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PDSA in Personalized Learning Environments

PDSA in Personalized Learning Environments

Author: Jody Waltman

This lesson will explain the PDSA cycle and demonstrate its usefulness to teachers and students.

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Source: Image of PDSA cycle, created by Jody Waltman

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In this tutorial, we'll learn how to implement the PDSA cycle in a personalized learning environment. We'll begin with an overview of the PDSA cycle, and we'll see how to use it both to target areas of need and to support continuous improvement. Then we'll look at how to create and complete a PDSA template. And finally, we will connect PDSA to personalized learning. Let's get started.

PDSA is a cycle of inquiry and reflection centered around a goal. The four letters in the acronym stand for Plan, Do, Study and Act. This four-step improvement cycle was developed by Dr. Walter Shewart in the 1920's. It was first put into use in business practice in Japan and in the United States by W. Edwards Deming.

The PDSA cycle helps a group or an individual determine goals, monitor progress towards those goals, and make rapid changes if goals are not being met.

PDSA can be used to target areas of need. If this is your intent, then the Plan step will be to develop an improvement plan that is based on those specific areas that are in need of improvement.

In the Do step of the PDSA cycle, you will implement this plan. In the Study step, you will analyze that data with a specific focus on whether or not the desired improvement has been achieved.

And in the Act step of the cycle, you will use that data to make decisions.

PDSA can also be used in a more general manner to support continuous improvement. In this case, the Plan step involves students or a whole class setting goals based on the stated class objective.

In the Do step, students are participating in tasks, activities, and both formative and summative assessments aligned with those goals.

In the Study step, the teacher is monitoring student progress and students should be monitoring their own progress, as well.

In a continuous improvement cycle, a key idea in the Act step is that if progress is not satisfactory, then changes need to be made. If progress is satisfactory and the goal is being met, a new PDSA cycle can begin.

You may wish to find or create a template to use in the PDSA cycle. Here's an example of a template that you might use. Notice that for each step, a clarification question is provided.

For the Plan step, the student or class should identify, what is my goal or target?

For the Do step, the class or student should identify the actions that will be taken.

In the Study step, the template should be filled in with the specific data that will be collected and examined.

And finally, for the Act step, the individual or group should indicate what decisions will be made based on that data.

Let's look at an example. My goal is that 85% of my students will master the skill of multiplying monomials by September 30.

In order to help students reach this goal, I will incorporate daily warm-ups that practice the skill of multiplying monomials. I will provide activities at multiple learning centers that will help students practice this skill, along with leveled worksheets that will allow students to practice at their own perceived skill level. I will provide for access to online practice of the skill. And finally, the summative assessment will be a 10-question quiz.

Though all of these activities have value in helping students reach the goal, the specific data that I will look at includes the online practice scores and the summative assessment quiz scores.

If the goal is met, we'll move on to our next topic, binomial so if the goal is not that I will look for more ways to explain and practice the skill of multiplying monomials.

The PDSA cycle is a great fit with personalized learning. The tasks, activities, and even assessments in the PDSA cycle do not necessarily need to be limited to the classroom. The teacher monitors student use of the PDSA cycle and acts as a facilitator throughout the process. A PDSA cycle can definitely include authentic and project-based learning elements.

To support the idea of the student-driven learning path, students can create their own PDSA cycles, which may be aligned with a whole class PDSA cycle.

And finally, as a student demonstrates mastery of the current skill on his or her learning path, the Plan step in the PDSA cycle will be updated to reflect the next skill on the learning path, and the remaining steps of the cycle will be modified, as needed.

In this tutorial, we looked at how the PDSA cycle can be used in a personalized learning environment. We reviewed the PDSA cycle, and saw how to use it both to target areas of need and to support continuous improvement. We saw an example of a PDSA template, and I shared how I might complete that template in my mathematics classroom. Finally, we connected PDSA to personalized learning.

To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Thanks for joining me today. Have a great day.

Notes on "PDSA in Personalized Learning Environments"

(00:00 - 00:25) Introduction

(00:26 - 00:59) PDSA Cycle

(01:00 - 01:31) Targeting Areas of Need

(01:32 - 02:17) Continuous Improvement

(02:18 - 03:53) Creating and Completing a Template

(03:54 - 04:45) Connecting to Personalized Learning

(04:46 - 05:11) Review

(05:12 - 05:29) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Montgomery County Public Schools: 10 Basic Quality Tools for the Classroom

Scroll down to using the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle in the classroom. This link will provide you with an overview of the PDSA cycle of improvement, why you should apply this cycle in your classroom, and how it informs continuous improvement. In addition, the site includes images from application of the cycle with students in classrooms.

Challenges and Solutions in Creating a Learner Improvement Cycle for Personalized Mastery

This article addresses four challenges inherent in implementing learner improvement cycles in the classroom. In addition to an overview of the challenges, the article offers practical solutions for classroom design geared toward continuous learner improvement.