What is Lean Teaching?

What is Lean Teaching?
The application of Lean principles and practices to teaching.

What are Lean Principles and Practices?
The Lean principles are “Continuous Improvement” and “Respect for People,” and Lean practices are the tools and methods commonly associated with the Toyota production system (TPS).

What is the purpose of Lean Teaching?
To improve the value of higher education for students, payers, and employers.

How is the value of higher education improved?
By improving the quality of teaching (reduction in errors), by improving flow (eliminating waste, unevenness, and unreasonableness), and by improving the quality of learning (retention and correct application).

Does Lean Teaching apply only to classroom teaching?
No, it applies to online teaching as well.

Is Lean Teaching only for higher ed?
No, Lean teaching can be used by K-12 educators as well, or by anyone who teaches or trains people.

And, also, what is Lean?
Lean is the name given to a system of progressive management practice developed over time to improve how organizations serve buyers’ markets for the goods and services that they produce. The definition of Lean management that appears in Lean Teaching is: “A non-zero-sum principle-based management system focused on creating value for end-use customers and eliminating waste, unevenness, and unreasonableness using the scientific method.”

Contrary to popular opinion, the raison d‘etre of Lean is NOT cost cutting or layoffs. Instead, it is to develop human resources by teaching people how to identify and correct problems at the source.

2 thoughts on “What is Lean Teaching?

  1. Steve Withers

    This is excellent Bob!

    Lean applied to teaching is a great strategy. Historically, we were taught big chunks of material, and then given a big, stressful exam to test whether we learned it. Then we took the whole summer off to ‘bring in the crops’. If there was an issue, we didn’t learn about it until very late in the game, making corrections very difficult. Our learning kata was constantly interrupted. Lean would prescribe small chunks of learning, in continuous flow, with smaller live-time checks to verify learning. Not only far better quality, but also giving the students a continuous sense of progress. Continuous curriculum flow would also be more robust to changes because of new discoveries, updates, or theories.

  2. Bob Emiliani Post author

    Indeed. For more than a decade, I have found that Lean teaching works much better than conventional teaching for both student and professor. In We Can Do It!, I describe the concept of Continuous Flow University. There is no longer any reason for these big learning interruptions, and lots of opportunity to increase throughput while improving quality, etc.


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