standardized. Teachers share best practices in formal and informal settings. Results from this cycle become input for the “analyze” phase of the next A+ cycle.
Excerpted from Nancy R. Tague’s The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition, ASQ Quality Press, 2004, pages 390-392.