Question: OK, I read The Lean Professor. It’s excellent, but how do I get started?
Answer: Great! I’m happy to hear you are getting started. You can begin by documenting the primary learning objectives of the course, based on the main subject matter. Think about this without looking at any books or other reference material. Then break that up into a logical, week-by-week sequence. This will help you create weekly homework assignments, in-class exercises, the end-of-course student visual control, etc. Then, write/edit the syllabus, as this represents the overall structure, content, and timing of the course.
The chapters in textbooks may be helpful in figuring out the the primary learning objectives of the course, but don’t let the book anchor you into a structure or sequence that does not make sense. Think critically about the content: What are the most 3-5 important things that students must know and be able to apply in the real world? This will evolve over time. Example: One of the most important things to learn in an operations management course is flow and how flow is achieved (the principles and practices that enable continuous flow). Then, figure out how to teach this and the (vital few) other important things over a 12 week semester.
You must constantly scrutinize the course content, timing, and delivery in relation to student’s reaction to them and the learning outcomes you have identified (which will change over time). You will never be “done” with the course. You will continuously improve it in real-time and at the end of each semester. And you will do so always with Lean principles and practices in mind. You will ask:
- “Is this an improvement? How does it eliminate waste, unevenness, or unreasonableness?”
- “Is this consistent with the ‘Respect for People‘ principle? How so?”
- “How does set-up reduction apply to teaching?”
- “How else can I apply the Just-in-Time concept to teaching?”
- “How would an andon cord be used in teaching?”
- “What visual controls can I create to convey important information at-a-glance?”
- “How can I mistake-proof this assignment to reduce the errors that students make and to better ensue the desired learning outcomes are achieved?”