woensdag 3 januari 2018

Reflections about using eduScrum

Reflections about using eduScrum in a doctoral program for Educational Leadership at California State University, Fresno, USA

Learning in a Changing World
In a changing world, the ability to think critically, innovate, learn independently, collaborate, and lead are crucial. The expectation is that schools and universities prepare students for changing careers and a changing world. Best practices to reach these aspirations are student-centered instruction, collaborative learning, learning communities, project based learning… And of course, during all of this, students should also learn the most current technologies.
As a university professor, I teach educational research methods and statistics. As such I do research on how to support faculty in the development of their instruction, while I am at the same time also developing my own teaching practice. In my first year I was mostly lecturing, with a lot of dialoguing, but realistically I was doing most of the talking. Then I implemented much more group work during class time and eventually shifted to a flipped classroom, where students would view lecture videos as homework and collaborate on assignments and discussions during class. I strived to develop my pedagogical and technological content knowledge and actively included my students in trying to further innovate of what it meant to teach and learn with the current mobile technology.

Open Mindset and Self-management
It is with this open mindset, that I came across agile learning and eduScrum. Having researched how people develop their human potential in organizations and the workplace of the future. I always aspired to create a similar environment in my courses. I have particularly focused on self-managed organizations, such as the Morning Star Tomato Company, which has no formal hierarchy. They lamented to me that people often first have to learn to self-manage, to be self-determined and to be a leader without formal authority. These skills are all fundamental in order to work well in a flat organization. So, I immediately saw that eduScrum could help me bridge two areas in my life, the research about modern workplaces and how to prepare my students for it, while teaching them research methods.

Implementing eduScrum
After I first spoke with Willy Wijnands I was really excited, but also a bit concerned. Could I really trust my students to take control of their learning? And more importantly could I trust myself to be able to assist them in an effective way? Using the eduScrum approach required some courage and a growth mindset. Regular coaching by Willy was fundamental. He did a fabulous job at making the method simple to understand and was always available to reflect together and discuss the next step. There weren’t any difficulties that he hadn’t experienced already. He shaved several years of my learning path. True to his method, his coaching style was to the point, effective and with a few questions and reflecting on how to improve. My main initial concern was that I had a lot of material to cover in my course, and I was not sure how I would check if students had understood the main concepts. (This actually was already a concern with the flipped classroom.) An important realization was, that there really is a lot of flexibility in varying the degree of control. The burn chart and the demo meeting at the end of each lesson serve as feedback on overall progress and understanding. The multiple check-ins with the teams during the lesson time provide information about the degree of understanding. When one realizes that several groups struggle with a concept, there is time to have the groups stop and provide a mini-lecture for clarification. I had a lot of content and lecture videos online that I was able to point teams to.
Development of collaboration and leadership skills
What is particularly important is the constant reflection at the end of each session. Not just about the content, but about how they work as teams. Students figure out what works and what doesn’t. The students develop self-management and leadership skills. They also check if they built a culture in their team that matches with their definition of fun. Here some comments from students: “I was anxious at first and had a preference for just listening to lectures, but then I realized that I was here to become a leader, and that included taking charge of my learning.” “I loved how we were able to establish our own plan of action.” “The team became an important part of my life and working together to get the assignments done was very effective.” “This was a good set up because each group had their own time with the professor, opportunities to ask questions and reflect on assignments in small groups with the professor.“

Room for improvement
Based on student evaluations there were two concerns that surfaced. One was that they wished a bit more “explicit instruction on some of the more complicated concepts”. Another was being stuck in a team that they don’t like. To my knowledge that was only the case for 1 out of 20 people. And this is a challenge that Willy has had before. Here the facilitation skills of the instructor come into play. It is about perceiving certain group dynamics and potentially facilitating a discussion around that.

