A how-to guide for school improvement

Improving Learning: A how-to guide to school improvement

Our book IMPROVING LEARNING is a comprehensive guide to continually improving learning and performance in classrooms, schools and education systems (and beyond!).

Purchase the Kindle edition

Purchase the iBooks edition

Order your traditional paper version now. 

Learn how to:

Achieve better outcomes in your school and classroom

Engage everyone in improvement

Apply proven theory and easy-to-use improvement tools

Use resources (free templates, video clips) to support your improvement efforts.

About the authors:

We have been supporting the improvement efforts of schools and school systems in Australia for nearly 20 years, leading the development and implementation of school, district, state and territory improvement initiatives. We have written IMPROVING LEARNING in response to repeated requests for a detailed explanation of the quality improvement philosophy applied to schools. The book draws heavily on our experience and shares what we have learned working with literally hundreds of Australian schools.

Michael King and Jane Kovacs.

About the book:

IMPROVING LEARNING describes the improvement philosophy of W. Edwards Deming and other key practitioners and how it applies to school education. The book's seven comprehensive chapters are filled with full colour images, examples, and links to videos and free resources.

The chapters include:

Learning to improve
Working on the system
Creating and applying theory
Using data to improve
Improving relationships
Making improvement happen


Michael King and Jane Kovacs have produced an outstanding resource both for school leaders and teachers who are already engaged in the adventure of quality improvement and those who are just beginning this journey. The reader will find numerous, very clear and succinct explanations of practical methods and tools for implementing significant and sustainable improvement in schools and classrooms. These are illustrated by vignettes from familiar school settings.

A concise and highly readable account of the origins and history of the quality improvement movement provides the appropriate theoretical context.

For all who are passionate about improving schools and classrooms this book is both a source of inspiration and a highly practical reference.

Murray G Bruce
Gordon Primary School
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory


As I began to read Improving Learning by Michael King and Jane Kovacs, I was initially impressed with the depth and breath of information about the application of Quality Learning, including tracing its history.  Throughout the book, the authors combine theory with practice in a highly readable book that is a comprehensive resource for those who are new to the concepts of quality in education, as well as those who have more background.  However, as I continued to read, I was struck by just how rich a resource it is.  Michael and Jane have exceeded my expectations by providing online access to a wealth of templates and video examples that cause this book to explode with possibilities for learning. Improving Learning has earned a prominent spot in my reference library and I have no doubt that I will be turning to it often to deepen my own understanding and to enrich learning with my colleagues.

Monta Akin
Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Services
Leander Independent School District
Texas, USA


Improving Learning is a rare kind of book - it will serve you well for the rest of your career. It contains ideas and tools you can use today and that will continue prove to be useful for the rest of your career.

Do not be put off by the sheer size of the book. In this age of shortening attention spans, half page blogs and elevator pitches, Improving Learning is quite a large book. Yet it is succinct, specific, comprehensive and coherent.

You might begin by using one of the tools at the next staff meeting to do a task that you have done many times before. But this time the results are likely to be clearer and more insightful. Continue working with this book to  deepen your engagement with its content.  And you will enable those with whom you work achieve the purposes for which Improving Learning  was written: school as a better, more productive, more rewarding experience for all concerned.  

Improving Learning  is not just another school improvement manual. Rather it is an enabling call to action in relation to the work that is at the heart of your chosen profession. Its proven methods and strategies are based on very sound philosophy and science.

Improving Learning unique. It is not the same as many of the current notions of how to approach school improvement. For this reason it clearly explains the differences between its approach and many current approaches increasingly being imposed on school. As a result you will be able to explain why you have chosen to take this particular approach. Furthermore you will have ample evidence to show that what you are doing is making a significant difference. You will be able show improved learning outcomes, enhanced well-being and reduced costs. All of these outcomes release resources to be re-invested in additional provision and further improvement. The Improving Learning approach is not only educationally sound - it is “economically rational”.

Improving Learning is not simply another collection of good ideas, strategies and useful tools although it is very rich in these things. Rather it articulates a holistic scientific approach to school improvement focusing on the reality of the here and now, and what works, and will continue to work.

Ivan Webb
Principal (retired)
Riverside Primary School


This book is a guide in the truest sense of the word. It will support, encourage and aid school leaders as they navigate school improvement. Most importantly, it will be a go-to reference, a just-in-time reminder of how-to. For these reasons, the book adds significantly to the school improvement landscape in Australia.

A key feature of the book is its accessibility. The more complex aspects of school improvement are described in ways that actually make sense – I found myself readily making links between the description provided and our own context in the school. Once the links are solid, the actions can follow.

