‘QP’ Goes to School

by Agni Shah

The Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Brampton, Ontario, offers an introductory fundamentals of quality course as part of its postgraduate degree in manufacturing quality. A typical class consists of engineers, scientists and others who, until this point, have not taken any specific quality related courses.

As one of the course’s instructors, I came up with two small group activities that use recent issues of QP to help students become familiar with quality. The first activity introduces them to quality and removes some common misconceptions about it. The second activity gets the students to thoroughly analyze an author’s conclusions.

Activity One: Publication Review

After giving each group a recent issue of QP, I ask the students to look over the magazine, read an assigned article and read another article of the group’s choosing. I then have each group answer the following questions:

  1. What is your impression of the publication?
  2. How useful would it be to your studies?
  3. What are your thoughts on the articles you read?
  4. Has your impression about the quality field changed after looking at this publication? How?
  5. If the publication has given you no food for thought, what more would you need?
  6. Can you describe any areas in which the profession has not reached a consensus?
  7. What is your understanding of common terms such as “quality” and “standards”? (Each group is assigned different terms.)

Students who take this class often think quality is limited to products and major costs are involved in achieving quality. This first reading activity helps them understand quality’s all-inclusiveness.

Activity Two: Article Review

I assign each group another article to read. Each article is then circulated among the other groups so the whole class does something with each article. After reading its assigned article, each group writes a report based on one or more of the following exercises and questions:

  • Write a summary of the article and pass it to the next group. The next group then comments on the summary’s appropriateness and passes it to the next group.
  • Prepare overheads to use in a presentation about the selected article.
  • Explain why you agree or disagree with the author’s conclusions.
  • What additional information would help you assess the conclusions?
  • What would you ask the author to make the material more meaningful to you?
  • Do the data adequately support the conclusion reached and only that conclusion?
  • What do you think about this process?
  • What did you learn from this exercise?

Besides writing a report about a specific article, each group gets to read the other groups’ reports to see what they learned.

Because printed articles are used in these activities, they have already been subjected to QP’s peer review process and therefore have no glaring errors or quality assurance issues. Even so, students still can perform their own article review by examining the article’s flow, challenging the presented data and identifying possible improvements. Occasionally, a class debate is generated, and every once in a while, an article does not pass scrutiny.

Besides giving students a basic understanding of quality, these two activities get students involved in group discussions. These discussions are integral to the class because different individuals grasp different nuances, which the discussions bring to the forefront. The activities also help the students improve their critical writing skills.

If you’re an instructor looking for a simple way to familiarize your students with quality fundamentals, I suggest you hand out recent copies of QP and ask your students to start reading.

AGNI SHAH is a professor and consultant for Agni & Associates in Ontario, Canada. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics from Bombay University in Bombay, India. Shah is a Senior Member of ASQ.

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