Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scrum: The Future for Education?

When we first heard about teachers using Scrum in a classroom we had to know more and got in touch with those teachers through Ilja Heitlager at Schuberg Philis in the Netherlands. Here's what they sent in. It's translated into English from the original Dutch.

eduScrum in Dutch education

How it began …
Imagine: you are a chemistry teacher at a school for secondary education. Your students work in groups on complex assignments, but you are not completely satisfied about the results of that teamwork. And then your son-in-law becomes a Scrum Master and you hear his enthusiastic stories… That is how it began.

How it continued …
Willy Wijnands and Jan van Rossum, chemistry teachers at Ashram College (secondary education in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands) have been using an educational version of scrum since October 2011: eduScrum. They incorporate scrum into their lessons, to give students the opportunity to study more energetic and more effective. Using eduScrum also stimulates students to develop their strength as a team player.

Team work starts in their lessons with an introduction about confidence and an activity in which students talk about their personal capabilities and soft skills like punctuality, leadership capabilities, planning skills etc. After that, they form groups of four, set up to have additional capabilities. In this way, individual strengths in a team make individual weaknesses less relevant. Subsequently, they work in groups on the assignments of the context-rich chemistry module from a detailed sprint schedule.

Teacher: ‘I have indicated the number of time points per assignment (one point equals 10 minutes) and requested them to make an individual schedule. They have discussed those schedules and processed them into a group schedule. When I pointed out that I also wanted to do some whole-class teaching, they told me there was no time for it and that I should have announced it earlier. Wonderful, that much ownership. But they have to be in for it, because they have to learn to cope with unexpected events in their schedule.’

Group of four students, almost simultaneously: ‘This work is more pleasant in a group rather than individually. It is possible to ask each other questions and divide the tasks, which saves time. We have divided the experiments, because they are a good deal of work. But today we are going to work in groups of four during the entire lesson, because these assignments are very important and everyone should understand them. That is why we work together, it is something we have thought about during planning.’

Every group starts the lesson with a short scrum. This way they know what they have to do and where they stand to each other. A subsequent step is for them to learn to call each other to account, in case a group does not function optimally. The first step in doing this is a short but effective evaluation, executed by the groups themselves. Confidence in each other is the key theme in this evaluation.

Boy: ‘Our group consist of two boys and two girls. A group is useful when the group members co-operate. We’re fine in our group. Everyone takes his or her responsibility.’

Girl from the same group: ‘Everybody is contributing in our group. We have committed ourselves to do the work and we all are living up to it. We do our own tasks, and also work together. We do not study alone, if one of us does not understand, we explain to each other instead of asking the teacher. The information we have found we share with our group.’

From a Scrum perspective this might be trivial, but from a traditional educational perspective (focusing on the individual cognitive training) this is very special.

The plans for the future …

Willy Wijnands and Jan van Rossum are working with with Ellen Reehorst, an education designer and trainer, to further develop eduScrum and to hand it over to other teachers later. Use these addresses to find out more:
@eduscrum on twitter


Florian Fanderl said...

This sounds really good. I had the same thoughts recently. We are also working with scrum in our company and I think this what be great if there would be something like a retrospective at school/university. I think applied carefully Scrum can be a great way to motivate people to get into new stuff quickly and to motivate far more then just do sit and prey.

Glen B. Alleman said...

Our daughter is a 3rd grade teacher. In Denmark, Sweden, and Norway there us very rarely a child that comes to school hungry, from poverty, from a broken home, from a abusive environment, or any of the other ills we experience in our education.

Every time the academic educators look at this system, they conclude the same out come - a homogeneous society, well educated to start, same population, sufficient wealth to support the system.

Such a baseline would be very rare in our general population.

If it were only the case that our public school systems has the foundations needed to replicate this example

Jeff Sutherland said...

Take a look at "Disrupting Class" by HBS Professor Clayton Christersen. Student performance is not directly related to amount of money invested in the schools or other factors thought to influence student performance.

John Miller said...

It is great what EduScrum is doing. Take a look at a Title 1 school (a school the Dept of Ed determines to have enough disadvantaged students to merit the label) in Arizona using Scrum for 4th graders we started October 2011. Absolutely amazing results! A range of kids in this class, from special education to gifted, shy to extroverts, middle class kids to foster kids.

Article on my presentation at the Scrum Alliance on using Scrum in Schools:

Check out for more information on our journey. It can work for any classroom and is the next generation learning framework.

John Miller

Marian said...

This is great to see in education! I use agile behaviour for our curriculum design model in higher education (university). Here's the paper I wrote when I presented it to Agile's insights stage.

Jeff Sutherland said...

I had dinner with the eduScrum teachers in Amsterdam recently and their passion reminded me of the early days of the agile movement. They said Scrum almost completely eliminates disciplinary and attention problems in the class. It makes the teacher's job a lot easier and more fun as they become a coach instead of a lecturer. I suspect the epidemic of ADD in children is at least partially caused by the teaching environment in our schools. Our current educational system is largely designed to turn out an assembly line worker instead of a creative, thoughtful, autonomous individual capable of making their own decisions. If a child starts acting out or is bored the teacher advises the parents to drug them into compliancy.

We have teachers in our family so I appreciate how difficult it is to teach a class of 30 or more kids, particularly in an inner city environment. However, they are trying to control the kids rather than engage them. Just as waterfall managers find it impossible to control projects, teachers find it impossible to control kids. Scrum is designed to solve this problem. Teams are cross-functional, self-organizing, self-learning, and self-managing.

John Miller said...

Jeff ,

Wonderful. I have see the power if this first hand in the states, helping teachers and students use Scrum. I am currently writing a free creative commons guide for educators that will be made available shortly.

John Miller said...

Hi Jeff,
I really believe Scrum is the next generation learning framework.
Please see one Middle School Teacher's blog of his use of Scrum in History class. He is one of the great teachers I have been pairing with to get this going here in the states.

Also, you may want to check out Cortes Sierra Elementary in AZ, who was the first school I introduced Scrum to, and are now using it school wide, from Teacher Scrums to classrooms scrum. They even have a Scrum club.

BluePrint Education has some charter schools in AZ, and I am helping them with a new course using Scrum, that is a hybrid online/in class course.

I hold free workshops for teachers, as my schedule permits, on the topic, and have great responses from teachers.

John Miller

Victor Valenzuela said...

Wonderful i want to Apply un My CLASS of middle Schools in México thanks