Next steps
I am very happy I implemented eduScrum and will use it again. But I definitely would recommend to have a coach available, because it makes the instructors learning easier, faster and helps keep the confidence and trust. Having materials online available makes it easier too. I am actually thinking about implementing it in a fully online class. Two things I will improve is a) plan time for explicit lectures, when they are pulled by students, and b) in addition to the team based survey on their team functioning, also have an individual survey, where I offer an opportunity for students to signal me when they want help with a difficult conversation about their team functioning.
Overall the engagement and buy in of the students is what most convinced me to use it again. I had teams send me demo videos from their meetings on Sunday afternoon. Two teachers started using it in their own classroom. One student used it to manage her work at the office. Me personally I started using a scrum board to manage my family’s preparations for hosting guests over the Christmas break. All these are signs that eduScrum is a great tool to develop self-management, collaboration and leadership skills.

Christian A. Wandeler, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in research methods and statistics at California State University, Fresno. He got a Ph.D. in personality and positive psychology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford University and studies teacher training, the development of hope and learning achievement, the equity of the Swiss educational system, and studied the quality of the career and technical education system in Switzerland. He consults organizations in the development of human potential, professional development and growing the workplace of the future.

dinsdag 8 augustus 2017

eduScrum at Leysin American School in Zwitserland

Day 1.

Quarter to six I arrived at Willy’s front door, Denise was yet to come so he invited me in the house to shelter from the heavy rainfall. It had been five minutes before the doorbell rang. Denise had appeared with her entire family to wave her of. As we made our way to the car with our weighty luggage the sky boomed with rage and it began to rain even harder. Short after lightning struck down from the heavens startling us all, including the entire Wijfjes family and even Willy!

Before we could begin our journey we had to pick up a very important package.
As we arrived at Noah’s house the first thing we saw peering through the crack of his front door was a camera, short after the mystery man revealed himself with a cheeky smile. He jumped into to the car and off we went.

It took at least eight hours to get to Switzerland! Of course we had been prepared for this by Willy but blimey what a long ride. I had slept quite a lot during the ride with my head comfortably on Noah’s bag. He sat in the front with Willy and Denise and I sat in the back. I had downloaded some eminem songs that continued to blare through my earphones on repeat the entire way there..so I can now proudly say that I can at least rap one entire chorus of ‘Lose yourself’.
In between my strangely, rather comfortable car naps we stopped once in a while to stretch our legs and take in the view of the German countryside. I had never been to Germany before so to see it so flat surprised me. I had expected more of a Sound of Music like landscape. But I was to early with my judgement because after an hour or two on the road our surroundings vastly changed to far exceed my expectations.

After another hour we began to notice a peculiar weather pattern, it turned from rain to snow and from snow to rain all the way up to Switzerland. There the weather was even more confusing as the fog slowly crept up to us and devoured us under a great white blanket of mystery. I believe we could all feel a rush of excitement as we first saw the mountain range, I barely know how to describe what we encountered. Pearing through the fog we could just about make out the great green giants from a distance. After a day or two we would realize that these mountains were way bigger than we could had ever imagined, but when one lives on the flattest place on earth where even a sand dune can impress you.

As we made our way up the mountain the fog became thicker and thicker like a intoxicatingly heavy syrup whispering us towards the finish line. We knew it wouldn’t be far now and although Willy had a firm hand driving up the mountain, I began to notice he was becoming more and more nervous as we gained altitude. I also observed that inside the car the ambiance was gradually taking a turn for the worst. Looking back on the situation I now understand the sudden silence. It must have been terrible to have to drive up a incredibly steep mountain in the fog

after eight hours of driving with also three teenagers nagging at you with questions like ‘are we there yet?’.

After a good fifteen minutes I was getting fed up with far too serious vibe. So just after Willy took another sharp turn a sentence flopped out of me that will probably haunt me till the end of my school days . “And then we road off the mountain..” I said dryly breaking the awkward stillness. Willy and the rest all cracked up and have been mocking me with ‘and then’ jokes ever since.

We had finally arrived at our destination Leysin. I couldn’t see more than three meters in front of me but nethertheless I was very impressed by what little I could see. Everywhere were tall student houses connected by a broad road leading to the infamous “Leysin American High School”, standing proudly carved into the mountain like an ancient statue.

