Thursday, 9 April 2015

Checklists and Teaching

I have just finished reading "The Checklist Manifesto - how to get things right" by Atul Gawande, 2011, and here are some notes I made on it:
  • Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author. He was asked to lead the WHO's program to reduce avoidable deaths from surgery. Gawande looked at successful global public health programmes and noted many used simple checklists. He then went on to research the use of checklists for flying planes and building skyscrapers. He decided that if checklists could be used in those complex cases they could also be used for surgery.   
  • The checklists prepared by Boeing for pilots are put into handbooks which are spiral bound with yellow tabs. Each checklist was brief, often only a few lines on a page in a large font and each one applied to a different situation. 
  • Some of the aviation checklists were for everyday routines, such as starting the engines, the others were for non-routine events, such as an engine failure. 
  • Boeing had found that good checklists were precise, to the point and easy to use but did not spell out everything; instead they provided reminders of important steps that pilots might miss. Five to nine items seemed to be the maximum to keep them in the limit of working memory. The checklists also needed to be intensely tested by using flight simulators and by reviewing accidents and near-misses.
  • When making a checklist there needed to be clear pause points when the checklist is used (unless it was started by a warning light or the like). Then it could be of two types: a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. A DO-CONFIRM checklist is when people did their jobs from memory and then paused while the list was read out and they confirmed the items.  A READ-DO checklist was when each item was done one after the other.  
  • Interestingly, the book notes that there is a great deal of reluctance by people to use checklists as they are seen as stifling and prescriptive and yet, when properly prepared, they have proven benefits and allow people more mental time and space to take important decisions. 
It seems to me that there are several examples of where we use checklists at school already. For instance:
  • School trip planning
  • Risk assessments for trips and activities
  • Fire drills
  • Safeguarding flow charts
  • Success criteria for pupils
  • Health checklists, for example by the box where pupils keep spare inhalers in school I have a card about what to do if a pupil has an epileptic fit, an asthma attack or a head injury. 
Things to try out now for myself:
  • Try considering the points for good checklists when writing success criteria. 
  • Write one with the pupils for an end-of-day routine as they had already suggested for their classroom jobs having a pupil to do a last check that no one had left anything behind, a source of much woe for some pupils. 
  • Collect the checklists that I already have an put them in one indexed binder. 
  • Consider other areas where checklists might be useful, eg planning.