Join the Educational Agile revolution and set your students up for success in learning and in life.
In this workshop we will explore the roots of Kanban and how to help younger students establish their own Big Visible Information Radiator for tracking school work, chores, extra curricular activities and more. We will explain how the skills practiced will serve them later in life.
The 3rd Agile in Education Community online meet-up took place on Monday 21st September. We were treated to a set of personal reflections from 3 teachers, all from Leysin American School in Switzerland, who have been using agile and progressive thinking to enhance the learning experience in their classrooms.
I will summarise the event in several short posts – in this, the first, I present the highlights from Nicola Cosgrove’s story.
Leysin American School in Switzerland
Nicola began by introducing the school where she and all of the evening’s speakers are based. The family run school is located partially in the Swiss mountains and caters for up to 300 students on a boarding basis. Outdoor activities play a central part in the life of the school – especially during the ski season.
There is also a strong focus on Professional Development among the teaching staff. To support this, the school have established an Educational Research Centre which acts as a hub connecting the school to other organisations.
As a result, there is a conscious effort to move away from traditional methods of teaching, where learning is teacher focused and teacher led, to one with a more agile mind-set, where students have greater choice and the emphasis on grades and deadlines is removed. The teacher supports the students by working alongside them rather than in front of them – this approach results in students possessing greater independence.
Nicola has been teaching Physical Education for 10 years. She was introduced to an agile way of thinking as part of her professional development at the school, around 4 years ago. She currently teaches years 7 to 10. Nicola has also contributed to a chapter of the book “Agile and Lean Concepts for Teaching and Learning”, concerning Teacher-less Observations.
3-Stage Approach to Agile
Nicola’s journey towards agility is on-going and has at times been challenging. She is consequently developing a toolkit to help others make the journey more easily. She has distilled the implementation into 3 stages:
Stage 1 – Visual
A visual device such as a Kanban board allows information to be shared easily with and between students. It enables the teacher to reduce or even remove the dependence that the students have on them. Nicola finds that students are able to begin lessons without her intervention because the plan for each lesson is clearly visible and available to everyone.
Another successful technique is one that she describes as “changing the face at the front”. She provides a safe environment where every student has the opportunity to plan and lead a session or part of one. This has been successful even for students who are ordinarily quiet or lacking in confidence.
Stage 2 – Collaboration
As students become more comfortable with leading small sections of lessons, Nicola encourages them to take a greater part in shaping their learning. At this stage, she works with them to create units together, with everyone collaborating on setting goals, for example to learn Badminton, and deciding what learning steps are required to achieve those goals.
Stage 3 – Reflection
The third stage – perhaps the most challenging of all – is concerned with reflection. Nicola encourages students to consider the learning process and reflect on areas that could be improved as well as on their successes. This stage is not easy – time needs to be specifically set aside to allow reflection to take place. Nurturing an open, growth mind-set and building a safe environment where students feel able to discuss things openly is key to making these initiatives successful.
Take a Leap
Nicola acknowledged that adopting this approach is probably easier within the flexible environment of LAS than it may be in other schools, however, she has some great advice for anyone contemplating a move to a more agile way of teaching:
“What we’re doing is not something new – we’re not taking something new and saying ‘we’re doing agile now’. We’re doing things that we’ve already done before but we’re putting an agile skin or a lens onto it. I would encourage anyone who is listening and hasn’t really tried it before to take a leap. Be agile – implementing it in small iterations and seeing where it goes.”
Nicola Cosgrove, 21st September 2020
A report on the remainder of the meeting, including the extensive Q&A session, will appear here shortly. Until then, the full recording of the session can be found on the Agile In Education Community YouTube Channel.
15 years ago this week, at 19:00 on the evening of Monday 13th July 2020, a group of 16 progressive thinkers and educators met in cyberspace. Their mission was to consider how they could revolutionise the education systems of the UK and the world from the ground up, by exploring and promoting the adoption of agile thinking and practices within schools and colleges.
This is a well known tale, but what really happened on that famous night, when the community that was to become so influential was born?
Legend has it that self-confessed geek and agile fanatic, Andy Bleach, hogged the microphone, refusing to allow anyone else to talk – but was that true?
What was the real story behind the creation of the now famous Pressure Parsnip Theory of Education that some claim was first revealed at this meeting?