Similarly, the ‘working’ chapters AREN’T just a description of handy tools around which a ‘story’ is woven. Instead, they are a set of logical, theory-based yet practical ways to make things happen. The tools then become the vehicle – not the driver – of your improvement.

Through the inclusion of a wide range of school and sector-based references, all schools can relate the book’s messages to their context. It was heartening, for example, to see the high school sector so well represented in the cases provided. High school leaders? No more having to ‘translate’ theories into your setting! Michael and Jane affirm that sound theory and well tested tools work in any school setting.

All in all, I congratulate the authors on what is clearly many, many years of acquired and hard-won knowledge ably presented to the reader. I can’t wait to see this book on my bookshelves – both here at work and at home.

Julie Murkins
Lake Tuggeranong College

I would like to bring to your attention an important new book entitled 'Improving Learning' from QLA (Quality Learning Australasia). It reports on the power of Deming thinking to revolutionise state schooling. The authors, Michael King & Jane Kovacs, have been involved over many years with an impressive number of schools in Australia. The Kindle version that I have has links to short videos, where those who have experienced the change, children as well as adults, talk about the positive impact on their lives and learning. For those new to Deming ideas, it also provides an excellent introduction to his System of Profound Knowledge and how it can be applied to improving state education.

My personal opinion is that this is a major book in the field of education. It deals not with the techniques of teaching, but with how Schools can create and improve an environment where all children, and staff, can enjoy learning. Ample evidence is given in reported performance statistics and personally recorded videos. It describes impressive work spread over a wide range of schools. I would suggest that here is a textbook, which should be on the shelves of all head teachers and government officials and politicians involved with education.

Tony Miller
Author of "Letting Go: Breathing new life into organisations"
Director of the Deming Learning Network, Scotland


How can schools support students in developing their skills and knowledge as 21st century learners? A great starting point is to have a clear, shared understanding of improvement processes that allow for systems to develop, continuously review processes and strive for quality outcomes for all.

The Quality Learning Australia team, led by Michael King and Jane Kovacs make this attainable for all schools and classrooms in their book, “Improving Learning – A How To Guide for School Improvement”.

By analysing each step, supporting each process with ‘real life’ examples and clearly showing how improvement can be achieved by a thoughtful, inclusive and systematic approach, they have produced the ultimate ‘go to’ guide for educators at all levels.

In an era where school management is becoming more complicated and demanding, this book makes school improvement clear and attainable. From the carefully structured background chapters that outline the theory of systems improvement through to the specific examples of useful processes, this book makes sense!

For those seeking clarity in developing a quality-learning environment for all stakeholders in our education system, following this practical guide will make the task so much easier.

In my years as a principal, when the waters have ever become muddied, the principles espoused in this book were always there to clear the way!

Cath Eddie
Instructional Leader, K-2 Literacy and Numeracy
Early Action For Success, NSW

Wentworth Public School


This book is now my go to reference when it comes to improving the systems in the classroom and in the school. The layout of the book allows me to access important information quickly and easily. I love the examples of the tools used and the reflection questions have really given me a deeper understanding of improving learning.

I have really enjoyed reading the message of the book about continual improvement and the need for improvement in the system. It approaches this through many perspectives from the outside looking in but also from the inside looking out. All in all it gives a frank and balanced view on how and why we need improve the system.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to see a positive change in the classroom and in their school. It’s a very practical guide on how to implement real change and leadership in the system.

Tim Holness
Mount Rogers Primary School
Australian Capital Territory


I have known Michael King and Jane Kovacs for about a decade and have engaged in lively conversations and collaborations throughout this time. I have also visited a handful of the schools where they have sown the seeds of Improving Learning. If not for this first-hand knowledge, I might have cringed at the prospect of a couple more "business leaders" with ideas on how to improve schools. Business leaders who know educators' business better than they do have driven the US to a destructive obsession with standardized testing of students and "teacher accountability." By contrast, Michael and Jane know and love schools, children, educators and learning - deeply. They are aware that today's educators and students did not design the schools in which they work - they have inherited these Industrial Age buildings and systems from well-meaning predecessors. Renowned US educational reformer Linda Darling-Hammond noted in The Flat World and Education: "... the new mission of schools is to prepare students to work at jobs that do not yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for products and problems that have not yet been identified, using technologies that have not yet been invented" (2010, p.2). Improving Learning offers very practical processes for educators, students, policy makers and community members to take on and succeed at this task.

