ARC - History

History of Agile in Education

A Brief History

While we can rarely say that a way of thinking began with any one person at any particular time, a good starting point for what people often understand as agility is the creation in 2001 of the Agile Manifesto, a short statement of how work in software development might be both more agreeable and more effective.

Now, nearly twenty years later, working with the ideals and principles associated with agile is commonplace in certain sectors and increasingly applied in education. It’s emphasis on iterative development of ideas, filled with feedback and the resulting adjustments, is a good fit in school. Thinking agilely can help us do school better - and at the same time prepares students for workplaces characterized by constant change and adaptation.

You could probably guess that the first teachers to apply the thinking were those closest to its origin. Early examples of agile in education, say from 2005 to 2010, are found in the world of computer science and programming classes.

One of the earliest to apply agility in school, John Miller (Agile Classrooms) began experimenting with scrum as pedagogy in 2009. John continues to be a strong and trusted voice for the implementation of scrum in schools.

In 2011, Steve Peha shared a presentation at Yahoo called Agile Schools - How Technology Saves Education (Peha, 2011). In the presentation he correctly pointed out how initiatives like the US education program No Child Left Behind failed, and how agility, applied to education, may be a much more productive route.

In 2011, Willy Wijnands of Ashram College in the Netherlands, along with his colleagues, began translating scrum, a particular set of agile practices, into eduScrum. Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of scrum and proponent for its application beyond the software world, referenced eduScrum in his book, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. This reference introduced, and continues to introduce, many to eduScrum. Today eduScrum has representation in 32 different countries.

Whether schools are specifically built on an an agile framework (see e.g. Agile Learning Centers), have trained the entire school community (see Krissyn Sumare’s Hope High School) or many teachers (e.g. CodeRVA Regional High School and the Paul Magnuson’s research center at Leysin American School), or have a dedicated teacher bringing agile to others at the school and beyond (e.g. Bret Thayer, Wendell Boggs in Colorado and Jennifer Manly in Maryland), finding like-minded colleagues is essential. Experienced, high quality trainers like John Miller and Mike Vizdos bring agile frameworks and training to teachers and schools, and schools and teacher training programs that are not specifically agile but operate with agile principles (e.g. Agora of Guido van Dijk and Jan Fasen in the Netherlands and The Modern Classroom Project) provide examples for interested educators.

Arguments for the appeal of pulling agile into education are more numerous than research on whether agile in education makes a difference. Our personal experience tells us that it does and that more teachers need to learn about agility. We also believe that ARC for Schools can become a valuable place for agile instructors to find research and suggest the posting of additional research, and that the projects of the consortium will prove interesting to the agile in education community.

From the team creating ACE, the Agile Certified Educator certification from Scrum Alliance. During our planning meeting in November 2019, the idea of ARC was born.

Bret Thayer, Guido van Dijk, Jan Fasen, Jennifer Manly, John Miller, Krissyn Sumare, Paul Magnuson, Mike Vizdos, and Wendell Boggs