Academic journal article Education

Deming's 'Profound Knowledge': Implications for Higher Education

Academic journal article Education

Deming's 'Profound Knowledge': Implications for Higher Education

Article excerpt


Education remains one of the challenging areas for the adoption of the total quality philosophy. Educators, political groups, and even the public have been slow to address the problem of educational decline on a systematic basis (Evans and Lindsay, 2008). Academia has seen many management fads come and go so it is not surprising that faculty and staff are skeptical of any new management philosophy that comes their way. Though many institutions of higher education have initiated quality improvement efforts, the percentage of these institutions which are engaged in measuring and improving quality has been relatively small (Evans and Lindsay, 2008). Nevertheless, efforts have been made to define and improve quality in higher education. Bergquist (1995) proposed that a comprehensive and useful definition of quality in higher education must include all four sets of criteria: input, output, value-added and process-oriented. The input criterion focuses on the nature and level of resources available to the institution like the characteristics of incoming students, credentials of faculty, size of library, structure and availability of physical facilities, and the amount of financial reserves. The output criterion stresses the nature and extent of institutional products, characteristics of graduating students, success of alumni, research and scholarly publications, and public service. The value-added criterion zeroes in on the differences that an institution has made in the growth of all of its members: intellectual, moral, social, vocational, physical, and spiritual. The process-oriented criterion includes the level and manner of participation of all appropriate constituencies (or stakeholders) in the educational, administrative, and governance processes of the institution, including the defining and assessing of quality. These four sets of criteria must be considered equally important in developing a modern definition of quality for education. In light of these four criteria, Bergquist (1995, p. 43) proposed the following comprehensive definition of quality with respect to higher education:

   Quality is the extent to which an
   institution successfully directs adequate
   and appropriate resources
   (input) to the accomplishment of its
   mission-related outcomes (output)
   and that its programs make a significant
   and positive difference in
   the lives of people associated with
   it (value-added) and that these programs
   are created, conducted, and
   modified in line with the mission
   and values of the institution

Deming (1993, p. xi) has lamented the "climate of competition that takes place between people, teams, departments, divisions, pupils, schools, universities". Contrary to popular opinion, competition as it exists in organizations and industries is destructive. The preferred environment is everyone working together as a system to achieve the aim of the system. What is needed is collaboration and transformation towards a new style of management. The improvement and management of education require the application of the same principles that are used to improve any process in manufacturing or service sector. According to Deming (1993), the route to this transformation requires a keen understanding of his "system of profound knowledge". This system consists of four interrelated parts: appreciation for a system, understanding of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology. An understanding of these elements will provide valuable insights into the design of better management practices and effective decision-making processes for higher education.

A System of Profound Knowledge for Higher Education

The prevailing style of management in higher education must undergo transformation. This transformation means change of form, shape, or appearance. Perhaps a better word to use is the Greek word metanoia which means penitence, repentance, reorientation of one's life or spiritual conversion. …

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