Are You Satisfied With 10 Percent?

Have you ever said or heard other people say that they had only 3 or 4 really good professors when they were an undergraduate student, out of the 40 or so professors they experienced over four years? Why are only 10 percent of professors remembered by students as having been really good? I have heard this repeatedly from many people over the years, including my children, and I experienced it myself as an undergraduate. And this seems to be a global phenomenon. Has this been your experience as well?

A service that requires 40 points of contact for weeks at a time and results in only 10 percent satisfaction is in dire need of rapid improvement. What is causing this problem? Below is an Ishikawa diagram that I created showing some of the possible secondary causes that contribute to the observed effect. While more work is needed to identify tertiary, quaternary, etc., causes, this diagram is a start towards developing a better understanding of the problem.

10_percent_problem

Lean Teaching and Lean University seek to reverse this outcome so that students experience 36 or 37 good professors out of 40. But, I need your help generating data to identify process problems. Please take one minute to fill out the form below to identify the top drivers of the observed effect for each of the six cause categories, from your perspective as a current student or graduate. The more people that participate, the sooner I can share the results with you.

21 thoughts on “Are You Satisfied With 10 Percent?

  1. Doc Hall

    As a prof, I consistently found that if I interested students in the subject, learning went well. If I didn’t it went poorly. I did not bat 1.000.

    BTW, the wife taught second grade for 32 years. She found the same thing with 7 year olds.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      I believe that the 10% problem, combined with the 45 teaching errors, turns students off with respect to the subject matter. They become distracted by the teaching and disengage from learning. As you say, nobody bats 1.000. If we profs are honest, we will admit that we have made most or all of the teaching errors at some point in our career. That, plus the causes of the 10% problem, can’t be good for student learning. There are enormous opportunities to mistake-proof teaching.

      Reply
  2. Jack Greene

    I am more experienced with the world of industry than academia. From assignment to assignment, the vast variety of modern industry, the pure mechanical differences, are immense. Teachers are faced with the challenge that each student will want to apply his / her new book learning in a different physical environment, corporate structure, plant priority system, boss, opportunity for success. Teachers optimally will present relevant general information that many students will apply to highly individualized questions.

    Also, members of focus groups (such as Linked in) ask as if the answers to their specific, technical, focused questions are written down somewhere on the internet so they apply their energy to search out the answer; not to apply what they have been taught, to develop the correct solution to their unique issue. In this internet age, have instructors led them to believe attainment of knowledge is all just a search?

    Good luck in a tough assignment.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      There is usually a large gap between what instructors think they teach with respect to critical thinking and problem-solving and what students have actually learned and do with those skills. I have found that unless you teach students structured problem-solving processes, they will be poor critical-thinkers and poor problem-solvers post-graduation. Even then there are fundamental problems related to their practice in the workplace.

      Reply
  3. John Morgan

    Materials scoped and written around need for accreditation of courses, which ossifies their content. Yet the world revolves and content should change to reflect situation and newer learning.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      Indeed it should. The world operates in relation to a 24-hour clock. Higher education operates at a much slower clockspeed, which introduces relevancy issues to both courses taught and content contained therein. The clockspeed has to match more closely.

      Reply
  4. Jorge Wong

    Content and knowledge become obsolete very rapidly – i.e. the half life of a method, technology or device ranges between 2-5 years nowadays. And new problems resulting from interactions of new materials, methods and technologies pop up every day (think Boeing Dreamliner battery blues). Therefore, instructor first, then students, need to learn “how to learn” effectively and efficiently -new methods, ideas, devices, techniques, problems, approaches, etc…every day. In other words, they need to become proficient on the scientific method in practice. A practical learning cycle of the scientific method is the Plan-Do-Check-Act from Shewart / Deming or the Induction-Experimentation-Deduction with a feedback loop by G.P. Box.

    Thus, every course I teach students must use the A3 thinking and doing process. Students learn to use, work, learn from and communicate from a single sheet of paper displaying multiple and nested PDCA loops for design, problem solving, process improvement, and human behavior improvement (habit changing).

    I have applied the PDCA method to learn and teach…Statistical Process Control, Design for Manufacturing, Reliability Engineering, Industrial Energy Management, and New Product Development courses. Students start with a blank sheet (A3, A2 or A1) to define, visualize, analyze, synthetize, experiment with and communicate their work and learning. It’s fun, we learn and discover things by using the A3 or A2 as a “gemba” road map. (Gemba is Japanese for the ‘place where the real action happens’- be it an emergency room, a boiler room, a kitchen or an electric car with a high-energy density battery driven over a debris layered rough road).

    It can be done. The instructor must be the number one learner in the class room, lab, field trip..etc. He or she must learn from his students.

    Jorge B. Wong

    References
    1.http://www.lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=62
    2. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2286841?uid=3739696&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102826419217

    Reply
  5. Asghar Gill

    I found all the teachers have some extremely good qualities and some not so good qualities. Now keeping in mind the various levels (capacity of grasping) of the students determine the teaching pace along with the limited time to deliver the required contents. The experience of satisfaction is different for different students for same professor. I agree with Prof Doc Hall for the equivalent caliber students will have different learning experience than the others where caliber varies a lot.

