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The W. Edwards Deming Institute® Podcast


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Apr 3, 2015

This week's podcast features Dr. Doug Stilwell, Superintendent of the Urbandale Community School District. Doug shares his application of the Deming Philosophy in education - looking at education from a systems point a view and driving out fear with trust.

Listen as Doug talks about how, after 35 years in education, he always felt that "something was not right." It wasn't until 2009 when he attended a David Langford Seminar, which applied the Deming philosophy in education, that he said "this is it, this is the stuff I have been looking for."

Doug endured 35 years of new initiatives from the legislature and Department of Education, with no changes in student achievement. It caused him to think back to Deming and that "people are not the problem, it's the system." If they did not take a systems approach they would be doomed to fail. He realized that whether you're looking at the district as a whole, or a building or even a classroom, it's a system, and the way you approach that system will have the greatest impact on student learning.

Doug shares his lifelong interest in trust, the role it plays in driving out fear, and his conclusion that, "if there is fear in an organization, that means that there is not trust." By engendering trust, Doug realized that people can be freed from fear and feel freer to innovate.

Lastly, Doug shares his recommendations for others are they begin their journey. It starts with defining an aim for thieir system and clearly communicating that with the students. A few years ago, Doug was disheartened after reading a study show that the decrease in joy for learning begins in Kindergarten. But this reinforced for him the value of systems thinking, and that teacher understanding of a systems approach in the classroom is a great place to start.