The problem of our current education system

If you look at a classroom today, you will find it to be very top down. Teachers usually stand in front of a classroom and try to pass on their knowledge to the pupils. But the face two huge challenges: 1. Both teachers and pupils are getting more diverse, so the challenge of knowledge transfer gets harder, too. There are already classes with pupils from many different cultures, know-how levels and even languages spoken. 2. With ever increasing knowledge and available information around us it is no wonder that younger people seem less motivated and excited to follow the strict rules of a classical classroom environment.

It is surprising how easy it is to map elements of the education to software project management. The current way of developing lectures or classes follows a classical top down waterfall model. The requirements are defined in the curriculum. In the design phase the lecture is planned, then the accompanying material is written in the development phase. Students follow this structure in the implementation phase and the results are evaluated for testing. Any changes are implemented in the maintenance phase before the cycle begins again. [[1]]

So what can we do better?

Step 1: Motivation

For ages motivation to learn was purely extrinsic. Teachers a hundred years ago used physical punishments, teachers now still use indirect punishment combined with rewards. The fear about getting expelled or about getting a bad grade and having to tell your parents is still the driving factor for most students. It seems like not much has changed and we still treat pupils the same way we train dogs. Unsurprisingly, this does not work well. Meanwhile the education system wants to create responsible citizens and prepare them for a ever changing work environnement.

[…] as learning becomes more personalized and requires adjustment to changing conditions and requirements while fulfilling stringent accreditation standards, new pedagogical methods are required that can reduce the cost of change. — Agile way of educating

About ten years ago Dan Pink published his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, an scientific based plea to look at the intrinsic factors of motivation.

The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. — Dan Pink

According to Pink intrinsic motivation can be divided into three factors:
Autonomy - The desire to not only follow orders and be self directed.
Mastery — The urge to get better skills.
Purpose — The desire to do something that has meaning and is important.

The question is how can we design education to motivate pupils intrinsically ?

Step 2: Introducing eduScrum

The concept of eduScrum is to adapt the agile software engineering framework Scrum to the classroom. It was developed by the dutch teacher Willy Wijnands. This is not a random idea but rooted in Kolb’s experimental learning theory. In this acquisition of knowledge happens when someone has an experience firsthand.

[…]the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming the experience. — David Kolb

Experiential Learning Model(EML) describes are cycle of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.

But the impact eduScrum has on pupils is not only theoretically grounded. Research shows that students taught with eduScrum outperform their regularly taught peers. At the same time students develop crucial competences in collaboration, time and knowledge management, problem solving and (self-)reflection. Students seem to change their attitude towards learning from a teacher-based-push-principle towards pulling knowledge themselves from different sources . [[2]]

As with Scrum the definition is given in the eduScrum Guide. As all empirical process control theories the three pillars transparency, inspection and adaptation are essential.

All roles and artifacts you know from Scrum are in eduScrum. Some like the development team have simply been renamed to fit their new purpose (student team). The teacher will take on the role of product owner and therefore define the backlog of learning items and their purpose. New to this role is monitoring and evaluating the learning results plus introducing and facilitating eduScrum. As with Scrum the student team is self-sufficient and decides in what way it tackles these.

Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement. — Dan Pink

One student of the team will become responsible as scrum master, who is responsible for transparency of the work done by managing the Flip. The Flip is easy kanban-like tracking of tasks introduced as a tool to monitor progress and provide transparency for all parties involved. In addition to the Definition of Done, eduScrum has a Definition of Fun, which checks whether students had fun while learning. The rest of eduScrum is just basic Scrum: Students meet for daily stand ups, hold Planning, Reviews and Retrospective sessions and use the same artifacts.

Step 3: A new role for teachers

The classical role of the teacher as the sole provider of knowledge changes to a facilitator with eduScrum. It is all about empowering students. The focus for teachers is therefore on the evolution and development of groups while helping students to be self-directed and to manage their learning themselves.

For this to work we have to understand that comprehension is more important than grades. And this has to clear and embraced by all: Parents, headmaster, politics and students. Of course one can distinguish between students. Not only is work highly visible on the boards and in review and retro-sessions, but the people who can best grade a students are students themselves.

eduScrum for workshops

In my work I did some workshops in a company setting. I believe eduScrum (or at least parts of it) can be especially useful when working with adults, who have already finished their education. In my experience most are eager to learn more but often not interested in learning in a standard classroom setting. I already worked with some methods taken from Scrum, but with eduScrum it will be easier to establishing these tools. Another asset, people experience agile working first hand.

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