    Good project I hope will bring some interesting points for the educators.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      I agree that students experience different levels of satisfaction for the same professor. Though I do think that the learning can be at a consistently high level for most students.

      Reply
  6. Leslie Gilbert

    We are teaching individuals – curious adults who need to feel that the content is meaningful to them. As their teacher, we need to meet each student on their individual level to understand what their interests are and how the material is relevant. This requires time, either class time to bond or prep time (emails, blog) to search for a foundation of interest. I agree with the post that suggests the teacher is the largest learner – we should be relating our material at an individual level. My guess is that this is easier in industry with a room full of professionals leading various projects than it would be in academia. Nonetheless, I feel students respond when they feel their teacher respects them enough to alter the training and show them the WIIFM (what’s in it for me). If we can’t use our experience in the subject to draw a parallel to how our material relates to their world , why should we expect them to be able to naturally and initially find the benefit? But once a student sees the final benefit, their attention and participation becomes a commitment. Why only 10%? Because all of this takes extra time on the part of the teacher. For me, I am committed because I truly enjoy the visible response from a focused class contributing to the learning. It hardly seems like work to me. How do we motivate other teachers who don’t share this same sense of motivation?

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      “How do we motivate other teachers who don’t share this same sense of motivation?”

      I think this will happen when teachers (and unions) acknowledge the reality of the 10% problems and then by correcting the 45 common teaching errors. The errors are fundamental ones that are quite easy to correct. And we must do this in a non-blaming, non-judgmental way. If not, teachers will tune out. The “Respect for People” principle has to be an integral part of any effort to correct teaching problems.

      Reply
  7. Tom Goetter

    Bob,
    Thanks for your continued drive to improve students’ knowledge of Lean, but now, trying to make the entire learning process better! I might suggest another major bone on your fishbone. Specifically, receptivity by the student. I do not dismiss or minimize the other six categories that you have listed. However, there is a piece around receptivity that deserves consideration. Of course, there are many issues under receptivity (relevance, maturity, interest, necessity, etc.) that need to be categorized. Again, thanks for your efforts. – Tom

    Reply
  8. Bob Emiliani Post author

    Thanks for the feedback. It would be a sin not to apply what I learned about Lean in industry to higher education (see the Resources page work how I’ve brought Lean into higher ed). Regarding student receptivity, see my response to Doc Hall, above.

    Reply
  9. David M

    I have done 1 under-grad and 3 post grad qualifications and have noticed that the focus appears to be on the number of passes rather than the overall quality of the experience for us as students. The most capable will get themselves through “despite” rather than because of the teaching. The less capable lose out – but provided the overall pass rate remains high then the “soft feedback” on our experiences gets conveniently ignored.

    This last point is from personal experience as I was the student rep on my last MSc. Having said that, I also had some excellent professors/lecturers.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      There seems to be a widespread mindset among professors that it is acceptable for them to replicate their own shoddy learning experience with their students. This helps rationalize the acceptability of ignoring feedback.

      Reply
  10. Jon Skogsfjord

    I am not a teacher or professor, but I often reflects over good teachers who don’t succeed because of leadership. Examples might be: “Too little focus on the customer (student)”, and “too much focus on the school (efficiency, centralising, the school’s reputation, teachers’ competence development, good learning environments for the teachers and so on)”, “too little teamwork among teachers to develop the working methods and share experiences”, and “too much theoretical information in the syllabus that is not relevant for the students”.

    According to “Respect for People principle”, I would have thought that teachers should work in teams with continuous improvements to improve methods and motivate each other, leaders should focus on coaching the team leaders and the students should be listened to, in our efforts to improve the education.

    I wish you good luck in improving education. I guess it’s a great potential in this area too.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      Team teaching is a concept that has yet to penetrate higher education, though I am sure it probably exists in a few colleges and universities, at least at the department level. Does anyone have any experience wit that to share with others on this blog? If you can do team medicine in healthcare, why can’t we?

      Reply
  11. stephanie aldred

    Team-teaching might be a little more common in HE than you realise. I’ve certainly team taught with around a dozen others in my current institution and have found it’s an efficient way to expand repertoire, foster reflective self-awareness regarding my practice and generally build confidence and professionalism. The students seem to benefit from the broader range of style, technique and experience on offer, and the fact that they can approach one or other of us with issues, as suits them. Occasionally colleagues are resistant to team-teaching opportunities: they seem to like the undivided attention of ‘their’ class, fear confusion/mixed messages – or perhaps don’t relish those difficult, but really valuable conversations about learning and teaching that unfailingly are generated.

    Reply
    1. Bob Emiliani Post author

      I too have found that there is indeed fear and confusion about mixed messages, and a desire to avoid difficult conversations. But I have also found that confusion and mixed messages can be avoided relatively easily by agreeing to stay focused on 3-4 main points. It seems that difficult conversations can be overcome only have having difficult conversations. It helps, of course, to identify the many areas of agreement, as they usually greatly outnumber areas of disagreement.

      Reply

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