The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

How Did We Do on the Test?


Bill Bellows asks the question “How did we do on the test?” not “How did you do on the test?” Seeing that the student is partially responsible for their learning but that the teacher and the learning system provided by the school are inputs that will set the student up for success or failure is viewing the school as a system.

Our organizations provide the same contributions, or impediments, to employee success. The employee is responsible for their work, but not solely responsible: they work within a system. Failing to appreciate the systemic influences on results is a huge waste in organizations today. Focusing on improving the system rather than blaming the person is a better way to manage. And we can create an organization where “teamwork is more than an expression.”

Some teachers understand that “How did we do on the test?” is a helpful way view the results and to improve learning. Teachers familiar with David Langford (another speaker at the conference) would understand that idea.

Teachers should learn from the results of tests what they are failing to teach well. Just like a software development team should learn what they can from data on the results of their work, teachers should. If a software development team sees patterns of failure they should seek to find out what is going wrong and learn how to improve going forward. Teachers should learn, from what students are not grasping, and then modify the process to get better results going forward.

David Langford: “Tests are not the evil part – how we use the results is the problem. If you are using the results to rank the children you will destroy motivation for learning. If you use the results to improve the system everyone benefits.”

Related: Asking Questions to Initiate New ThinkingWhy ThoughtWorks Eliminated Sales Commissionscreate an enterprise where the human nature to seek improvement is nurtured

Categorised as: systems thinking, video


  1. …via phone we will be discussing The New Economics by W. Edwards Deming.

    The Aerojet-Rocketdyne course visits another area along “An InThinking Roadmap” and is open to anyone, Aerojet-Rocketdyne employee or not…

  2. “If I wanted to advance Dr. Taguchi’s work in my day to day efforts I needed to really absorb Dr. Deming’s work…”

  3. […] This view allowed them to focus on how to improve the system to allow students to learn. If the results are not what is desired they don’t blame the student or the teacher but seek to improve the system so future results are better. […]

  4. […] Bill Bellows: “And, so it goes, when we relentlessly focus our attention on one of many causes as the singular cause and miss the system.” […]

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