Drawing upon the visionary work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Improving Learning provides specific tools and systems for revolutionizing classrooms, schools, communities and entire education systems. How? For starters, no more blaming, nor exhortations, mandates or to-do lists. Instead, the authors provide tools to help stakeholders at all levels to clarify their purposes, then examine, improve and assess their practices with the ultimate goal being learning by all, but particularly by students. There are rich examples of all these processes both in print and video from schools from most of the Australian states/territories, and a similar number from the US. This stout book is extremely user-friendly, with structures that allow busy readers to readily access what they need: pull quotes, chapter summaries, reflection questions and further reading lists, plus copious photos showing real students' and educators' application of the principles and tools. These features make Improving Learning especially well-suited to professional learning communities or to whole-school reform efforts. This book is a blessing for anyone interested in sustainable educational innovation that maximizes student learning!

Paul D. Deering, Ph.D.
University of Hawai‘i

Paul D. Deering, Ph.D., is a Professor of Education at the University of Hawai'i.  He directs the M.Ed. in Curriculum Studies with a Middle and Secondary Level Emphasis Program, as well as teaching at the baccalaureate and doctoral levels.  Dr. Deering has published and presented on school improvement, middle grades education, future trends, collaborative learning, literacy, multicultural education, teacher empowerment and research methods throughout the US and internationally.  He began his educational career by teaching middle grades social studies and outdoor education in Ohio for nine years.  Dr. Deering holds B.A. and M.Ed. Degrees from Cleveland State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder.


I read this book from the standpoint of an experienced primary school teacher and of someone who has known about quality management methods all her adult life. I am fascinated and inspired at how well these methods make the transition from business and industry into the learning environment. The more I read about teachers’ successes at bringing quality into their classrooms, the more I am encouraged to do the same in mine.

The book welcomes you with the statement that it is written for “time-poor, hard-working, passionate and committed” professionals, a statement with which I can identify. It assures us that while education isn’t broken, it can be improved and proceeds to tell us how. The book’s details about the history of quality management methods are interesting and very readable. Deming’s philosophy has been synthesised into 12 guiding statements for education without losing any of their original impact.

The authors are not purists, drawing only from Deming and his followers. Their approach to quality in education brings together seamlessly information, knowledge, wisdom and know-how from a variety of sources in the educational, industrial, academic and quality management worlds.

Michael and Jane have paid close attention to the structure of their book and the result is that it is easy to navigate – one can read it cover to cover, or find any particular section quickly. There are symbols and icons to help you find resources, definitions of new terms, examples of theory put into practice and explanations of quality learning tools.

The authors guide the reader through a large amount of theory about areas such as systems, relationships within an organisation and using data. While the sheer number of concepts which may be new to the reader could be daunting in another book; in this book every theory, unfamiliar concept and new tool is well explained and accompanied by examples to help link theory and practice.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about applying quality methods to a learning environment, those who have done a 4-day course or those who are thinking about it and want to know more about it before they do so. It is also a good manual for educators who are already quality practitioners – it brings many tools under one cover. If you are not already a quality practitioner, however, please read it with an open mind. It will challenge many of your practices and beliefs about education. Michael and Jane provide ample evidence that quality management methods not only work in education, they make a difference.

Ms Lou Tribus
Primary school teacher
St Thomas Aquinas School
Milton Keynes, UK


It has been a pleasure to be associated with Jane and Michael over the past ten years through the Quality Learning Australia strategy. This coherent way of working together set a very clear pathway of school improvement for us by providing tools to assist in establishing clear processes and ways of working to  maximise learning time for students. Staff also felt they had a voice and input into the processes which ensured the  variability of how we worked together as a school was reduced. Those processes are still valid ten years later and we continue to view our school as a system where authentic relationships are at  its very core. The system view also allows us  to see how each area of our school community impacts upon each other. Teachers can see how their work impacts upon others at a broader level.It gives a clear overview of who is responsible and the link between input and output.

I have been privileged to preview Improving Learning the latest book by Jane Kovacs and Michael King. This book is a practical guide for any school wishing to enhance student learning, build teacher capacity, create authentic relationships, use data to inform teaching and tackle hard issues without compromising trust between all stakeholders. For schools who have undergone transformation through using the quality learning australia (qla) strategy, it will provide a monitoring guide or as in the case of our school, review, recharge and make explicit the why and how of our daily work . I found the book simple to use and easy to read. It is a  guide based on theory and has been tried, tested and refined in schools over many years.

I could envisage this book being a clear starting point for newly formed schools, merging schools or schools that are stuck and unsure of how to move forward. It is a guide for principals, teachers students and school councils. It is practical and the strategies can be used immediately. It is timely for us, as we have had so many new staff join us since we first used the QLA strategies. It will explain why we do things the way we do at RHPS and deepen and strengthen the understanding for all staff. As we enter a new strategic plan this "how to guide" will enhance and compliment our work in improving student learning outcomes.

