Scrum4Schools: The Agile Tree for Schools

We bring agility to school! With the student-centered learning method Scrum4Schools, we have transferred Scrum to the classroom design and learning process. Agile principles and practices remain the same at the core, but undergo an adaptation to the school context.

To help you find your way through the jungle of Scrum4Schools terms and practices, we have adapted the Agile tree for schools and learning contexts: In the top of the tree you will find the so-called practices and artifacts like prioritizing and the learning board as harvestable fruits. In the branch below you will find the agile frameworks that we use for the school context. In and around the trunk are the principles that guide us. And last but not least, in the roots you will find the familiar values that we always keep in mind as principles. The breeding ground is the attitude (mindset). But first we start with the most visible: the branches and the tree crown.

1. The Scrum4Schools Framework

How do agile techniques from management consulting fit into schools? Quite simply, we take what fits the school context from the various agile frameworks and adapt it. The Kanban board, for example, was the model for the Scrum4Schools learning board. Design thinking is also increasingly finding its way into schools. With Scrum4Schools we focus – as the name suggests – on Scrum. The choice of framework determines with which practices the tree top is filled.

Scrum4Schools provides a framework for instructional design with Scrum – from planning learning objectives to assessable performance. Various roles, meetings, and artifacts are described that make up this learning method. For an overview of how they interact, check out our Scrum4Schools video (available only in German):


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2. Agile practices as a tree crown full of fruit.

The choice of agile framework determines with which practices the crown of the agile tree is filled. By agile practices we mean concrete tools that make agile learning “manageable”. The practices are like fruit in the crown of the tree, like a collection of proven tools that you get to choose from. Especially at the beginning of teaching with Scrum4Schools, we recommend not to use all available practices at once, but to get the students familiar with the new way of learning and the new practices step by step.

Examples for Scrum4Schools practices are the learning list, the learning board as well as the individual meetings: Thus, the learning list is the basis for the creation of the learning board. This in turn is a kind of “visual helper” that shows which individual learning steps are to be worked on or have already been worked on. In the planning meeting, the learning board is used for initial orientation and structuring, in the team synchronization (Daily) it supports the short, day-by-day coordination of the learning teams. By the way: A learning board can also be a useful agile tool at home.

3. Agile principles as a sustainable trunk

Agile practices are applied more easily the better the agile principles are internalized. This happens gradually. Thus, self-organization is one of the principles, but at the same time one of the goals that students should achieve with Scrum4Schools. Why it is important has been shown at the latest with the change to homeschooling: Students who already had the chance to learn in a self-organized way found it easier to learn at home.

A step-by-step approach and ongoing feedback are two other important principles. If I imagine that I work on a paper for four weeks, present it with pride, and the feedback is not good, then this is very demotivating. But if I receive feedback from the learning coach and the other learning teams in between – i. e. after each sprint of, say, one week – and can incorporate it, the end result will be better and I will look at my work with pride and satisfaction. This requires that the sprints are defined as an “assessment-free zone” so that students can try things out and experiment without being shy. What and when is evaluated must of course be communicated transparently.

4. Scrum values as nurturing roots

In order to experiment without shyness in learning, courage is needed. It is no coincidence that courage is one of the five Scrum values – and applies equally to learners and teachers. When everyone in the classroom treats each other with respect and openness, trying things out and learning together becomes more productive and joyful. Those who demonstrate commitment will be trusted by the learning team. And those who learn with focus not only achieve better results, but also learn more efficiently. What nurturing roots are to a tree, these five values are to the agile learning process – an important foundation.

In addition to the five values, the principle “Everyone does their best!” is also important. (“Prime Directive” in Scrum). If we have internalized this attitude, we see each other in a different light: If a student does not succeed in a task, you do not blame them for not trying hard enough, but ask yourself or them how you can support them even better.

5. The attitude

Sure, learning boards are quickly explained and students also get a handle on prioritizing and focused work over time. But when the Scrum4Schools project or class is over, will they have learned anything for life besides their exploratory assignments? My colleagues in the agile consulting world call this the agile mindset: it’s the attitude teams develop when they stop just using agile practices and start making sense of the values and principles behind them. This is the moment when team members need the structural hero less and students need their learning coach less because they have become more independent.

For the classroom, we recommend scheduling time for reflection. What did we do well while learning with Scrum4Schools? What was difficult? And why? “Talking about learning” strengthens students’ self-reflection skills. And this is an important future competence, because in an increasingly confusing world we need more clarity in ourselves in order to remain capable of action and healthy.

Our invitation to you

Our Agile Tree does not claim to be “finished”, but invites you to share further. What other agile principles or practices have you encountered? What would you like to add? We are looking forward to your comments!

You can find more about Scrum4Schools on our website:

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The Agile Tree was created with Agile Sketching.

Written by

Anna Czerny Anna Czerny Anna Czerny accompanies people in discovering their strengths and potential. As Program Manager for Scrum4Schools in Austria she wants to bring innovative impulses into the educational system so that today's students become shapers of the future. Her vision is that courage, creativity, the ability to work in a team and personal responsibility will become natural to students already during their school time. That is her motivation to train teachers and students in the agile learning method Scrum4Schools. In our daily work with Anna we especially appreciate her openness and her energy in connecting both people and knowledge. She finds inspiration in sharing and reading, and thanks to yoga, dancing and writing she always keeps a clear head. Together with Laura Vollmann-Popovic, Program Manager for Scrum4Schools in Germany, she has ambitious plans for Scrum4Schools.

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