What was said that was so profound it spurred the creation of a community and a movement that slowly but steadily spread the progressive mind-set into the educational establishments of the UK and the world?
Well we here at The Daily Scrum are now able to reveal, exclusively, exactly what took place. After many months of dedicated investigation, we have uncovered the long-lost video recording of the entire event.
The session began with a short introduction from Andy about why he decided to start the community, followed by an exercise that allowed the members of the group to get to know one another a little.
Then, it is clear that Andy did indeed hog the microphone for half an hour, in which he revealed, in detail, his view of education and how he believed agile thinking could make a big difference to the education of young people.
Here are the key points from his talk:
the roots of the education system lie in the time of the industrial revolution
the world is a radically different place now and yet education remains unchanged
are the current methods the most effective ways of preparing our young people for the modern world? For example:
formal classroom layout supporting teacher led learning
knowledge transfer from expert to pupil
subject based; segregated subjects
school years organised by ‘Manufactured Date’ (ref: Sir Ken Robinson)
intelligence measured solely by academic success
remedial action to ‘repair’ children who are ‘broken academically’
focus on exams – major source of stress
when was the last time you used something you learned to pass an exam?
when did you last have to take an exam?
the UK, and other countries have a fear of failure
but failure is good – it is how we learn and become better people; modern, successful, agile businesses recognise this
the current system generates pressure on young people, sometimes with fatal consequences
the system creates two types of person – academically competent and ‘the rest’
are either group prepared effectively for functioning in the modern world?
the problem is with the system rather than the teachers
but that should not stop us all from questioning every aspect of education to see if there is a better way
in the 1970s and beyond, most software products were built using the waterfall method – this has many inherent weaknesses including:
identification of bugs and design issues are primarily identified during the test phase requiring rewind of the process
value is only delivered at the end of the project – often months or years after the start
there are many unknowns that make planning inherently inaccurate and unreliable
the approach generates numerous pressure points, great stress and often results in overrun, overspend or even cancellation
something had to be done – in 2001, 17 IT professionals gathered to create an agile manifesto
from many inputs and ideas, Scrum has emerged as the dominant framework
much of agile thinking is based on empiricism – the theory that knowledge comes only from sensory experience
frameworks such as Scrum replace the waterfall approach with a combination of evolutionary delivery and continuous improvement using small, self-organising, multi-disciplined teams to deliver increments of useable product in short 1-4 week ‘Sprint’ cycles
there are many ‘progressive’ techniques and approaches that could have far reaching benefits in education, including:
we also need to consider nurturing of the appropriate mind-set and values to ensure success
these are not easy, tick-box solutions – progress will be challenging
if introduction of agile, progressive thinking is successful, the benefits are far reaching – young people will potentially become:
engaged and motivated to learn
able to reach their full potential
courageous enough to give and receive feedback
in possession of a healthy attitude to failure
comfortable with change
teachers will be able to focus on supporting their pupils to unlock their full potential, through mentoring, coaching, facilitating
families will be less stressed and happier
schools will have the flexibility and mind-set to fail fast – becoming better equipped to serve their students, businesses and their local communities in a rapidly changing world
businesses will be served by a pool of young people who have the skills and confidence to contribute effectively from the start, already comfortable with agile approaches
An International Challenge – Already Underway
Scrum is a generic framework which has been applied in many situations other than software development
eduScrum is an education friendly version of Scrum developed in the Netherlands by Science Teacher, Willy Wijnands
interest in eduScrum is exploding, having reached 30 countries to date, including China, India and the USA
almost 1000 teachers have been trained to use eduScrum in Russia
another Agile approach has been introduced into 200 schools in Australia
there are one or two agile based initiatives in the UK
Then Andy finished with the now famous statement that summarises the ethos of the community so well:
we need to update our education system to make it suitable for the modern world
we should explore the potential of embracing an agile or progressive mind-set within education
we don’t need to wait for a directive from above
we can take small steps ourselves… and see what happens…
The final part if the session gave attendees a brief chance to discuss what they thought the community could achieve over the coming months. The discussions were promising and it was agreed that the debate would continue in subsequent meetings, the first of which was held on Monday 17th August 2020 (reference: https://www.meetup.com/agile-in-education-uk/events/271923929)
If you wish to re-live the experience in its entirety – and discover the origins of the Pressure Parsnip Theory of Education – the video recording of the entire event can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/6utQEVv9k1Q