How Agile Classrooms Change the Way We Communicate | Jessica Cavallaro | 5 Min Read

April 12, 2023

Agile classrooms differ from traditional classrooms by focusing on the ownership of learning. In an Agile classroom, students take responsibility for their learning by being given the opportunity to manage their time, work in teams, and apply new knowledge to solve problems they find interesting. This shift is accomplished through small increments that transform a traditional classroom. As a result, the development of AI-proof skills and critical thinking are scaffolded. 

One of the immediate benefits of adopting agile practices is improving communication in the classroom. The Agile framework was created to open lines of communication and make work more efficient for adults. When brought into classrooms, Agile changes the ways students interact with each other and teachers communicate with students. The flow of information is no longer from teacher to student but swirls around the classroom with each individual adding something important. Teachers get opportunities for authentic conversations and collaboration with students, and students learn independence as well as other vital AI-proof skills. 

Provide Opportunities for Personalized Learning

A traditional unit in the classroom may start with an essential or driving question. This sets the path of learning for each student and lets them know what to accomplish. In an Agile classroom, the learning path is broader. An Agile unit launches with a Wide-Open Question. This is a complex question that has no right answer. When used to start a unit, it immediately sparks curiosity in each student. Throughout the unit, students will have to apply the new information they learn from the content and apply it to solve a complex problem. The open-ended nature of the question allows students to apply their interests and schema to the problem-solving process. This means that each student, or team of students, will have different learning paths. Learning becomes personalized, and students are passionate about their work. 

Classroom communication shifts from teacher-lead to student sharing. It is a change from PUSH to PULL-based learning. The teacher no longer stands in the front of the room pushing information to a large group of students based on the pacing teachers have deemed correct. Instead, students PULL their learning as they are ready for it. They then share, listen, and process different ideas together to answer the Wide-Open Question. The communication among students changes because they are not all in the same place at the same time. They are excited to have a purpose, constantly discovering new information and thinking creatively about how to apply it. Students are more focused on their work, which is seen by the way they are truly working together, teaching each other, and learning how to effectively brainstorm ideas. 

The communication between students and teachers changes as well. The teacher is not pushing information but instead facilitating learning. Teachers now have time to move among small groups and participate in genuine conversations with students. They offer probing questions instead of solutions, and respond to students with “What ifs….” instead of answers. The exchanges are authentic and build strong relationships because students are able to highlight the information they have ‘discovered,’ explain their unique solution and ask genuine questions. Teachers get to be a part of students’ ‘lightbulb moments,’ which further spark connection and passion between students and teachers. This dynamic supports a more mentor-based connection where students feel more welcome to ask questions and advocate for themselves throughout the learning process. 

Communicate Through Visual Tools


In Agile classrooms, students organize their units on a Kanban board. It is a visual information tool that helps teams communicate as they work through complex projects.  Students start the unit by filling in their backlog with small tasks that must be accomplished. Some cards will be requirements that the teacher provides, and some will be created by the group as they attempt to answer the Wide-Open Question. As students move through the project as a team, they must meet at the Kanban board at the beginning of each day and decide what work will be pulled forward into their ‘To Do,’ or ‘Doing’ lanes. By moving the card, everyone in the group agrees on which work will be completed. This prompts a daily morning discussion that requires students to check in with each other, ask each other questions about the material, and learn how to listen with empathy to each other. When students complete work and are ready to pull that work to the ‘Done’ lane, all group members must agree that the work meets the group’s standards before it can be turned in to the teacher. This again forces students to learn how to speak to one another, make decisions together, and offer constructive criticism 

Therefore, the use of the Kanban board dramatically increases communication in the classroom. Students have the responsibility of pulling their own work, and they must learn how to truly work on a team. Instead of relying on a teacher or adult to make their decisions or solve their conflict, they must effectively communicate with each other. This does not happen overnight but is a process that needs to be scaffolded. Students start by being guided to populate the Kanban board to respond to a few questions that will help students engage with each other and find a way to communicate. As students learn these processes, they immediately discover how to move past clumsy interactions to become better at expressing their points of view, ideas, and decisions. 

This not only helps students learn how to work in teams but most importantly how to relate to one another. Many of our students missed the formative years of socialization due to COVID restrictions and need help reconnecting with their peers. Kanban boards provide a tool that students can use to refine their essential communication skills as well as learn how to see and work with people who have different perspectives. 

The teacher-to-student communication shifts as well. Teachers are removed from the position of telling students what to do and relying on negative interactions. Instead, teachers work as facilitators who help to prompt and scaffold tough conversations. Classroom time is not dominated by teachers directing, making decisions, and talking. Rather, they can move from group to group to work on the issues each small group needs.

By shifting our mindset of what learning looks like in our classrooms, we can fundamentally change the way we communicate with our students, which models best practices. We have the opportunity to make small incremental changes to the daily functioning of our classrooms to improve the relationships we have with each other, our students, and their parents. The Agile framework was created to help teams make their communication transparent and eliminate waste from complex systems. It is essential that administrators and educators adapt successful business practices like Agile to improve the functionality and effectiveness of learning in the classroom so students develop AI-proof skills.

You may also be interested in reading more articles written by Jessica Cavallaro for Intrepid Ed News.

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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