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'P.D.R.' Another education acronym demystified.

Here, the children take their name cards and place them in the center they choose. The cards are given out randomly.
Here, the children take their name cards and place them in the center they choose. The cards are given out randomly.
Beth Ellor

In Part 2 of this article assessing the use of business models to reform education, we take a closer look at an application of the Demming Cycle (also called the Shewart Cycle). See Part 1:

W. Edwards Demming championed the use of solid research and the collaboration of all parties to the implementation of systems of production. In contrast to the current top-down method of imposing a process on the workforce, he advocated teams from every aspect of production, all those responsible for the what, how, and why of product development, whether that was tangible merchandise or ideas. Using his statistical expertise, he believed in deep analysis of the needs of the marketplace before any design could begin, and in constant feedback and modification of the outcome. Every voice was to be heard.

Where can we identify a cross-pollination of these ideas? Clearly we would love to see it in entire school districts, PTA’s, grade level planning and classrooms. However, at the classroom level, PDR – Plan, Do, Review - is clearly linked to the PDSA model. It appears in the High/Scope Early Childhood Curriculum, a highly effective intervention developed by David Weikert in Ypsilanti, Michigan, (1960’s) which uses 10 ‘Key Experiences’ to guide early childhood classroom practices. This is a child-centered, intuitive approach which relies on observation, facilitation and close attention to the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) of each child.

From their Wikipedia entry: we find the following, taken from a long list:

  • Plan-do-review

A key component of the High/Scope approach is the plan-do-review sequence. Children first plan what materials they want to work with, what they want to do, and whom they want to do it with (this can be done formally or informally in small groups). Once they have made a plan, however vague, of what they want to do, they can go and work on it. Then, after this chosen worktime, the children discuss what they did and whether it was the same as, or different from, what they had planned.

I would love to know how many of the ‘PDR’ teachers are familiar with or trained in this High/Scope history, and especially if they realize that no less than 90 minutes should be assigned to this process. Most PDR’s in my local sample last 25 minutes or less. While there may be the vaguest token planning – “Where do you want to work?” “Blocks.” “Blocks is full. What’s your 2nd choice?” - the Review part gets virtually no attention. “Time to pack up! Bring your backpacks to the rug! Don’t forget your homework!” So how are we honoring what is potentially a transformative learning experience? Should we even be allowed to call it PDR?

High/Scope publishes useful teacher guides which seek to enrich the practice, such as Nancy Vogel’s 2001 - High Scope Press (Volume 5 in the series) “Making the Most of Plan-Do-Review”.

When such comprehensive and demonstrably effective philosophies exist, such as described by David L. Kirp, ( how is it possible that an entire industry (read State/Federal education administration) can embrace diametrically opposite beliefs? We know that the high-stakes consequences from faulty statistical outcomes are a disaster. We know that competition breeds lack of collaboration. We know that merit pay invites gaming the system and is adversarial. We know that children are not data points. We know that trust promotes learning, and that staff mobility destroys trust. We know that new methods must be field-tested in small samplings before 100% roll-out. Need I go on?

Dr. Deming was born in 1900 and conducted his famous four-day seminars well into his nineties, beginning them with, “Why are we here? To learn and have fun.” (Echoes of William Glasser!) Much of his teaching... ...concerns understanding psychology, variation, systems, and theory of knowledge. These headings, however, are only that — the tips of icebergs which must be viewed beneath the surface to be truly comprehended. “If you have not produced the data, you cannot understand (or use) it,” Dr. Deming told his audiences. “You need to understand the production of the data.”

(From the dissertation by Robert J. Austenfeld Jr., cited above, Pp. 75-6.)

Might I add – “and don’t lose sight of developmentally appropriate practice, before you start casually throwing about fragments of misunderstood and dissociated philosophies!”

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