Do you pass inspection?
Think about the best college instructor you ever had. What was special about him or her? How do you match up to that standard? More importantly, how do your students and your college administrators judge your quality?
There is a concept I used when I worked in the automotive industry called perceived quality. Let me give you an example. You are in the dealer show room, and an expensive luxury car has caught your eye. You open and close the door. With minimal effort, that heavy, solid structure moves smoothly toward the center pillar. No squeaking. There is a thud, not a loud noise mind you, put the solid sound that reassures you that the car is well made. Absolutely no rattles. You eye the clearance between the door and the adjacent body parts. Perfect! A small uniform gap both front and back. You position your head close to the front fender; and turning toward the rear of the car, you squint a bit as you check the smooth, even contour of the door and the flawless gleaming finish. That is perceived quality. Of course, you know nothing about actually performance – gas mileage, ride comfort, passenger noise, handling, reliability, maintenance costs, safety, etc. etc. The quality message you get by simply closing the door tells you that this is a top quality vehicle.
Next, you walk over to a more affordable model and make your quality check. The small squeak and a bit of a rattle as the door closes helps you form a quick conclusion. The gaps around the door would not have bothered you, were you not comparing these nearly ¼ inch spaces to the narrow slits between door and body on the first car. You show no concern for the surface finish because you have perceived the quality of this car to be poor. However, you never learn the truth about this car. You don’t know that it is the Motor Trend Car of the Year with the highest customer satisfaction rating in its class.
These two examples illustrate how perceived quality effects our opinions. And what you need to be mindful of is that your students apply the same principle when judging you. Going back to your favorite instructor, I bet you that the traits you remember best are ones of perceived quality. The way she dressed. His punctuality. The fact the she was always so organized. His caring personality. Her sense of humor. Of course, these admirable qualities had far less impact on your learning than did his subject matter expertise, or the practical experience she brought to the classroom, or the clarity of his explanations, or the patience and respect she showed students.
What is your perceived quality? What impression do your students form of you? As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, if students don’t like you, you are in trouble. Don’t believe all the stuff about respect, because this is not the business world.
Do a self assessment of your perceived quality. (You know we can all improve.) Set some goals for yourself – areas where you can do better. Make this exercise your personal quality improvement project. And be sure there is no rattling door on you, a Motor Trend Instructor of the Year. 🙂
© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.
Revised May 2, 2010