A couple of weeks ago, I shared that I was looking for something non-teachery to jumpstart my summer reading. The book I settled on was The Checklist Manifesto (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Dr. Atul Gawande. The beginning read like some of the action packed scenes I’ve seen on Grey’s Anatomy and ER. I felt queasy after reading about some of the operating room emergencies he described but what I really liked about this book was that in the cracks of what was primarily a book about medicine, was careful reflection that could be applied to all professional disciplines. In the early chapters, Gawande wrote:
“Here, then, is our situation at the start of the twenty-first century: We have accumulated stupendous know-how. We have put it in the hands of some of the most highly-trained, highly skilled, and hardworking people in our society. And with it, they have indeed accomplished extraordinary things. Nonetheless, that know-how is often unmanageable. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, and reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”
“Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating.”
These words inevitably bring me back to education. I think about reading and the oft talked about failure of schools to effectively bring all students to an acceptable level of reading proficiency. How is it that so much has been researched and written about teaching kids to read, yet, education consistently fails to meet the needs of some students?
In The Checklist Manifesto (Amazon Affiliate Link), Gawande told the story about being part of a multi-nation team sponsored by the World Health Organization to devise a cost-effective way of improving surgical outcomes. After many meetings and much research, they devised a simple, two-minute, nineteen item checklist to be completed during the course of surgery. In their clinical trials, using the checklist caused the rate of major complications following surgery to fall 36% and deaths to decrease 47%. Those are significant results and because of what—a checklist?
This has got me thinking a lot about what we in education can do “to increase our outcomes without necessarily increasing our skill.” If something as simple as a checklist has made such a significant difference in efficiency and effectiveness in something as complicated as an OR, should we be considering it in our classrooms as well?
Gawande and his team took a lot of time to devise and refine the checklist that is now being used in operating rooms across the world, but off the top of my head, some of the things I would be considering for my checklist to improve daily reading instruction would include:
_____ALL students have spent no less than thirty minutes reading independently.
_____ALL students are reading books during independent reading that match their ability level.
_____I have checked in with my neediest, most struggling readers in either a small group or one-on-one conference.
_____I have delivered whole group, small group, and one-on-one instruction.
_____ My whole group, small group, and one-on-one mini lessons were derived from the observed needs of the children in my classroom.
_____I have read aloud to my students today.
This is where I’d start. As I continue to think about developing this list, I’m curious to know what you think. Does anything on my list seem unreasonable? What else should be on this list?