An Agile Approach to Student Learning

It hit me the other day! I was talking to my son about how to manage his time to get all his homework and studying done, when I realized schools should adopt an agile approach to teaching and learning.

My son, a sophomore in high school has a lot to juggle – nightly homework, weekly vocab quizzes in Spanish, the potential of a pop quiz any day in English based on the previous night’s reading, and full size tests in math, and bio. Then there’s also Gov and of course occasional English papers on a comparative analysis of two books.

To help him stay on track, I needed to write down all the assignments so I could see what was coming when and we could plan a study schedule. That’s when I saw it. Over a 2-week period he had 3 quizzes, a bio test on 2 chapters, and a math test. In between all that, was nightly homework.

What if schools taught kids in 2 week sprints? On day one, students would get an outline of what they’ll learn in the next 2 weeks and what assignments they’ll have. This would allow kids to plan and gear up for what they have in each class. If all classes provided this kind of outline, it would help students be more organized and manage their study time better. How can you jump start studying for a test if you only find out about it a few days before, and you have other tests and homework already?

In the 2 week sprint, students would have opportunity to talk with the teacher to ask questions on specific assignments and to focus on the sections being learned in the 2 week period. Small groups could work together and students could Scrum before each class time.

Sharing with each other what they’ve worked on and learned that week, and what they’ll focus on in the next week. This would give them time to ask questions of each other and share where they see issues or challenges coming up. This small group learning would help them learn how to work together and collaborate – great skills and practice to have.

The term Scrum, borrowed from Rugby, according to Merriam Webster means: a way of starting a play again in which players from each team come together and try to get control of the ball by pushing against each other and using their feet when the ball is thrown between them.

In the educational context, and in software development where agile started, it means bringing the development team (or student team) together to share what’s going on and throw around ideas and thinking to see where things are headed. Or as Scrum.org defines it: Scrum is a way for teams to work together to develop a product….a simple framework for effective team collaboration on complex projects. In the case of students, the product is learning and processing information to understand it and apply it.

An agile classroom would support a culture of learning and a culture of development by letting kids work on their own, ask questions of the teacher, and share and collaborate with their peers. Within this framework there would be flexibility to learn by focusing on chunks of learning, making it more manageable and less overwhelming for students.

It would also help them to really learn the material in each 2 week sprint, while letting the teacher more easily identify those students who may have problems in understanding the material. Lastly, it would teach students time management and planning skills.

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