May 3, 2012

Agile Learning Communities

 Schools have a great concept called Professional Learning Communities (PLC).
PLC's are "An ongoing process through which teachers and administrators work collaboratively to seek and share learning and to act on their learning, their goal being to enhance their effectiveness as professionals for students’ benefit" (Hord, 1997)

Often than not, many PLC's are ineffective. A lot of talk and no action is the complain I hear from many teachers. I am sure there are some action packed, results oriented ones out there, but, I fear that may be the exception.

Kim Mills, our famous 4th Grade Certified ScrumMastering, thought of this concept while attending Certified Scrum Master class to use Scrum as an inspiration to make quick collaborative progress in their Professional Learning Communities at her school. Let's call the idea, Agile Learning Communities.  It takes a PLC and focuses on rapid feedback, fast results, and iterative improvements.

The ALC Sprint

Each grade level forms an ALC team.  The team works in a one week Sprint, in which planning, doing the work, and reviewing the results occur for quick feedback and iterative results.

The ALC Sprint Board

The Agile Learning Community Board is divided into these columns: Goals, Task, Intensive, Strategic, Benchmark/Done.  Intensive, Strategic, and Benchmark are the level categories based off of Dibels scores. Each student is on  on their own sticky color coded and placed in the column of their level.  

The ALC Sprint Planning

Each grade level teams has their own product backlog.  This Sprint has 3 stories developed in this ALC Sprint Planning:
  1. "As a second grade team, we want to move our strategic student to make benchmark". Moving survey students up a grade level. These students are reading at another grade level below the grade that they are in, 2nd story moving intensive students to strategic, and 3rd story moving strategic students to benchmark(on grade level).
  2. "As a second  grade team, we want our intensive students to gain 10 words"
  3. "As a second  grade team, we want our survey students to move up a grade level"

The tasks are the interventions to be undertaken with the students for that Sprint.  Tasks are developed by autonomous teams of teachers.

The ALC Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, there is a ALC Sprint Review, where the team revisit the students results by using our data from progress monitoring based on the stories or goals for that Sprint.  If the students have scored out of their area three times, the student sticky is moved to another level.

During the Sprint Review, the team updates the ALC Burndown chart - Each team has their own chart with the total number of students needed to move to bench.  Every week we discuss the data collected and move the students if they made their goal 3 times in a row.  We then burn them down for the week that we are on and talk about our goal until we meet the following week. This helps the teacher team gauge progress and detect trends early. There is something very powerful about having a visual graph posted on the wall for the team to review.

The ALC Sprint Retrospective

Teachers then preform a Retrospective, collaborating on  "What Went Well, What Did Not Go Well, and What One Thing Should We Commit to Changing Next Sprint". With Agile, teachers get faster and more open feedback from their results and their team members. It provides a rhythm for rapid feedback which is the fasted road to mastery

The teachers have gained excitement and celebrate their success with other teachers.  They also made time in their day to progress monitor to make their goals.  Teachers feel their time in ALC's are highly valuable since they quickly move to action and use Agile to empower themselves to help students grow. Through Agile, teachers are more autonomous, collaborative, creative and see obtain results faster.

Kim Mills has done an amazing job on this and continues to iterate and improve the ALC concept.

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John Miller