Barb Adam
Roxburgh Homestead PS


‘Improving Learning: A how-to guide for school improvement’ is the definitive book on school improvement. It delivers exactly what the title promises. The authors explain the theories behind each of the concepts covered in the book, provide examples, further readings on each of the topics, as well as practical tools to assist readers to engage with school improvement. This book is an excellent resource for those both familiar with school improvement and those for whom the topic is new.

It is a well-structured and easy to read book. The summary prompts on each page provide an excellent overview of the contents of each page. The chapter summary provides a précis of each chapter and the reflection questions cause the reader to critically reflect on their experience and consider their practice. A valuable text for all educators.

Dr Jenny Stanley
Practical Education Solutions


I have been using the improvement strategies and tools from Quality Learning Australia for 15 years. IMPROVING LEARNING - A how-to guide for school improvement covers, in detail, all aspects of the School Improvement process.  Having worked in education in Australia and several African countries I found the book exciting and extremely useful. It puts all school improvement into perspective and brings everything together in one book. The format is very reader friendly. The use of Stories and Asides add depth and reality to the information. The Explanations, Reflection Questions and the use of Quality Tools keep the reader focused on their particular context and stops the improvement process being high-jacked and side tracked into irrelevant issues thus wasting time and resources.  This book is a ‘must have guide’ for schools that are serious about whole school improvement.

Barbara Kerr
Whole School Development Advisor
Education East Africa


Improving Learning: a how-to guide for school improvement is a powerful practical book.  Michael and Jane have done a wonderful job of introducing the concepts associated with the quality improvement approach and applying them to school improvement. The authors take the reader on a journey from introduction to the history to quality improvement, through its evolution over time and then extend the reader through the underpinnings of the Quality Improvement philosophy. The reader is equipped and empowered with practical tools, (explained well throughout the book); that take what is well-established practice across many other industries and activates it in a powerful way in school education.

Michael and Jane understand the school context. Their many years of providing support and training to schools and school systems in applying the Quality Learning approach and the associated tools, enables them to contextualise the book. The book is grounded in a solid understanding of where schools are currently, what they need and how to use the Quality Learning approach to shift thinking, challenge paradigms and move schools meaningfully toward improvement.

The book brings optimism and clarity to the often difficult and challenging topic of school improvement. It provides practical, evidence-based tools that are (in the main) easy to implement yet powerful in the information and data that they provide. The use of the tools is made all the more possible through the well-pitched underpinning knowledge that gives justification to the approaches and reasons for their use.

There is a generosity in this book. Michael and Jane freely share their wisdom, knowledge, skills and experience with the reader. The ready access to the many tools that Quality Learning Australia have developed equips and enables the reader to apply their learning in practical ways.

In commending this book to you I do so knowing the power that the content of the book contains for taking you and your organisation forward with new insight and new confidence about targeted improvement efforts.

I know the many years and significant effort that has gone into the writing of this book. As professionals in their field and possessing high levels of integrity, this is a book that Michael and Jane can be justifiably proud of. Michael and Jane display not only their belief in the approaches outlined in their book but also their belief in the essential role of education in a positive future for our society.

Tim McNevin
Deputy Executive Director
Association of Independent Schools of the ACT



This is the book I've been waiting for. It is a book that shows how tried and true quality practices, that have been successfully applied in industry over many years, are equally appropriate and necessary in the education field. It provides a framework and principles by which a school can operate rather than a "one off" solution. The book provides the theory behind the approach, along with practical tools and evidence of how the framework has brought about school improvement. This book will live permanently on my desk as a tool for learning and bringing about improvement at my school and in my classroom. I'm sure other school leaders and teachers alike will find this book something they will refer to often to guide them on their improvement journey.

Cath Temple


Elegant, practical and completely relevant! Michael and Jane have produced a comprehensive body of work that cuts to the core of authentic and sustainable educational improvement. A must read for all educators!

Marie Amaro
From The Highly Effective Teacher


Today, you will find a plethora of published resources for educators that are ‘very average’ at best. This is not one of them! Michael and Jane have created a uniquely comprehensive tool to effectively lift your game and the efficacy of the education you provide. If you’re serious about learning improvement in your school, then this book is your road map. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Suzanne Kiraly


IMPROVING LEARNING: A how-to guide for school improvement
 is now available.

Purchase your Kindle version

Purchase an iBooks edition

Order your traditional paper version