Sprint Planning Protocol

“Learning to plan, planning to learn”

In traditional lesson planning, the plan is developed solely by the teacher and is not visible to the students. This is fine for delivering content. If self-direction is the goal, then students will need to know how to plan. Sharing the plan and the process of planning serves as an exemplar for students so they can begin doing it themselves. In this article, we explain what Planning is in an Agile Classroom and provide resources to get you started.

Sprint Planning is an opportunity to do just that at the beginning of each Learning Sprint. Recall that a Learning Sprint is 4 weeks or less. So, if your Learning Sprint is 2 weeks long, you would do Planning every 2 weeks. Planning has 3 parts: (1) The Why, (2) The What, and (3) The How.

Part 1: The Why

First, we start with why by establishing the big picture, context, relevancy, and/or purpose of the learning for that sprint. This could be in the form of an essential question or a big idea.

Figure 1: Planning 1 – The Why

Part 2: The What

From the Learning Backlog, we select what items we want to accomplish in this Sprint. We also determine how many goals are feasible based on the perceived capacity for the time we have in the Sprint. These items are moved from Learning Backlog and placed onto the Learning Canvas.

If we had a two-week Sprint, then we would choose the right amount of work that could be accomplished in 2 weeks. Looking back at what was accomplished in past Sprints can give you a good indicator of what can be accomplished in the present Sprint. 

Figure 2: Planning 2 – The What

Part 3: The How

Once the goals are selected for the Sprint, it is time to determine how they will be accomplished. Capturing are all the discrete steps and activities needed to sufficiently demonstrate evidence of success for that goal by the end of the Sprint. We call each step and activity a “task.” Tasks will be dependent on the pedagogical approach being used. Tasks for traditional content-based learning would look very different than authentic learning projects. Tasks might look like ‘read chapter 4’, ‘build prototype’, ‘take quiz’, ‘research’, ‘cite sources’, ‘watch videos’, ‘find resources, etc. A good rule of thumb is that at least one task should be small enough to move from ‘doing’ to ‘done’ by the next class period. Tasks are added to the Learning Canvas next to their corresponding learning goal.

Planning Variations

Here are a few variations you can try:

1: Batch Mode

  • Select all the items to be accomplished by the end of the Learning Sprint.
  • Then for each item, add the tasks to get it to done.
  • This is usually easier to learn at first. It is also more effective at assigning the level of choice students have in each part of planning. 

2: Task by each Goal

  • Select one item from the Learning Backlog.
  • Task out that item.
  • Select the next goal and repeat until at the desired capacity.
  • This variation tends to be faster and reduces the risk of over-committing. It does make it more challenging if choice levels are different for each part of planning.

3: Emergent tasks

  • Select all the goals for the Learning Sprint. Determine how many can be accomplished.  
  • Tasking is not done during planning.
  • As you are ready to work on the goal in the Sprint, task out the work then.
  • Use this variation for when students are highly proficient in Agile Classrooms. It takes a high amount of discipline to do it just in time.
  • The benefits are it is usually more efficient and more adaptable. But 

When first starting out, students may struggle. This is normal, especially when students have been used to being told what to do. Rarely having the opportunity to practice it themselves. Teachers may also struggle, as shifting to more of a facilitator or coaching style may be an underdeveloped competency. Even teacher evaluations might incentivize telling versus involving students in planning. Teachers also may experience something I call “Empowerment Anxiety”.

As students become more self-directed and better able to collaborate, support one another, and hold one another accountable, the teacher spends less time on detailed lesson planning and classroom management issues. As the teacher gets better at facilitating and coaching students so they can do the process on their own, more time is freed for the teacher. The teacher can now spend time on more important things, like personalized feedback, coaching, and deeper relationships with students. This may mean decreased burnout and increased joy for educators.

To recap the three parts of Sprint Planning; (1) Why does the learning matter or why is it relevant? (2) What goals are we going to learn and accomplish? (3) How will we accomplish the goals? These steps are probably familiar to Educators, they are similar to what educators do in backward design.  The difference is that it is visible, and students increase their involvement in the process.

For each of the five self-directed learning routines, we created a protocol checklist and a feedback sheet for you. These are not meant for compliance but for support and guidance. Use it as is or adapt it. Download the Learning Sprint Planning Protocol and Feedback Guide, you will need to subscribe to the free newsletter to access this and other resources.

Planning Protocol
Planning Feedback Sheet

To understand the complete Agile Education Framework, please read the Agile In Education Guide, downloadable on our resource page.