Applying Total Quality Management in Teaching and Learning

Today, the improvement of quality in some area such as industry, manufacturing, health and education is considered as a necessity. One of the key issues to increase quality of education is improving the quality of Teaching and Learning (T&L) process. One way to achieve this goal is application of Total Quality Management (TQM) model in the T&L process. This literature review paper focus on describing the method which educators can use to apply TQM in the education and classroom to enhance the quality of T&L process. This paper also describes limitations and requirements to applying TQM and this model in educational systems especially in the classroom. This paper finally introduces some TQM tools for analyzing students’ assessment and outputs.

Key words: Total Quality Management, Teaching and Learning Process, Continuous Improvement, Assessment


TQM is a comprehensive management philosophy that originally developed by Edwards Deming after World War II to improve the quality of products and it was first introduced to the Japanese industrial leaders (Svensson & Klefsjo, 2006). Americans did not use TQM seriously until 1950 when the Japanese accepted to renew their business activities and industry after the war. By using TQM, the Japanese managed to control the world markets by 1980. Meanwhile, the U.S. companies had eventually admitted that the model of assembly line factory belonging to the nineteenth century was out of date and needed serious updates in the global competitive economic markets (Dheeraj, 2004). The theoretical basics of TQM came from several gurus; most effective people are W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran and Philip Crosby in the America and Genichi Taguchi and Kaoru Ishikawa in Japan. Deming advocates that quality “should be aimed at the needs of the customer, present and future” (Deming, 1986, p. 5). Juran defines quality as “fitness for use” (Juran, 1989, p. 58) by the customer, and Crosby supports this: “conformance to requirements set by consumers” (Crosby, 1979, p. 2). According to Ishikawa, a quality product is one which is “most economical, most useful, and always satisfactory to the consumer” (Ishikawa & Lu, 1985, p. 4). In fact, all the gurus emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction as well as continuous improvement (CI). So, TQM is a set of practices that focus on the CI, fulfilling the customers’ needs, lowering rework, increased involvement of employees and more teamwork, the process redesign, competitive benchmarking, constant measurement of the outcomes, long-range thinking, team-based problem solving, and closer ties with the suppliers (Yang, 2005).

Although TQM was originally designed for the industry and was not appropriate for education, many educators maintained that the TQM could also be applied to education especially for bringing educational reforms (Dheeraj, 2004). The applicability of TQM theories in the educational sector has also attracted the interest of many theorists and practitioners such as DeCosmo, Parker and Heverly (1991), Ewell (1993), Sherr and Lozier (1991), Bonser (1992), Tribus (1993), Brigham (1993), and Rhodes (1992). They claimed that educational institutions have applied TQM for many of the same reasons that manufactories and businesses have instituted quality programs. They learned that TQM models must be redesigned to fit the educational purposes in schools (Cunningham, 2007). While the process of reform is still going on, it is not easy to see how schools are dealing with the changes (Lukhwareni, 2002).

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Venkatraman (2007) states that there are various criteria for classroom teaching and these predominantly include the following with regard to teaching excellence:

Active learning process to involve student in classroom;

Mastery of content and the ability to communicate it;

Assessment and other means of feedback about student learning; and

Concern for students’ learning and progress.

TQM Model for Teaching and Learning Process

Considering the quality of T&L process in school is very important for educational system. One way to improving the quality of education is implementation of TQM to the T&L process (Tong & Han, 2003).

This paper review the Tong & Han (2003) TQM model applied to the T&L processes in the classroom environment. This model shows that in Figure 1.

Requirements & Feedback

Feedback Control Process



Defines, Monitors, Controls, Delivers

Continuous Improvement



Output Assessment


Students as Internal Customer & Employee

T&L Transformation Process

Raw Students



Quality Graduates


External Customer


Internal Customer



(Site, Technology…)

Figure1. Simplified TQM model applied to the T&L processes in the classroom environment (Source: Tong & Han, 2003)

In this model students are consider as employee and customer (internal and external), and satisfies them in all the T&L processes with regarding TQM that a satisfied customer will learn more and better than a dissatisfied customer. Thus, students have the right to obtain the best quality education. It is important for education providers to improve quality of service by understanding students need (Jie & Idris, 2009). In this model, Students acting (as internal customer) are being transformed into valuable manpower for the future students need (external customers as employers of university graduates) (Tong & Han, 2003).

Subarta Das and Ghosh (2011) maintain that raw and unprocessed skills student (internal customer) are processed by the teachers in an intimate, cordial and strong human relation of T&L process to produce outputs i.e. skilled and educated graduates. Teachers manage, facilitate and work continuously to induce an urge to learn, imparting knowledge and developing right attitude of students which ultimately means shaping a mind as per set objectives. This transformation requires support from several resources other than teachers like supporting staff, department, library, laboratories and other infrastructure facilities that support this process, as well as external customers are the employers who are finally utilizing the service of the educated graduates.

