Continuous Improvement in Education Excerpt 3: Fishbone Diagram


DR. KAREN SHAKMAN: So now we’ll start with the
fishbone diagram. As I said, the fishbone diagram identifies
the problem, the factors that are associated with that problem, and the causes of those
factors. Again, multiple perspectives are important
here. So I’m going to play this out with an example. And you’ll have to humor us. We tried to come up with a very accessible
example, which will carry out through the workshop, along with the English learner example. So this basic example should help to illustrate
how to use the tools. We’ll ask you to use the English learner example
for the activities, as you did just before. So for our basic example, we draw on something
many of us may face, which is trying to be healthy and fit. We want you to imagine that a woman makes
a visit to her doctor who runs some tests and determines that she’s not in good physical
shape, that physically she has elevated levels of cholesterol and blood sugar, which are
represented by this delicious looking cheese burger. So she and her doctor determine that she needs
to get to the bottom of this issue and increase her health. So she creates a fishbone diagram to further
unpack the problem. So her doctor determines with her that the
problem– which goes to the far left of the diagram, and then you’ll see it looks kind
of like a fishbone– is high levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. But what factors are contributing to the problem? Well, she eats fatty foods and she doesn’t
exercise. But what might be causing her to, for example,
eat fatty foods? Perhaps she doesn’t have time in the morning
to prepare her lunch. So she runs out and grabs fast food for her
lunch each day. And in addition to that, she doesn’t particularly
enjoy cooking. So she finds herself eating quick and easy
foods, which may be highly processed or high in fat. So you see here we’re unpacking the problem
step by step and beginning to examine the factors that contribute to the problem, and
then beneath that the causes. So she’s setting herself up in this way to
generate possible strategies to change some of these behaviors that are creating the problem.

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