No Tests, No Curriculum Standards: Agile Learning

Adult life is all about making choices, learning from them, and prioritizing competing demands for our time. A healthy educational environment must allow students to experience such opportunities and challenges. To do this, students must be able to make their own decisions and pursue their own passions. I believe that this creates the opportunity for them to flourish to their full potential if they have a supportive, respectful and loving surrounding. Knowing what they want to learn or do, and then following through to learn it or achieve it, is a core skill for learning.

agile learning

In search for a theory to support this idea I came across Agile learning. Agile learning is an education model that reflects this philosophy. It uses three aspects (trust, assumptions and principles) to illustrate the model. Here are the three parts of the model:


Who do we trust to direct students learning? Students are not empty vessels who don’t know what’s good for them. Students don’t need someone else to decide what they should learn, how they should learn it, and then tell them whether they’ve learned it well enough. When that happens, that ‘someone else’ is usually very far from the actual student and learning process. The problem with this is that it is not that ‘someone else’ who has to live with the consequences of these choices — it’s the student.

Agile Learning

When making a choice to trust a student to direct their learning, students immediately start learning they can trust themselves. This is important for many reasons. Just to think about: You can’t learn to make good decisions if you’re never allowed to make your own decisions. Students learn better when they’re doing things they’re interested in.


There are four underlying assumptions of the educational model. They make the foundation upon which everything else is built.

Learning: learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.

Self-Direction: students are people. People learn best by making their own decisions.

Experience: people learn more from their culture and environment than from the content they are taught.

Success: accomplishment is achieved through cycles of intention, creation, reflection and sharing.


This are the guiding principles used to translate theory into practice and ideals into action.

Infinite Play: play is one of the most powerful paths to growth. The concept of infinite play reminds us that games aren’t about winning: changing rules and boundaries is part of playing. Letting players constantly expand the game of outrageous personal growth to incorporate new players and new frontiers is powerful.

Be Agile: make tools and practices flexible, adaptable and easy to change. Too much change all at once can be disorienting. Try to gentle changes over multiple iterations to see what is working.

Amplify Agency: ensure that tools support personal choice and freedom as well as responsibility for those choices. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in designing and upgrading the structures which guide them.

Culture Creation: we shape culture and culture shapes us. A powerful, positive culture is the strongest, most pervasive support structure a learning community can have. Develop collective mastery rather than restrictive rule-making.

Visible Feedback: make choices, patterns, and outcomes visible to participants so they can tune their future behavior accordingly. Make the implicit explicit and expand transparency. These practices empower and build trust among community members.

Facilitate: clarify, simplify, and connect. Don’t introduce unnecessary complexity. Hold coherence for personal growth in an empowered cultural context.

Support: provide maximum support with minimal interference. Remember that support is not direction — it does not mean making their decisions for students or intervening and managing their processes. Students need support and trust in reaching their goals and fulfilling their intentions: like most of us.


So what do you think? Is agile learning a model you can agree with? Leave your comments here to start a professional discussion

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