EduSCRUM 1.0: A Pathway to Student Engagement | Jessica Cavallaro | 6 Min Read

This year we faced an incredible number of challenges from distance learning to plexiglass, but the lessons from the spring of 2020 have been learned.

We must keep kids connecting, collaborating, and socializing. They must be challenged and engaged. The standard education no longer makes the cut. 

Last summer, like every other educator, I was nervously anticipating the new school year. We had no idea if we would be in person, hybrid, or something in between. Fortunately, I found Agile and SCRUM and instantly knew that these frameworks would provide the systems that would create healthy, social, engaging learning experiences in the upcoming year. 

To ensure that students take agency in their education and enjoy coming to class, no matter the means, I decided to launch the eduScrum framework and agile mindset to drive my project-based learning for the entire 2020 – 2021 school year. 

On the first day of school students had no idea they were about to engage in the world of eduScrum, but they knew their education in my classroom would not be typical. 

EduScrum’s goals are to empower students, engage in constant reflection, improvement, student choice, and freedom. This leads to deeper learning and the application of knowledge immediately. There is no opportunity for students to stay distant, or not engage in the classroom. Not only does the framework ensure that all students are participating and learning, it creates an environment where all students WANT to be in class because their voice is heard and they have control. 

My first step in this journey was learning about SCRUM. I read Jeff Sutherland’s book and dove into articles and free online courses. Weeks into my exploration of Agile I found the EduScrum Guide.  The guide created by Willy Wijnands outlines how SCRUM can be brought into any classroom. It is an incredible resource for teachers that are looking for a solution to the issues we are all facing.

The basic framework consists of:

Self-organized student teams

Team leaders are chosen by the teacher at first, and students later. All students fill out a “qualities and skills list” to identify the skills in which they feel more competent. The forms are kept anonymous. Team leaders are then empowered to pick their own teams based on the qualities and skills of their peers. This is not a “free for all.” Before this process happens we discuss the qualities of successful groups.  Should groups all have the same qualities? Do friends work best together? Does diversity of talent bring different outcomes? Through group discussion, students arrive at conclusions that they will have an opportunity to test as they choose their own groups. 

The teacher as the Project Manager and co-Scrum Master

Teachers identify learning objectives that must be met by students. We all have standards and curriculum to follow. The objective is not to change what is taught, but the learning experience. Teachers still outline the WHAT, which is the content and skills. We are still teaching the same curriculum, but with the Agile and SCRUM framework, we are giving autonomy to students in terms of the HOW.  Teachers will still work through their content and embed the skills that are grade-appropriate, but when Agile and Scrum are included in the equation, autonomy, purpose and “soft skills” are being developed as well. 

Finally, the WHY cannot be neglected. Students want to know why they are learning, why they need this framework, why they are being asked to dig deep. This step is just as important as mapping the curriculum and skills in a unit. If students cannot articulate the WHY they have no purpose, no intrinsic drive. They are performing for a grade, rather than being invested in their own development. Taking the time to explain the WHY lays the foundation of the entire experience. 

The Celebration Criteria

The Celebration Criteria are the standards, rubric, content knowledge, and deadlines that must be met for students to complete a project. The teachers can create (or co-create with the students) the learning objectives that must be met.  The students then use this established knowledge to create their tasks and activities to make sure all requirements are met. This is where autonomy comes in. The learning goals are explicit from the beginning. The students are then given the power to backward design their units from the criteria. They know the goals, they have a timeline and they can then construct the tasks that will get them from beginning to end. Students control their learning path. 

The Flap

The Flap is the project board where students can visually plan their projects.  The Flap promotes visual thinking and transparency throughout the project process. Students and teachers can see the flow of a project and get a sense of the velocity of the team at a glance. The Flap also helps give students a better view of ALL of their tasks to help them plan their time in a more efficient manner.

All stories and tasks are placed on the board, along with celebration criteria, the definition of fun, the definition of done, a rundown chart, and a section for possible impediments. All team members have ownership of the board and work to make sure it is complete and up to date. Tasks can be added to the board as the project progresses and the team feels necessary.

The Sprint

“The heart of eduScrum is the sprint.”

The sprint can consist of a set amount of time in which students are learning and completing tasks to satisfy the learning objectives. During the sprint, students create groups, employ stand-up meetings at the beginning of each lesson, complete assignments and tasks, and participate in sprint reviews. This is the work phase that the students run.

In order to run a successful sprint students must be transparent, constantly communicating, participating in reflection within themselves and their teams, and managing their time in order to meet the celebration criteria.

Stand Up Meetings

A stand-up meeting is conducted by the Team Leader at the beginning of every lesson. It is only five minutes long and requires that all participants stand. During the meeting all students answer the same three questions:

  • What have I done to help the team since the last lesson?
  • What am I going to do in this lesson to help the team?
  • What are the obstacles that stand in the way of me or the team?

Stand-up meetings help self-organized groups monitor their progress, provide a small space for reflections, and increase the likelihood that students are focused on meeting their learning objectives. They are absolutely necessary for a successful sprint.

Sprint Reviews

Sprint reviews are practiced throughout the sprint to keep students focused on the goal (celebration criteria) and to make adjustments to the team and tasks as necessary. This is a time for students to engage in reflection to ensure that they are working efficiently and keeping the work focused on their goals.

Sprint Retrospectives

Sprint Retrospectives are the final reflection piece after the final assessment of a sprint has been completed. They should be completed as soon as possible, so the experience is still fresh in their minds. A Sprint Retrospective is for reflecting on the accomplishments and developments as a team and personally. During a retrospective, the students review the relationships within the group, the tools that were employed, celebrate the places they were successful, identify problem areas and create a plan to make improvements for the next sprint.

The purpose of the retrospective is to identify how students can improve their learning personally and as a team.

In a time where we are all struggling to feel connected, the eduScrum framework provides a way for students to develop the skills that they must engage in the future through multiple modalities. It works in any content area and can be adjusted for different grade levels. It keeps isolated kids connected and pushes them to take agency in their own learning. It allows choice, while still achieving the learning objectives that must be met.

The eduScrum guide and Youtube channel offer detailed descriptions of the entire framework and how it works. They are invaluable resources, created with a love of learning and the future of our students in mind.

Jessica Cavallaro

Jessica Cavallaro is the co-founder of The Agile Mind, which interweaves Agile frameworks into K-12 education. She is passionate about the benefits of project based learning and creating purposeful education to drive innovation through inquiry. She is an advocate for developing systems that give students agency. Jessica earned her Bachelor’s degree at Pace University and Master’s in Education from Mercy College.

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