As a global community we must think differently about education and the future, because the future our children face is fundamentally different from that of any previous generation. Kingswood College is using research into how humans best live, learn and flourish to create contemporary, future-focused learning experiences and programs for our students.
The education industry is a hotly contested marketplace. There are calls for education to combat obesity, mental health, financial literacy, the methamphetamine crisis and radicalisation – to name a few – alongside a focus on values education and the traditional reading, writing and arithmetic.
This pressure does not often make for schools characterised by their energy and flexibility. Quite the opposite. Amidst the education debate one thing has emerged to which educators cling – curriculum. The collection of concepts about what students need to know and be able do by the end of their schooling. It’s so perpetually added to that it is known as the ‘crowded curriculum’. It is so vast that no school can cover it in the detail they know it deserves; it contains ideas of depths that cannot be sounded in the time available to teachers; and despite being continually expanded, is curated by educators and their managers who reluctantly, if ever, prune old concepts.
The best educators know this has to change. Students must be viewed first and foremost as individuals; the things they need to know as fluid and evolving, and the school seen as a community of learners.
When we attended Agile Australia 2015 we were surprised to see presenters starting with similar messages and familiar slides that we use in education that encourage educators to stop teaching students using the factory model and truly embrace individualised learning and a curriculum that prepares students for our rapidly changing reality.
The Agile Manifesto and the mindset that accompanies it has a significant parallel to the journey that we are exploring. This year we have dared to ask: As a school that wants to be world class, what could we learn from world class organisations in other fields that could help us drive curriculum improvement, enshrine staff collaboration time, and make our school more fast-paced and flexible?
One of the concerns we had regarding the structure and flow of meetings was that operational details were obstructing valuable projects. We combatted this by splitting our meeting into a 60 minute strategic discussion of ideas, initiatives and pedagogy that would inform and drive our educational agenda, and our own version of scrum. That is, a 20 minute standing meeting that would allow people to provide updates on particular initiatives and programs and introduce new ideas, which may be tabled for future strategy meetings. The scrum was complemented by a Kanban board designed to reflect the team’s progress and each person’s responsibility.
The intention was to restructure the way we talk about curriculum beyond the traditional subject/faculty construct, talking about the ‘why’ of learning and teaching at Kingswood College, not just what and how. Tools like display boards enables us to visualise the process from idea to execution and evaluation and make that information available to our colleagues. We can easily see obstacles and gaps. We can identify areas that need greater attention. Perhaps more importantly, we can foster a climate of trust where our work is promoted and scrutinised beyond the scope of one group of people in one meeting room by encouraging the transparency and openness that agile thinking offers.
We are not there yet; but we are committed to continuing to adapt agile thinking to our setting and explore these ideas. At Kingswood College, the vision of an agile curriculum, and agile school is one that responds rapidly to continual change; that is lightweight without being lite; that is flexible, manageable and adaptive without being reactive. It is one of continual innovation characterised by the enthusiasm of practitioners at the peak of their profession.
Liam King, Deputy Principal (Learning and Teaching), and Grant Exon, Pedagogical Leader (Collaboration).
We would love to hear from others in the community who are interested in continuing this conversation in relation to the implementation of Agile in an educational setting. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content was previously published in the AgileTODAY magazine (Volume 10).