The Hero's Journey

Generally people remember stories and much of children’s play involves taking on a persona. Conveniently, many courses involve multiple units, thus allowing multiple rounds of “play” and “identity” for students. The stories they make need to be thoughtful and challenging enough that students successfully complete the “Hero’s Journey,” with a healthy sense of being uplifted by the challenges encountered on the way. This is quite doable with a thoughtful implementation of an Agile Kickoff process. One of my favorite books on this subject is in the resources below.

Feedback: It's Not what You Think

Helpful feedback has little to do with what the teacher thinks, for example the pre-supposition the teacher makes about the outcomes of student projects, and is much more about developing an openness to what actually works and what others like, without an absolute truth either stated or implied by the curriculum. Let the students decide what to do by emphasizing these two types of feedback: - Natural feedback - Collaborative feedback


We as teachers are so used to making each instructional minute count that we seldom provide slack time. We define slack as space in the curriculum in which students need to go through the process of determining their next logical steps. The process requires patience on the part of teachers and the qualities of curiosity and responsibility on the part of students. Teacher patience, because slack can look like wasted time (we do not think it is!) and curiosity and responsibility, because learning is ultimately up to the student. We often, traditionally, speed things up by reducing variables, declaring exactly what step comes next, cleaning the learning path up, and holding students’ hands. But we should perhaps let them struggle through the process a whole lot more.

Reflection: The Key to Adaptability

Frequent, even daily, mini-reflections lead to adaptable students and curriculums. Ideally, guide the students to where they are comfortable to self-reflect with you. This of course means guiding the kids to where they have the confidence and insight to self-reflect and self-correct instead of relying (or even fearing) external assessment and correction.


EDgilty suggests that we strive to favor adaptability over rigidity. When we work in a series of small incremental changes, each increment of work will inform the next, with plenty of space for feedback, which should naturally lead to regular, small, manageable adaptations in our plan based on our growing knowledge. Through a metaphor of estimating the time to reach a destination, we get a feel for why adaptability is an outcome of working incrementally, and both an outcome and reinforcer of regular feedback.

Value: Motivation and Knowledge with a Context

Value within a learning environment: a) students see value or a reason to learn the material; b) students think about the topic within in the context of how it affects others and/or within its bigger context, c) students learning has enough challenging (it doesn’t feel like busy work, nor simple Google search); and d) students learning process cultivates confidence and life-worthy skills. Not all learning will involve all 4 aspects, but the more the better!


Uplift is a practice of EDgility that I resisted for a long time and I am still trying to understand both its definition and role. It’s opposite, described here as downpush, is too often the experience of students in school, of that I’m relatively sure. Students do not need downpush, and learning is not enabled through it. But what is exactly its opposite, uplift? It’s not just feeling good, not even just kindness and respect. It also carries an element of feeling good due to a sense of purpose and earned accomplishment.

Smallify to Learn Effectively

Get the big picture: students set goals (outcomes), deconstruct (find the most important (3-5) aspects / skills related to the goal), and then smallify (learn to find the next small step that builds on what’s already done), and finally, learn through deliberate practice (self-correcting as they progress).


Teachers are to provide students opportunities to learn and grow independently.

Rework through Deliberate Practice

Complex projects provide the opportunity to explore and learn what does and doesn’t work. Understanding what doesn’t work and adjusting (redoing) work can often lead to tremendous learning. The caveat is that teachers must create a safe environment, without judgement, which creates space for 'mistakes' and 'rework.'