The Toyota Way in a Norwegian Classroom

I have long-admired the way Toyota does things, and I have for many years injected plenty of their principles into my educational practice because they focus on continuous improvement (kaizen) and respect for people.

I know schools aren’t factories housing production lines but the 14 principles that make up The Toyota Way make a lot of sense and are transferable to many other organisations. So why not education?

Baerland Primary School in Rogaland, Norway looked towards the industrial sector and they also have adopted a 5S way of working inspired by Toyota.

An inefficient classroom is a waste of time, but the 5S approach will help you steal the time back.

In a classroom context, what does the 5S look like?

Step 1: Sort Yourself and Your Classroom
  • Sort exactly what it is you want children to learn. Can you cut anything out?
  • Do children have everything they need to do an activity?
  • Does your classroom have too much furniture?
  • Are there more desks and chairs than are needed?
  • Are wall displays cluttered and too busy?
  • Do you store unnecessary paperwork?
  • Can you remove what isn’t absolutely necessary?
Step 2: Straighten Your Classroom
  • Does everything in your class have a place?
  • Is everything in its place?
  • Is it accessible?
  • Do children know where to find what they need?
  • Are drawers, trays, cupboards etc clearly labelled?
  • Do you have allocated spaces for different types of learning?
Step 3: Make Your Classroom Shine
  • Are containers and storage areas clean and tidy?
  • Do you get children to clean up after themselves?
  • Is there a clear expectation that work-spaces and the floor space are to be kept ship shape?
  • Are children’s desks covered in things that aren’t needed for the task in hand?
  • Can we remove mental clutter and distractions?
  • Can we reduce waste and add value?
Step 4: Standardize Your Classroom
  • Do your labels do their job?
  • Is your classroom communicating or confusing?
  • Have you given consideration to where key information, timetables, reminders and menus are placed?
  • Do you have colour coding that differentiate between topics and instructions?
Step 5: Sustain Your Classroom
  • Do you maintain and keep on top of the classroom or does the classroom get on top of you and the children?
  • Do children have pride in their classroom and want to be there?
  • Is there an expectation of excellence?
  • Are standards maintained through regular updates and weekly checks?


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