In the model, the output assessment for the effectiveness of the T&L process flows into the feedback control process, which monitors and determines the corrective actions required for the next improvement stage with CI. It includes a range of concepts from employee involvement, teamwork, and a series of quality improvement tools like Deming’s improvement cycle: Plan, Do, Check and Action (PDCA) (Sun, Ho, & Ni, 2008). Among the various elements of TQM, CI is one of the most common factors that have direct implications for T&L process (Venkatraman, 2007). Teachers should define, monitor, control and deliver the T&L improvement process, and work continuously to improve the T&L process in incremental steps by soliciting feedback from the students and drive the students to learn (Tong & Han, 2003).

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In this approach, the T&L process transforms raw students (internal customers) into knowledgeable and skilled students to employers (external customers) over a school years in which the students slowly increase his/her self worth or value through their education experience. It is importance consider the output product not only the students but also the education of the students (Tong & Han, 2003).

This model also aims to improve student learning that results. Improvement includes less wastage of school resources like time, energy, and money by producing students with desirable knowledge and skills. If schools feel it necessary to boost the quality of the teachers, the student’s inputs and technological resources in the system, the quality of the output should depend on the efficiency of T&L practices. By applying TQM principle, improvement in quality helps to decrease waste and raise productivity hence keeping costs low and raising student satisfaction. The principles of TQM could be applied as a tool for boosting the student’s moral, raising productivity, saving time, empowering people at all levels, enhancing moral, and providing higher quality services to customers (Kumar, Choisne, Grosbois, & Kumar, 2009).

Some limitations and requirements to applying TQM

Implementing TQM in education is not easy and the process for achieving success is long and faces some obstacles and problems in preparation and through implementation. To avoid these obstacles or try to minimize them, there is a need to review them. One of the problems associated with the implementation of TQM in education is the commercial undertone of the language, or jargon which is utilized. Drennan (2000) suggested that this jargon can have disturbing pedagogical implications. It may invoke fears of increasing managerialism and declining academic autonomy within education.

Howard (1996) states that the staff of an organization may resist change through TQM for various reasons. They might be afraid of the unknown or they might lack time and resources. Freed and Klugman (1997) point out that in addition to lack of time and resources, lack of understanding TQM can be another obstacle facing TQM implementation in education or a main cause for its failure.

In this model, it is required that the teachers be ready to welcome changes in their methods of teaching and presenting course materials through innovative methodology (Rampa, 2004). Another required for TQM implementation is training and education. As mentioned above, a cause of the failure of TQM is a lack of understanding about TQM and a lack of appropriate skills. TQM training is required for everyone in the organization whether they are managers or staff. Understanding TQM helps to develop commitment to its application (Sebastianelli & Tamimi, 2003).

Evaluation, assessment process and Tools

This model adopts evaluation and assessment as CI processes that contribute to the enhancement of quality. Producing quality graduates requires identifying activities that need to be controlled, monitored and overseen throughout the complete cycle of the T&L process. One of the important features in this model is the measurement of performance to ensure conformance to students’ expectations. One cannot make any effective and efficient changes or know what exactly needs to be changed without clear analysis and understanding of feedback results. For example, to be ‘fit for use’, the collected feedback must produce quality information that can guide the designing and redesigning of the T&L process. Getting reliable feedback information concerning one’s actions is essential to continuing the incremental improvements process especially designed for each semester. Otherwise we will not know how well the students are learning or how students respond to specific T&L approaches.

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Course grades, marks, syllabus, examination/test papers, in-class activities, student performance on tutorial problems, suggestion boxes, student critiques, peer and student feedback, class interview techniques ,surveys and evaluations form part of the TQM teaching process to establish quality standards (Tong & Han, 2003).

The following are some of the most common TQM tools in use today. Each is used for, and identifies, specific information in a specific manner. It should be noted that tools should be used in conjunction with other tools to understand the full scope of the issue being analyzed or illustrated. Simply using one tool may inhibit your understanding of the data provided, or may close you off to further possibilities.

Brainstorming and Affinity Diagrams

Cause and Effect, Ishikawa or Fishbone Diagrams

Flowcharts and Modeling Diagrams

Focus Groups

Force Field Analysis


Pareto Charts / Analysis


Pie Charts and Bar Graphs

Relations Diagram

Run Chart

Scatter Diagram

Tree Diagram (Hellsten & Klefsjo, 2000)

All of these TQM tools can be easily created and examined by using various types of computer software (Pollock, 2003) or by simply mapping them out on paper. They can also be easily integrated into team meetings, organizational newsletters, marketing reports, and for various other data analysis needs.


Good teaching matters as quality teaching produces quality learning that creates quality students and makes students satisfied. As such, TQM is one useful tool in the T&L practices in education. The model adopt a view that quality teaching that actively involves interactions and participations with the students can make a significant difference to cause student to learn. The challenge is to ensure every student can be benefited from the T&L process by giving them enough time, support, motivation, resources and opportunity to learn to reach the agreed standard of excellence in education in a total quality environment. To implement these TQM strategies, it requires having the correct attitude and approaching with the ultimate aim to continuing striving to improve all areas of entrusted responsibilities. It also introduced some TQM tools to enhance T&L quality that allows one to follow clear aims and objectives; makes continuous improvement in teaching, learning and assessment methods; and is willing to be judged by others. For any continuous improvement effort to be effective, quality and reliable feedback information is essential and important in the evaluation procedure of T&L with the output clearly defined and measured. It involves processes that continuously collect, analyze, and act on customer information.

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