Skip to main content

My First PDSA Cycle

After visiting the Menomonee Falls School District I came away with a better idea of what the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle looks like in the classroom.  

Tony Stark did not build Iron Man in a day. (OK fanboys I should really be talking about the Mark II suit not "Iron Man")  He followed a cycle of failure and learning from that failure. This can clearly be seen in this clip from Iron Man

I know I've talked about failure from success before, but that process is formalized in the PDSA cycle I saw in full effect in the Menomonee Falls School District.  My first true running of the cycle was in my last unit which covered rotational motion. This is a brief rundown of my first attempt at the cycle with my students.


To make the plan process more personalized, I had students draft their own goal for the unit.  That goal was then placed in what I was calling the objective progress sheet.  It was a Google Sheet with a space of the unit goal, tracking of progress towards objective mastery on formative assessments, and a place for reflection on what worked in the unit and what should be changed.  The format of this sheet has changed for my current unit because tables can now be edited in Google Docs on iPads.  I'll share this new version in a later post.  Below are some samples of student progress sheets.


In this unit, the the student project involved the study of rotational motion by constructing a car that was powered by the potential energy in a mousetrap.  Within the unit students also were engaged in other learning opportunities.  These included practice problem sets, practice quizzes, and lectures. On the objective sheet, students kept track of their progress towards objective mastery as measured by formative quizzes.  The students were given a variety of ways to convey their mastery at the end of the unit objectives in a variety of ways including but not limited to: video, screencast, or presentation.  I told students that I would help shape their preferred style to be sure it would allow for demonstration of objectives.  


The study stage is personalized in whether or not students meet their goal based on their ability to meet the ultimate goals of the project.  Students did this as a part of their individual progress sheet.  They reflected on their performance in the unit and recorded things that they wanted more of in the upcoming units (+) in addition to things they would like to see change (Δ) to help them better meet the unit objectives.

As far as class data, I kept track of the formative quiz results as the unit progressed. This data was kept on display in the classroom. In previous units, I had been reporting this data out as an average score for each class. After the visit to Menomonee Falls, I saw that many of the teachers were displaying their data as a percentage of students who were meeting objective mastery. So, I decided to display my data as a percentage of students who were scoring 3 or 4 (on a 0 - 4 scale) on a particular objective.

The results from the unit can be seen below:

I didn't love the fact that we were at only 70% on this one and showing a downward trend.  How we address this is fodder for a future blog post.

As you can see, the later objectives don't allow for nearly as much formative assessment.  The fact that we are on a block schedule drastically shortens the amount of time in each unit.  So to keep the formative quiz practice novel, I don't it everyday.


Once students have completed their individual reflection on practices that should be continued and those that should be changed, I have them complete the feedback board.  Below are photos of the feedback board from this unit.

Keep Doing This

This Is Not Helping Me Learn

The fact that 2 students didn't think that the mousetrap car lab help them learn the concepts of the unit led me to rethink my control over the projects for my next unit (future blog post).  

Could We Try This

If you don't know what Kahoots! are read by previous post.  Two suggestions you cannot read in this picture are more group video projects and print out rubrics.

Moving forward into the next unit, it becomes essential that I use the feedback to act on the design of the unit.  So, I've increased the flexibility of project selection and the appeal of the video creation process.  Overall though, the students enjoy the process of providing feedback and being able to see it directly affect their classroom environment. That in turn leads to more feedback from students.  This feedback becomes less forced and more authentic.

Popular posts from this blog

Waves of Innovation in Elmbrook Part 1

As a part of a graduate project, I am looking at innovations in education within my school district, Elmbrook Schools. I am specifically focusing on those looking to provide learners with more ownership over their own learning (a.k.a. personalizing learning). I've completed 4 interviews so far.  I had no intention of sharing them via this blog.  But, I think the stories and insights of these educators really are important for all.  They were vulnerable in a way that shows their passion for what they are undertaking.  They want the best for all learners not simply students, but educators who may hear their words.  So, please take the time to listen to their stories.  

In this video, Jeff Ortman a teacher in his 22nd year, discusses implementing strategies to give students ownership of their learning in his high school English classroom.  He discusses why he wanted to change his learning environment, his first steps to bring change, how choice and feedback are key to his classroom, a…

Can I Believe These Numbers?

Our union put out the results of a recent district survey.  The number of those who responded to the survey was low in comparison to the total number of certified staff. But the number and comments related to personalized learning struck me as troubling.

Based on this data, over half of the district staff polled are not onboard with the district's vision for personalized learning.  I would argue that not knowing the district vision for personalized learning is synonymous with not understanding what personalized learning is. The mission of the Elmbrook School Districtto inspire every student to think, to learn and to succeed.  By personalizing learning, we hope to achieve that mission.
I begin to question have we put the phrase before the meaning?  Have we thrown out this word without intention?  Have we made it to much of another thing to do rather than a method to achieve our shared vision.
These numbers shake me to the core.  After the recent presidential election, I realized I was…

How to Personalize Learning Part 3: Knowing How a Classroom Learns

Now, it may seem contradictory to state that teachers should create a classroom learner toolkit.  All individuals in our class have their own profile. We can’t simply design on blanket profile for the class.  That is very true.  That’s why Bray and McClaskey take a different approach to what a classroom learning toolkit looks like.  It is a 3-step process Class Learning Snapshot Preferences and Needs Class Learning Toolkit

Class Learning Snapshot In this model of designing tools for a whole classroom, the authors first recommend the teacher identify 4 learners who are diverse.  The Class Learning Snapshot records the specific strengths, talents, interests, and challenges of those four learners. If a teacher could meet the needs of these diverse learners through UDL, the needs of the other students in the class would probably be met.

Student Strengths, Talents, and Interests Challenges 1 It's easier for me to understand content when I am taught by a teacher and then am able to get informati…