Agile in the Classroom

Group of students seated at desks, completing an Agile activity using Lego blocks.

Agile Education

Agile is fundamentally about learning, people, and change - three things we struggle with in education and handle poorly at the present time...

Steve Peha

Educational institutions have sometimes been accused of having cultures which are difficult to penetrate. But increasingly, many inside education want to shift towards seeing students as individuals, and they want a culture that is more conducive to learning. With Agile, educators and others now have the tools to start that shift in culture and to sustain it. Adoption of Agile in education can have a large positive impact on student learning.

"In 2012 a group in India ran a case study involving 500 ICT schools, with teachers trained in Agile practices, and found that it was feasible to integrate Agile systems into existing programs and in nearly all cases led to higher student achievement." (Briggs, 2014)

Through Agile we are uncovering better ways of teaching and learning by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Adaptability over prescriptive teaching methods
  • Collaboration over individual accomplishment
  • Achievement of learning outcomes over student testing and assessment
  • Student-driven inquiry over classroom lecturing
  • Demonstration and application over accumulation of information
  • Continuous improvement over the maintenance of current practices


Product Backlog: The product backlog, or just backlog for short, is the comprehensive and prioritized list of what needs to get done. It includes both functional and non-functional story cards, customer requirements and ideas. During a sprint planning meeting, items are moved from the backlog into the active sprint.

Product Backlog Item: Any item that is on the backlog list, which will include user stories, story cards, epics, ideas, requirements and possibly technical stories to deal with technical debt.

Relative Estimation: Sizing backlog items by grouping them into relative size ranges rather than absolute units; can be done using t-shirt sizes or Fibonacci cards.

Sprints: In Agile, work is performed in time-limited, or time-boxed, durations. It's during these periods of time when a class, usually broken up into teams, pledges to accomplish specific goals by the end of the sprint. At the end of a sprint, a planned outcome should have been achieved. Once a time-boxed sprint is complete the next one starts. Sprints allow for specific outcomes to be achieved quickly, and are more about timeliness and less about cramming. Sprints in a classroom setting are recommended to be one or two weeks.

Stand-up: Stand-ups are brief, to-the-point meetings held daily to provide updates for team members. In these meetings, members must provide the status of their work by answering these three essential questions:

  1. What work did I do since last we met?
  2. What will I work on today?
  3. Is there anything that will obstruct my work?

Showcase: The presentation of the product produced at the end of every sprint. Retrospectives are usually performed after these to ensure that all goals were met, and if not, to edit the process.

Retrospective: An essential component of Agile, a retrospective is a session where the team comes together and reflects on the process by asking:

  1. What went wrong?
  2. What went well?
  3. What can we do better next time?

After these questions are answered, they make plans and commitments to fix issues and improve in the future.


Briggs, S. (2014, February 22). Agile Based Learning: What Is It and How Can It Change Education? Retrieved from

The Journal of Effective Teaching. (2017).