Throughout the summer, I answered this question from educators all over the world. While I do not have a definitive answer, there are some qualities that distinguish an agile classroom from a traditional classroom: student agency, the teacher as a guide, and skills.
In an agile classroom, students drive their education. This does not mean that the classroom is a free-for-all where there are no standards or organized curriculum. It is quite the opposite.
For a moment, think about where agile originates. It developed to lean out (to make more efficient) systems of software development. The technology industry has clear deadlines, objectives and functions. No one hires software developers to create anything the developers like. Agile was conceived for business to be more efficient and flexible.
The same need is true for a classroom. There is a scope and sequence that must be adhered to, standards to uphold, and a curriculum to be met. When students are given agency, they still have constraints, just like in the workplace. In an agile classroom, the students can choose freely within those constraints.
In an agile classroom, the teacher poses an essential question. The question helps set the learning goals of the unit. Students understand what question must be answered by the given deadline. There is also content that must be taught. For me, that means students must analyze primary documents, evaluate historical events, and understand the causes and effects of these events. Students must understand these skills and content: it is a non-negotiable of the class.
Choice comes from students applying skill and content knowledge. For my students, this means I teach mini lessons that model important skills and scaffold activities for learning history. Instead of treating my classroom as a stage where I dispense information, I make these lessons as autonomous as possible. I create videos to teach new skills, so students can watch them repeatedly and stop when necessary for maximum understanding. Activities are self-paced and scaffolded to develop mastery of knowledge. Therefore, student teams decide what gets done, when, and where. There are MUST lessons and activities that are turned in for a grade, but students can choose when they do them and how they apply their knowledge to answer the essential question.
Teacher As a Guide
As students gain choice and agency in their learning, the role of the teacher shifts as well. Many times…