What is Agile?
‘Agile’ was originally a set of principles relating to software development, as laid down in the Agile Manifesto, that has since expanded to become applicable to any technique of project management. Here we look at how Agile methodologies can be made applicable in the classroom.
Traditionally, long feedback loops, usually lasting a semester, are inherent in educational systems. Agile methodologies challenge this by welcoming change, even if it is late in learning cycles. They seek to provide meaningful learning at regular intervals, from a few days to a fortnight, preferring shorter timescales, giving them time to assess the efficacy of their methods.
Sprints are Agile methodologies’ solutions to long feedback loops. A sprint is a time-regulated exercise, usually lasting for no longer than three weeks, in which students are tasked with achieving specific learning outcomes. Sprints begin with a planning meeting, in which the tasks they are to accomplish are outlined. They then carry out their efforts. And the sprint ends with a reflection on the effort they have put in. Finally, they are assessed on what they have learned and the areas where they feel they need improvement. This way, the teams of students are continuously judging their progress for themselves and attuning themselves accordingly. Sprints can be seen as the Agile Manifesto principle, ‘Working software over comprehensive documentation’ in action.
Trusting the children
Agile principles seek to motivate children to learn rather than make learning a chore that they have to do. Instead of teaching them as a classroom, Agile principles dictate that they are broken down into smaller groups, given tasks, and trusted to do them. The teachers’ job is to provide them with a supportive environment in which to work.
In line with Agile methodologies, the students’ learning experience takes on the character of a series of learning sprints. The idea is that this process is sustainable indefinitely. This way, they can accomplish meaningful learning throughout the school year.