History Teacher Inquiry and PDSA Problems

Schools of education don’t create good teachers. Rather, good teachers grow and evolve through the questions they ask themselves on a daily basis. Teachers become good teachers through thinking about what they are doing, what they will do, and why.

The PDSA Cycle

Base Your Teaching on Inquiry, a short article from the New Zealand Ministry of Education, describes the teacher growth process as an inquiry process. Stages of the teaching process are defined as a series of questions teachers ask themselves. You may recognize the stages as the PDSA* cycle of continuous improvement: Plan, Do, Study, Act.

The questions posed by this article can help you reflect on your practices and outcomes as you seek to improve students’ knowledge of history. It’s worth reading.


* Despite its popularity, the PDSA model gives an inaccurate process for continuous improvement. (This is my opinion.) This model assumes that you can plan (P) your doing (D) without first studying (S). This model also assumes that you can act (A) on the results of studying (S) without planning (P).

Instead, studying (S) should come before planning (P). Also, planning (P) should come before acting (A) or “doing” (D) your plan. Actually, we can forget Acting (A). In the PDSA model, Acting implies doing something without a plan, which I find problematic and risky; doing relates to doing, or implementing, your plan.

In a scientific inquiry model (which is how we learn and evolve), the improvement cycle is SPD, as follows.

The SPD Cycle

  • First, you Study (S): What are the current conditions, and what do students need?
  • Second, you Plan (P): What will you do to address current conditions and student needs?
  • Third, you  Do (D): You implement your plan (deliver your lesson).

Then you repeat the process, studying (S) the new conditions and student needs following your actions, planning (P) next steps and/or interventions, implementing (D) your plans, and repeating.

How does this revised model relate to the article linked above? The questions posed by the article, with some re-labling of the question sets, will apply to the SPD model.

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