Sunday, November 11, 2012

Exchanging Quality Information.

Being a part of university faculty means that I can expect to be involved in what some people call “information exchange”.  

Personally I prefer that term “information exchange leaders” (IELs)  to “teaching” or being a "teacher" because frankly those are terms badly out of date, a product of a world 60 or more years ago.    “Teaching” and its partner term “lecturing” are both uni-directional concepts; I talk and you listen, or I expound and you learn.  

Even if it can work for short term indoctrinating of children, most kids turn out after a short time.  Adult learners barely tolerate that approach at all, except in the narrowest of situations, such as entertainment (think attending a guest lecture), or under compulsion (think military discipline).

Effective information exchange involves sharing knowledge and experience to the benefit of all concerned.  Adult learners always bring something “to the table”.  In the arena of Quality, an IEL does not have to scratch the surface very deep get participant to share their experiences, both of success and failure; it doesn’t matter which.  What the IEL can do is shape discussion so that either or both can be used in the process of stating the principle, then illustrating through specific stories in order to expand and reinforce information and lead to knowledge.  

In Quality we have a good example of a good story teller: W. Edwards Deming and his Red Bead Experiment [see a re-enactment  at ].  

I know it sounds like so much pedagogic gobbledygook,  but actually makes sense.  Think about who were your most effective teachers when you were in school; they were usually story tellers who engaged you in your learning.  And think about the classes in which you learned the most; they were usually ones in which you got to participate through sharing your own stories.  

In the UBC Certificate Course for Laboratory Quality Management we have created a virtual classroom in an on-line environment.  The course is discussion based, and highly dependent on the stories and experiences of the participants.  The faculty are very effective of guiding this discussion through to a shared experience of information exchange and acquisition of new knowledge.  

This is what makes our course so different from other on-line courses where there is only opportunity to learn from the content put on-line for observation and instruction.  There is no input, there is only one right answer and that is the information from the course; all in all, an ineffective technique at education.  As much as it appears modern because it is taught on-line with video-clips and multicoloured and flashing text and on-line multiple-choice examinations, it is fundamentally no different from grade school in the 1950s.  The teacher stands and spouts information and the children dutifully learn, no questions asked.

Our course has now been going for 10 years, and is built much along the lines of many of the Quality Management Principles that it covers.  The course is:

Designed to meet the needs of the medical laboratory Quality specialist.  It is limited to a small group to ensure that active participation is enhanced.  Participants are screened to ensure that they know and understand the medical laboratory environment and have some understanding of the Quality process.

Motivated and guided through an active facutly

Involvement of People
Requires and demands active engagement of participants.

Process Approach
Each module is separate but the process of engagement is consistent throughout.

System Approach to Teaching
Based on pedagogic principles of adult learning.

Continual Improvement
Regularly updated and refreshed.  This year we are adding in a new module, and a prelude to a new supplemental course on use of on-line tools to enhance medical laboratory Culture of Quality.

Factual Approach to Decision Making
Chages are introduced based on participant survey responses.

Mutually Beneficial Relationships
If both the faculty and participants don’t learn from the course, then we have to investigate why not.

So we are very proud of the course.  Indeed it does exactly what we think a course focused on Quality Management should do.  It is committed to making the learning experience for participants a positive program that leads to enhanced Quality and Learning Culture.  

To learn more about the course, it's content, registration fees, continuing education credits, its faculty please go to

The course is filling quickly for our January 2013 start.  If you think you might be interested, I suggest you visit soon.  Registration closes by December 15th.

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