Remark on Quality of Teaching

Excerpted from Deming, W. Edwards, 1986, "Out of the Crisis", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, reprinted in India by Productivity & Quality Publishing Private Limited, Madras.

How do you define quality of teaching? How do you define a good teacher? I offer my comment only in respect of higher education. The first requisite for a good teacher is that he have something to teach. His aim should be to give inspiration and direction to students for further study. To do this, a teacher must possess knowledge of the subject. The only operational definition of knowledge requisite for teaching is research. Research need not be earthshaking. It may only be a new derivation of knowledge or principles already established. Publication of original research in reputable journals is an index of achievement. This is an imperfect measure, but none better has been found.

In my experience, I have seen a teacher hold a hundred fifty students spellbound, teaching what is wrong. His students rated him as a great teacher. In contrast, two of my own greatest teachers in universities would be rated poor teachers on every count. Then why did people come from all over the world to study with them, including me? For the simple reason that these men had something to teach. They inspired their students to carry on further research. They were leaders of thought - by name, Sir Ronald Fisher in statistics at University College, and Sir Ernest Brown in lunar theory at Yale. Their works will remain classic for centuries. Their students had a chance to observe what these great men were thinking about, and how they built roads into new knowledge.