Classroom Scrum

Following on from the introduction to the Agile classroom, i spoke about implementing basic agile practices into your classroom and Scrum is a strong organisational tool for both teachers and students.

Coming into teaching after many years in Industry (as a commercial programmer) i started to consider which industry practices could we embed into the daily student routine to address a number of problematic points.  Firstly, genuine experience of a real scrum process is beneficial for students as they get an opportunity to practice what is fast becoming a norm across many Industry related disciplines, secondly, it also allows for a higher level of reflection in a number of areas.  Reflective practice is another key methodological practice which is currently doing the rounds in the world of academia and for teachers as research practitioners in the classroom the time for reflections can be minimal due to workload.  This is where the true benefits of agile can come into play. Teachers think daily about what went well and what did not, students reflect differently as they have different motivations, so it is about bridging the gap between the two different outcomes.

Benefits of Scrum
Student Collaboration (Skills, Knowledge)
Student – Teacher – Student (Collaboration/dual reflection)
Teacher identification of potential blockages for learning progress
Generation of visible Story (Work Item) and possible complexity (See Planning Poker)
Initial problem Identification & problem resolution (Student collaboration and dual problem solving)
Skills Sharing (Technically this is essential)
Team work and leadership (Speaks for itself)
Industry Ready Students

So what is scrum

Scrum in a nutshell, is a stand up meeting which occurs once a day, either of a morning or at afternoon registration, the choice is yours.  For a more detailed breakdown about scrum click here.

I am somewhat fortunate to find myself as a teacher within a dedicated technology focused school, who were loosely using scrum on an occasional basis of which students and teachers were reluctant to buy into.  Perhaps, this was down to the lack of understanding of how Scrum would benefit the teacher and students in their daily schedules and not become yet another fad which eats into the little planning and assessment time that teachers are afforded.  However, one of the key problems identified was the data provider for story creation.  Most schools make use of a daily planner which require students to record homework etc with a specific deadline date, therefore students should have visibility of when work is due.  Do you receive emails from other teachers asking you to intervene when little Johnny has failed to submit homework on a number of occasions? Do you then check Johnny’s planner to see if they are recording homework requirements correctly?  Do you check for a weekly parental signature? Perhaps, you do not use planners, and everything is issued via Show My Homework.

The use of the planner is clearly evident for some students and sadly lacking for others and this is where we start to make effective use of planners for Scrum.  Show my homework can also be used as a data provider for your scrum group.

A planner example:

Student A receives Computer Science homework on the 8th January with a deadline of the 16th January and records this within their planner.
Student B receives History  coursework on the 8th January with a deadline of the 29th January and records this within their planner.

Student A creates a story on a post it note, and the story is placed on the scrum board
(This is identified by the teacher checking the students planner, when the student comments that he has now work due in the next week).

Student B creates a story on a post it note, and the story is placed on the scrum board.
(The A-level student creates the story from their planner, as they tend to forget about deadlines and want weekly reminders).

Some students shy away from the scenario of giving their form tutor visibility of all their homework or coursework deliverables over the course of an academic year. Student A is a typical example of a student who shies away from wanting their tutor constantly checking their progress. But the prevention of failure to submit on deadline day keeps students on track to meet deadlines, or identifies that there is a blockage in delivering the required work.  Such blockages can be due to a lack of technical know how or simply a gap in knowledge in how to actually complete the required work.  This is how scrum can be used for student cross-collaboration.

For e.g. Adam was struggling with completing a History homework, but Johnny completed his homework with relative ease and was able to offer Adam some guidance on how to complete the homework requirement.  This cross collaboration is incredibly impressive from a technical perspective, where the use of the paired programming concept can allow for shared learning and enhanced higher learning for the lead collaborator (Student as teacher).

There are many benefits to be found, i now find my technical baccalaureate students work cohesively in project teams and firstly create their technical project stories and have their own scrums to monitor progress against project milestones.  They are in my eyes early adopters of the agile methodology and their CV’s reflect such practices, they are on their way to industry with some great practice embedded into their daily routines.  My GCSE students use scrum to organise themselves for the GCSE courseworks which reduces workload pressures as they are better organised and confident team players.

I would be interested to hear from you if you need guidance around implementing scrum in your classroom or to celebrate your stories and successes.

Good Luck!

TeacherTechUK

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