• Welcome to Tux Reports: Where Penguins Fly. We hope you find the topics varied, interesting, and worthy of your time. Please become a member and join in the discussions.

Checklists in Education

Robert Heiny

Research Scientist of Learning and Education
Flight Instructor
Robert Heiny submitted a new blog post:

Checklists in Education

Every teacher has a master checklist (some call it a schedule) to complete daily routines. Get up, get coffee, complete what's necessary to do, get to school, go to classroom, teach, etc. It's a routine, sometimes given little thought, mostly followed from habit. Few, if any teachers, however, use a written checklist to plan and instruct lessons that match what learners do while learning that lesson.

Atul Gawanda became the champion of checklists in medical services starting with his 2007 article in The New Yorker. In that article he describes the introduction of checklists in aviation in the middle 1930s. He also describes the introduction of a series of medical practices where checklists of simple routines in I.C.U.s, and in emergency services. In both aviation and medical practices, the use of checklists have saved lives when other changes, including changes in medications, in practices did not.

Listening to him describe the results of simple checklists during an interview by Charlie Rose, they sparked the question, how would checklists work in schools? Schooling and learning have parallels to the practice of medics. All three require routines for people to follow to complete their duties. Would checklists, like antiseptics in medicine, probably be one of those long changes that took decades to become accepted, or like pilots in aviation and anesthesiology in medicine started using them quickly because they saw benefits from doing so?

These changes occur in part through what Gawanda dubs physicians growing today from cowboys to pit crews, from individual experts to teams of experts, in order to use more of the vast knowledge of medicine beyond what any one person can use to solve a medical problem. They use checklists that indicate where each expertise contributes its part to fixing a problem.

Teachers face a similar situation today as did aviation during its infancy and medicine in the War Between the States. Teachers, pilots, and physicians practiced without checklists or more formal protocols.

After eons of people teaching each other, teachers do not use an agreed upon tool that others can monitor to link creating, instructing, and assessing lessons. As a result, in spite of such initiatives as encouraging school districts to use "best practices" and "certified teachers," third party assessment tests indicate that most lessons taught in the U.S. do not meet international standards of school learning, These results indicate that U.S. learners learn less than what is possible.

The vast store of descriptions in behavioral and social sciences of what learners do while learning exceeds what most U.S. teachers use to prepare lessons. Although these descriptions have existed in increasing numbers for more than a century, their uses have gone from laboratories to a few classrooms and other practical settings and then into archives and footnotes in textbooks on teaching. The long change by educators continues as does the continued probable loss of learning that occurs from lessons failing to match what learners do while learning.

A checklist for ALV (a learners' view of learning) Lessons offers a way for teachers to blend instruction with what learners do while learning. Arguably, when people learn from a lesson, the lesson matches what learners do while learning that lesson. It's simple, like scrubbing hands and using sterile utensils during surgery to reduce infections and deaths.
  1. What do you want students to learn with this lesson?
  2. What will you do, so they will learn it?
  3. How will you know they learned it?
  4. What evidence will you record that they learned it?
  5. What difference does learning this lesson make?

Use of such checklists remains problematic. Loss of learning, perhaps more appropriately called rationed learning, from most lessons remains likely.
Related Reading

  1. Meet Ima Learner
  2. How Teachers Can Use ALV
  3. Rationed Learning: A Conspiracy of “Yes, but … 2002 – 2012.
  4. Technical-Scientific Literacy of Educators (TSLE)
Continue reading the Original Blog Post
Last edited: