Getting agile at school

Almost 20 years ago, a group of software engineers published what they called the Agile Manifesto. In it they outlined how they envisioned working. They focused squarely on people, collaborating with each other and the customer, delivering pieces of the final product in short, regular intervals. 

They imagined that working this way would be more responsible. They would be more likely to produce useful software, they would work quicker, and above all, they would find work more fulfilling.

Several individuals and schools have been pulling this mindset into education. In my roles at Leysin American School and Endicott College, I’ve practiced with some agile tools, like Scrum, and with some adaptations of these tools specifically for education, like eduScrum. I’ve collaborated with consultants and business owners, as well as teachers and students. Together with school colleagues we’ve introduced agility in middle school, high school, and the university. We’ve also applied agility at the organizational level, managing our accreditation self-study, professional development, and some school change processes.

I’m convinced we are onto something big. I’m equally convinced we need to keep working small, in a bottom up sort of way, accumulating examples of successes and failures from an increasing pool of practitioners, in order to share the impact this shift in thinking can have. 

And while agility in education is not mainstream, it is popping up under different names in mainstream practice. This week a colleague shared with me the IB document “Collaborative Planning Process for Learning and Teaching.” Bullet points on the document describe what learning means for the PYP program. Here is one: “Developing students’ capacity to plan, reflect and assess, in order to self-regulate and self-adjust learning.” Parts of the new ACE protocol for school accreditation also read as if inspired directly by agility.

I’m wary of sounding too evangelical. So enough said for today. But explore a little if your interest is piqued:

Agile Classrooms – John Miller, one of the earliest proponents of agility in education;

eduScrum – Willy Wijnands, who translated Scrum into eduScrum and has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort spreading the word; and 

Scrum Alliance, “a nonprofit organization that is guiding and inspiring individuals, leaders, and organizations with agile practices, principles, and values to help create workplaces that are joyful, prosperous, and sustainable” (scrumalliance.org).

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