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Using The Deming Cycle For Continuous Improvement In Engineering Education

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Programmatic Issues in Physics or Engineering Physics Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1361.1 - 13.1361.11



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Paper Authors


Jeff Jalkio University of St. Thomas

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Jeff Jalkio received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and worked for thirteen years in industry in the fields of optical sensor design and process control. In 1984, he co-founded CyberOptics Corporation, where he led engineering efforts as Vice President of Research. In 1997 he returned to academia, joining the engineering faculty of the University of St. Thomas where he teaches courses in digital electronics, computing, electromagnetic fields, controls, and design.

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Arnold Weimerskirch University of St. Thomas

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Arnie Weimerskirch devoted his 40-year Honeywell career to quality improvement, retiring in 1999 as Corporate Vice President of Quality. He is a former chairman of the Panel of Judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Arnie holds a BSME and an MSIE from the University of Minnesota. He now serves as a 3M Fellow in the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering. Arnie is co-author of two books: Total Quality Management-Strategies and Techniques Proven at Toda⁹s Most Successful Companies and Process Improvement and Quality Management in the Retail Industry.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using the Deming Cycle for Continuous Improvement in Engineering Education


As engineering programs refine assessment plans based on ABET accreditation requirements, there are many lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of industrial quality improvement movements. In 1997 as we were developing new undergraduate engineering programs we chose to use the Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of continuous improvement as our model for program assessment. This paper reviews the assessment system we put in place for continuous improvement, results obtained over the last ten years, and challenges of maintaining a culture of continuous improvement.

Our model involves assessment and continuous improvement at four distinct levels. First, at the constituent level, we have a set of processes for evaluating how well we are identifying our constituents, listening to them, and responding to their inputs. Second, at the program level, our processes identify needs for new educational programs, determines the objectives of these programs and evaluates our success at achieving those outcomes. Over the last 10 years, these processes have resulted in the creation of four new programs and the phase out or modification of others. Third, at the curriculum level, we have processes to improve the curriculum to better achieve program objectives. We will describe how these processes have led to various corrective and preventative actions and the results of those actions. Finally, at the course level, we have processes to encourage annual improvements in individual courses and to obtain data from individual courses for use in the assessment of program educational outcomes. By linking these levels together we have been able to reduce the faculty workload involved in assessment activities while maintaining a high degree of faculty involvement.


A wide variety of models have been proposed and used for assessing the quality of educational programs but much of this work has been performed independent of the large body of research regarding quality improvement in industrial settings1. While clearly the industrial and academic environments differ and each provides unique challenges for the implementation of quality improvement programs, we believe that much can be learned from the work of manufacturing quality experts such as Juran2, Crosby3, and Deming4. The fact that their work has produced clear, measurable results in many diverse industries has motivated our efforts to apply their methods to improving the quality of our graduate and undergraduate engineering programs at our university. In particular, we have adopted a Continual Improvement Process which employs Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act model to encourage systematic quality improvement in multiple ways within our school.

The Deming cycle, shown in figure 1 and also known as the Shewart cycle, and the PDCA cycle, is a simple system to describe a continuous improvement cycle. While this cycle is simple, it is not easy. The four phases of the cycle are known as the plan, do, check, and act stages.

Jalkio, J., & Weimerskirch, A. (2008, June), Using The Deming Cycle For Continuous Improvement In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3229

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