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Agile Principles for Students

Agile was created by software developers to streamline communication, collaboration, and efficiency when building new solutions. The principles and values that make agile unique, bring the human experience back to systems that have become saturated with bureaucracy and inefficiency. The driving force behind agile, the mindset and philosophy, brings teams together, builds AI- Proof “soft” skills, and makes work transparent. When employed in the classroom, it engages students, deepens learning experiences, and helps students develop the independence and confidence they need in all aspects of their lives.

All 12 Agile Principles can be applied to education for instant changes in learning outcomes. The principles below stand out for their ability to change the student experience.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Building an agile mindset is essential for students graduating into a fluctuating job market. Issues that have straightforward solutions can now be automated, which leaves our students working with complex issues on a daily basis. The ability to analyze, test, collect data, reflect and change course are fundamental to their success in all areas of life.

Unfortunately, in education students do not get enough access to this type of thinking. Outside of a science lab, students are given exact instructions and graded based on compliance. In an agile classroom, students have to work through the content, developing skills along the way and creating authentic assessments. Students and teachers must be flexible throughout this journey regarding their final product. The “competitive advantage” is a personalized approach to education. When we value learning instead of products, students can build on their own personal schema, making unique connections, and building deeper understanding. The product can change as long as students are learning, creating connections, and building skills.

This model reinforces that new information can change our ideas and outcomes. It provides positive feedback changing our minds based on new data and information is good for us and allows us to find the best solutions. It ultimately removes the stigma of “being wrong” and helps students develop the agile mindset that will serve them best in the world.

7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Learning is messy when done right. It’s always nice when we can tie up a lesson in a beautiful bow and hang it on the classroom walls. Often that kind of learning shows superficial knowledge and no deep understanding. The goal is real learning, not beautiful decorations. In Agile, when software is successful, it works, and the same is true for learning. Learning is successful when it drives further learning.

Sunken cost syndrome affects all of us, no matter our age or the context. We have all worked with students that have put time and effort into a project that is clearly not solving the issue, but they push on believing that starting over would be a failure. In agile classrooms, students are constantly tasked with evaluating their work and ensuring that it “functions”. This means assessing whether the new data is helping to solve the problem, keeping students focused on the task, and encouraging conversations that hold each team member accountable.

It is easy, with so much information around us, to get lost in the problem-solving process, but ensuring that all increments and people are “working” allows student teams to work more efficiently and effectively.

12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Reflection is the heart of learning. As students learn, they need to be explicitly taught how and why to reflect. This is often left off the table for other skills or more content, but this is a mistake. How do we know if we are learning if we never reflect?

The team must communicate what they are doing, what works or doesn’t, and what the future may hold. The Kanban board aids students in reflection because it makes communication transparent. The students know who is doing what, when, and how. They see movement through their project, and as they communicate on the board, it forces them to think of the “HOW’ and “WHY” together and by themselves. When reflection becomes part of the culture of learning, students automatically use it as a tool to adjust their behavior and eliminate the excess. No one that takes time to reflect on their progress keeps the inefficient parts.

For students, this builds reflective practices and executive functioning skills. Once students learn how to break down large tasks into smaller incremental steps the natural tendency to procrastinate is diminished. Visually viewing work also helps students manage their time, build accurate schedules and plan ahead. All skills need refinement no matter the age.

Agile classrooms build the AI-Proof skills that are essential for all pursuits. These principles scaffold and build an agile mindset that allows students better understand concepts, dig deeper into new knowledge and develop “soft” skills.