Using a Love of Donuts to Discuss & Explain Safety Management Systems (SMS) to International Students

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Dr. Troy RawlinsBy Troy A. Rawlins, Ed.D., MPA, BS
Eastern Kentucky University
(859) 622-1053 

Donuts are arguably one of the most familiar and delicious pastry the world has ever known, bar none. I mean really regardless of who you are or where you are from, who doesn’t love a good, warm, flaky, oh so sweet, donut? I know what you are thinking what does a love of donuts or specifically donut-making have to do with international students understanding of safety or safety management systems? Hold that thought for just a minute.

Faculty members of the Occupational Safety and Health degree program (OSH) at Eastern Kentucky University are charged with teaching traditional, nontraditional and international students about the importance of safety and understanding the foundational components of safety management systems (SMS) as part of our core curriculum. Meeting the needs of learners in the classroom has been a hot topic in academia so professors are tasked with developing new pedagogical means and assessments to increase student-learning outcomes.

This professor while instructing traditional, nontraditional, and international students in the same cohort about safety as a type of management system can be difficult. It appears that traditional and nontraditional students seem to get “it” as they have had prior exposure to different management systems types in general. Oftentimes, however, in this professor experience teaching international students about SMS is challenging for a variety of reasons related to students limited previous employment opportunity, English is their second language therefore translations of safety terms and definitions can be problematic, and understanding the concept of safety as a system proves to be difficult for them. The question becomes for this professor how can new faculty like myself, teach SMS fundamentals in a manner which it creates a deeper and lasting learning experiences for application in employment within international students? The answer this faculty summarizes can be found in a universal love and understanding of what is takes to make the perfect donut.

The intellectual journey to understanding the link between a love of donuts and SMS begins with international students defining what their perfect donut looks and tastes like. Is it round? Is it stuffed with something? Does it have sprinkles? Is it plain, glazed or chocolate covered? International students when charged with defining and quantifying their idea of perfect donut amounts to starting with the end product in mind. This process answers the question what do you want your SMS, outcomes or goals to look like? Perhaps it looks much like a nice chocolate glazed donut sprinkled with pecans or walnuts.

Once international students identify their specific donut-outcomes (look and taste parameters) it is easy for them to understand that primarily the ingredients selected determine the quality of their donut. Cheap or unnecessary ingredients are always discarded as part of the donut making process according to the international students.  They may make the donut taste bad in the end product they argue. After researching their favorite donut ingredients, students can agree no matter the end donut shape or flavor all great tasting donuts have similar “foundations of quality ingredients:” flour, water, eggs, sugar, milk, yeast, and oil for frying in varying amounts. This professor makes the argument and discussed how these ingredients are comparable to common components or qualities prevalent in successful SMS, which are: (1) Management commitment; (2) Employee Involvement; (3) Hazard Identification; (4) Safety Training; and (5) Evaluations.

A lengthy discussion is conducted about the important roles each ingredient plays in the quality of the end product. Special attention is paid to a discussion on how no one ingredient is more important than the other but they all work together equally to achieve the delicious goal.  Each ingredient is comparable to one objective to meet the goal of a delicious donut. Finally, the international students were the task of review of donuts which were made missing various ingredients made by the instructor.  After tasting the donuts they were assigned to rate each donut and what they thought about the taste. Some of the international students thought the donuts weren’t sweet enough. Some international students though the donuts were too heavy or doughy. Others international students thought the donuts were just plain not very satisfying. Each student had recommendation as to how to fix the donuts, which were not good. This professor discussed with this is last step in the process of developing a SMS, which is analysis of the end product and implementing strategies to improve the donut making process.

Essentially, in this course we followed the Deming cycle of planning, do, check act to create a SMS using donuts as the product. I have found this method of using donuts as means of creating and understanding a SMS works best for international students. Students generally like this idea and also due to content familiarity with donuts they are more engaged in the learning process.

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Learn to identify and analyze potential workplace hazards, infractions and risks through a bachelor of science in occupational safety online. At Eastern Kentucky University, you will gain a graduate-level education by industry-experienced educators and fire and safety professionals who are committed to teaching and preparing you for continued success.