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How Teachers Can Co-Opt the Lean Startup Model for the Classroom

Session 2
Mary Jo Madda (with help from Leonard Medlock) — www.edsurge.com

See if this problem-solving technique sounds familiar: form a hypothesis, design an experiment, measure the results, and use the findings to inform the follow-up experiment.

Science teachers might recognize that as the “Scientific Method.” Entrepreneurs have their own name for it, too: the “Lean Startup,” popularized by Eric Ries’ book of the same name, which has been canonized in the lore of entrepreneurship.

The core tenets in these two approaches are not all that different: Like any startup, a classroom must deliver services under unpredictable conditions. Like entrepreneurs, teachers continuously improvise new approaches, measure if they work, and learn from their successes (or failures) immediately. Are the students learning? What’s working? For all students, or for some?

No solution is perfect, but few emotions are as draining as finding out that a product or teaching method ultimately doesn’t work—and not knowing it until it’s too late (or at the end of the school year).

Already, the lean process is being used for new instructional approaches in places like Summit Public Schools. In fact, CEO Diane Tavenner gave a talk in 2012 on how she and her team used the method to test and refine Summit’s instructional practice. And the result? Since launching in 2003, Summit has graduated more than 1,700 students, 100% of whom meet or exceed 4-year college entrance requirements.

When it comes to teaching, being able to quickly understand whether or not your students are learning—and then adjusting your practice accordingly—is crucial to the profession. So how can educators co-opt Lean Startup methods—a series of rapid testing processes designed to test and scale businesses—to design the best possible classroom?

Conversational Practice

This "conversation" will consist of a brief description of the following article (https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-28-how-teachers-can-run-classrooms-like-lean-startups), followed by a Gallery Walk activity. Groups of 3-4 participants will pair up and engage in the teacher-centric lean classroom process—together creating a hypothesis, defining metrics, and theorizing a minimum viable product that an educator could test in the classroom with students.

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