"Extreme Teaching" was coined by AlexChaffee
to describe an iterative, agile classroom teaching method. Basically, you divide the class time into iterations, and allow the students to prioritize what is taught during those iterations. The teacher plays the 'developer' role; the students are the 'customer.'
It's written up on the ExtremeProgramming YahooGroup
The content of the original message is pasted below, but there were some interesting replies on the YahooGroups
thread, so I recommend you follow the link if you're interested.
points out that this is an example of ProcessMiniature
, like ExtremeHour
. (He also approves of the term InformationRefrigerator
, though thinks that InformationCloset?
is more culturally appropriate for him.)
From: Alex Chaffee / Purple Technology <alex@j...>
Date: Fri Oct 11, 2002 6:41 am
Subject: Extreme Teaching
(I just wrote this up at
where you can see my other recent XP diary entries... But right now
I'm so psyched I had to share this experience directly. Thanks to
JoshuaKerievsky for turning me on to truly interactive classrooms.)
Wow. That was fun.
My friend Sarah is teaching a class at CalBerkeley
(or "UCBX" as the cool kids say) on Web Design. At 3:00 she
asked me to guest lecture for tonight's 6:30 class. The
schedule (which she drew up at the beginning of the
semester) said "Part 1: iterative design. Part 2: web
technologies". Instead of separating them into parts, I had
a great idea:
Use an iterative methodology to teach about web technologies.
We brainstormed for 10 minutes, writing down technology
topics on index cards ("Flash", "HTML", "Client-server",
"Database", "Java"). Came up with at least 50 of them.
When the hour was nigh, I packed up my cards and my kitchen
timer and biked over.
So first I gave a brief lecture on methodologies. I discussed a phased
approach (e.g. the Boehm Waterfall) versus an iterative
approach (e.g. the Boehm Spiral). I then said we were going
to "go meta" and structure the rest of the class using an
iterative methodology -- one we're going to make up as we go.
I then gave Kent Beck's "TheseAreMagicCards
" speech, only
the magic part was "Anything you write on them, you will learn."
So "Desire is limitless, but resources are finite" which
means you have to prioritize. We had 50 cards but we weren't
going to be able to cover all of them. So which ones are
Our process then went like this:
5 minutes: The Planning Game: lay the cards out on a table.
Sort them in order of priority. If desired, write new cards
or split old ones.
20 minutes: Teach. I pick the top card, give a brief
lecture, then ask for questions until the students are
satiated. Rip it up and make a mark on the board. Repeat
until the kitchen timer rings.
5 minutes: Retrospective. What did we learn? What was our
velocity? What problems arose? How can we change our process?
It was REALLY REALLY GREAT.
The planning game *engaged* the students from the get go,
got them talking to each other (I stepped aside and didn't
participate in the prioritization), and "broke the ice" and
encouraged them to ask questions and talk amongst themselves.
The 5 minute timer helped stop "analysis paralysis" -- even
though the students didn't know what half the terms meant,
they were able to make priority decisions, and didn't waste
time in research or speculation mode. After the first 20
minutes I'd used enough of the terms, in context, to give
them a bit more foundation from which to choose the next
set; accordingly, the top cards were a totally different set
after the second planning game.
The retrospectives allowed us a chance to examine and change
the process itself. This is one of the subtle advantages of
an iterative process: it schedules time to reflect on the
process, rather than just being heads-down in crisis mode
all the time.
One change we made was, students weren't discussing among
themselves enough, so we tried adding "after every
technology topic, discuss how you could use it in your own
Another was, "Instead of Alex or Sarah answering every
question, if a student knows about the topic, they should
lead the discussion."
Finally, for the final iteration, they came up with a change
that dazzled me: they proposed we change the facilitator!
So I sat down, and someone else stood up and ran the
meeting: He picked up the timer, set it to 5 minutes, ran
the planning game, and so on. I was tickled pink to see the
process I'd established running without me, and to see their
creativity within (and beyond) the rules I'd originally set.
(When the chosen topic was "API", one of the students raised
his hand. "Yes, Spencer?" "Yes, I think Alex knows about
that one." Laughs all around.)
Since it was the last iteration, we didn't have a full 20
minutes left, which provoked a discussion of how to measure
the velocity with different units, whether to alter the
estimates, and so forth. Excellent stuff.
Many process observations happened inside the retrospective. For
After we added the "discuss an example" practice, our
velocity went down. Why? Some suggested it was the extra
discussions. Another thought it was getting late and people
were sleepy. Or maybe we're getting into more depth on each
topic because we're more comfortable with the process. How
can we experiment to verify each hypothesis? Is the lower
velocity acceptable, or should we reduce the scope more? Etc.
After 2 iterations I took the "mark on the board" chart and
used that data to make a new Big Visible Chart (by the way,
when you describe this, take a beat between saying "BVC" and
saying what the letters stand for -- it gets a good laugh)
tracking our velocity across time. This gave me the
opportunity to compare InformationRadiator
s (BVCs) and
s (MS Project) and some other
I'm definitely going to teach my next "real" class like
this, no matter what the topic. Wow. It was fun and
educational for me and for them. All that stuff they say
about empowering the stakeholder and engaging interaction
might be true after all :-)
Not Extreme as such but still fairly radical (I think):
I read recently that one of the physics prof's at TrentUniversity?
(Peterborough, Ontario) doesn't have static lecture notes. Instead he assigns readings from the course text and then students can log onto a course website and list topics or areas they had difficulty understanding on their own. Before the next lecture, the prof. has a look at what the students are having difficulty with, and only lectures on those areas.
I thought that was pretty cool.