As we entered the school the first thing my eye fell on was the giant student library. I enjoy a good book so already I was longing to have a quick look. We were standing in the hallway as we were suddenly approached by a friendly looking man named Paul. We shook our hands and kindly introduced ourselves. “Well you guys must be hungry after that long trip” he said gesturing to the dining hall. Gradually we made our way over, yet to encounter the wonders of the tosti machine.

Day 2.

We had slept like lambs that previous night but when I woke up I still felt absolutely knackered. We had arranged to meet Bill in the dining hall for breakfast. We had a good chat and seeing as we were of for the day we decided to visit have a look around. It was a rainy day but that didn’t matter to us. We took the small mountain train down to a town by the name of Aigle and spent the day sightseeing. We walked past the lake Geneva and had lunch in a beautiful  lunch cafe called Zurcher. We each chose a different chocolate and split it into exactly four pieces so we could all share. I chose a particularly scrumptious chocolate cake with with layers of raspberry in it. We also visited the statue of Freddie Mercury which was a lot larger than I had imagined.
After a couple of hours we headed back to leysin and had a good dinner before bed.

Day 3.

Day three was the first day of the course we were all very excited. Willy had asked us to wake up early so we got up at half past six and headed to breakfast at seven. When we stepped outside snow surrounded us for miles, there was not one place that remained untouched by it. It was quite nice being the only ones in the cafeteria, we had all the choice in the world including these godley blueberry muffins. As we made our way to the middle school we had an epic snowball fight, one of many to come. When we were inside we set up the stuff and awaited the teachers. Willy’s course includes many games and fun activities. The one I found the most interesting was the paper airplane game. There were three or four teams of about five people

and every one of them had a team captain. This team captain had chosen his/her teammates on the account of qualities. There had to be a variation of qualities in one group so the team captain wasn’t allowed to pick the same quality twice. When the team’s were made and the game was on you could definitely notice considerable differences between the team’s. They all had a very different tactic, some had divided their groups into different divisions. Two people were to throw the planes, two to fold the plains and two to finish them. Whilst other groups did every step together. The more games the teachers played the more they came in to there own and we began to see people began to take over certain roles in the groups. There were leaders, followers, class clowns and of course the mediators. It was all very interesting to study different groups like that I enjoyed it very.

Day 4.

Day two was the second and final day of the course. Some teachers had decided that eduScrum was not for them had not shown up. Luckily there were still a lot of teachers very enthusiastic to stay so we started with a couple more games and Willy told stories from his experiences with eduScrum and as did we. We explained the pro’s and the con’s of eduScrum in the classroom and we tried to answer the questions from the best we could. At the end of the course we shook hands and said our goodbyes to some of the foreign teachers. Because it was a lovely day on the mountain we decided to go for a hike after we went back to our rooms and had a long good rest.

Day 5

Day five was a lovely day, the sun shone brightly on the mountains illuminating the brilliant green leaves. The sky such a deep blue colour it looked almost like you could dive into it.
We had decided to go down the mountain to take a tour in the most notorious Chillon castle on lake Geneva. After an hour or so we took the car for a drive to Geneva but due to some problems with my health we couldn’t make it as far. We drove back to up the mountain and played cards for the rest of the evening.

Day 6.

Day six was our last day in switzerland, we went to breakfast early and took a couple of tosti’s and fruit with us for the ride back. It took about the same amount of time to get back to the Netherlands than the trip up to Switzerland, although it felt a lot shorter. When we got to Limburg Maastricht Willy brought us to a little snackbar where he ordered something called Zoervleis (which means sour meat) which was ace and showed us the place where he grew up. It was really nice to take a little break like that before we stepped in the car again to drive home.

Thank you Willy for this awesome experience and this amazing opportunity, I feel very lucky for having been part of your eduScrum family. Also great thanks to Noah and Denise for taking care of me and literally carrying me up a mountain. I have made memories with you all that I will cherish them forever.

Bo Walkden, 4 HAVO (Highschool)