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Agile Learning in Action: Outreach, cross sector, 3D printing product design partnership project

Wednesday 3 July: 5:30pm – 7:00pm, poster session



Dr Amanda Charlton
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Colin Gover
Marina View School, New Zealand



Amanda, a hospital pathologist, and medical teacher needed a small plastic customised test tube rack for use in the laboratory. Colin, a digital technology teacher at an Auckland school, needed real world problems for his students to solve, and more girls in STEM. Agile learning1 values individuals and interactions, meaningful learning, stakeholder collaboration and responding to change. The Agile practices for learning are – short design loops, informed by feedback from end user testing, to iteratively improve the outcome. Agile values and practices encourage rapid and flexible responses to real world change. We implemented an Agile learning1 approach for both students and teachers.



We created a small scale, outreach, cross disciplinary, product development project. Amanda provided the user story, product testing and feedback. Colin the technology teacher coached the students in 3D design and printing. The intended outcomes were:

  1. teachers would incorporate Agile values and learn Agile practices.
  2. students would experience the Agile approach to product design



Method of evaluative data collection and analysis

Analysis of effectiveness was deduced from triangulation of data from video recorded interviews, field observation, and questionnaire collected from students, teacher, school principal, students’ parents, hospital staff and external reviewers.


Evidence of effectiveness of Agile learning

Primary outcomes

  1. Teachers incorporated Agile values and adapted Agile practices such as scrum, sprints and test driven development.
  2. Students solved a real world problem by producing a customised test tube rack which is now in daily use in Auckland Hospitals.

Secondary outcomes

  1. More girls than boys were attracted to this STEM project
  2. Students and teachers were cognitively, socially and emotionally engaged
  • Parents gained a deeper understanding of 21st century learning methods
  1. The project lesson plan was evaluated by an international panel of judges. We won the Ultimaker Challenge2 competition from a field of 250 Asia Pacific entrants.


Academics: Agile learning

We live, work and learn in a VUCA [Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous] world,1 where the pace of change is accelerating. To thrive in this environment as academics and in a clinical workplace, the challenge for instructors and students is to move from traditional linear problem solving to embrace new systems, technologies and just new ways of doing things.  Agile  is the ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment.2 Agile methods have spread to organisational culture, project management and now, learning design.

The values of the Agile Schools Manifesto3 are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Meaningful learning over the measurement of learning
  3. Stakeholder collaboration over complex negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan


We embraced the opportunity to apply agile practices.

We created the 3 key agile roles3 of:

  • Development team – the students in a self organised small team
  • Scrum master – the teacher coaches students
  • Product owner – the end user provides feedback and defines product success.


We used 3 key agile practices:

  • Sprints – create product versions in short duration cycles, with frequent end user feedback, to iteratively build the solution
  • User stories- to capture the what and why of end user requirements.
  • Test driven development – end user testing and feedback to drive design.


We showcase agile learning in action in product design. We encountered obstacles to standard agile practices, and present effective adaptations4 generalisable to  educational contexts. The learning design won an international competition, and we made a product now in daily use in NZ hospitals. Agile is fundamentally about learning, people, and change,5,6 three things common to workplaces and education.



Briggs, S. (2014). Agile Based Learning: What Is It and How Can It Change Education? Retrieved from
Ultimaker education challenge (2016).
Stewart, Brian, Anshuman Khare, and Rod Schatz. Chapter 16. “Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in higher education.” Managing in a VUCA World. Springer, 2016. 241-250. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-16889-0_16
Agile 101 (n.d)
Nejmeh, B., Weaver, D.S., 2014. Leveraging scrum principles in collaborative, inter-disciplinary service-learning project courses. In: Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2014 IEEE. IEEE
Masood Z, Hoda R, Blincoe K. Adapting agile practices in university contexts. Journal of Systems and Software. 2018 Oct 1;144:501-10.
Peha, S. (2011). Agile schools: How technology saves education (just not the way we thought it would). InfoQ. Retrieved from
Luckman, M and Prange C. (2015) Agile Universities. Global Focus.


Presentation topic

Poster session

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