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Transferring knowledge from the teacher to the learner so that the learner acquires new knowledge or skills

There are many ways for a team member to learn from another team member. They can: 

  • ask a more senior member of the team to mentor them, 
  • they can engage with someone who acts as a coach
  • they can simply observe a colleague, 
  • or they can ask a colleague to teach them something that they'd like to learn.

What is Teaching?

At the highest level, teaching is about transferring knowledge from the teacher to the learner so that the learner acquires new knowledge or skills.

You, or anyone on the team, can act as a teacher, helping your colleagues obtain new knowledge or learn new skills. However, if you want to become a very effective teacher, it’s best if you learn a few of the principles of the teaching profession. recognizes that those studying to become professional teachers or trainers go through an extensive learning and certification journey. Our goal in these pages isn’t to replicate those learning journeys, but instead to make Agile practitioners aware of what the practice entails so they can incrementally improve their teaching ability and seek out further resources.

Teaching Principles

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you want to teach something to someone, you can simply stand before them and lecture them on the topic. Particularly in a professional setting, that’s neither very effective nor well-received. So, how can you become a better teacher? suggests that at a minimum, you become familiar with how people learn, how to effectively convey information and how to assess that the learner’s objectives have been achieved.

Learners learn differently

Certified teachers and trainers delve deeply into cognitive science and learning theories. As someone who just wants to do a good job teaching something to a colleague, you should be aware that the way you may initially want to teach something may not be the way your colleagues will best learn it. There are many, sometimes conflicting, theories about learning styles. Whatever the differences may be, there seems to be general agreement that using different teaching methods is important for helping learners be successful.

The following is a short list of teaching methods and models. It’s not meant to be a formal education on teaching methods, but rather to spark your creativity:

  • Lecture: There are learners who benefit most from a more traditional style like lecturing. This involves speaking to the learner(s) about the topic while they possibly take notes to reference later. Learners can then ask clarifying questions at the end of the lecture or at some point afterwards.
  • Self-study: Learners who benefit more from watching videos and reading any materials that are provided to them are likely to absorb the information better while engaging with it on their own. It allows them the time and space to understand the topic at their own speed.
  • Hands-on: Many people prefer to learn by doing. Having a learner interaction with the concept through activities may prove useful to them and make it easier for them to learn the material.
  • Assignment-based: This method helps people who learn by doing but prefer to do it on their own or in a small group. The method involves teaching the subject to the learner(s) before either giving them an assignment that requires them to apply the concepts or asking them  to teach the subject back to you. It demonstrates that they were able to properly understand what was taught to them and how it is applied.
  • Experiential Learning: In this model, learning is a cycle that starts with hands-on learning; followed by reflection and thinking about the experience; which leads to experimenting with what was learned.This style is particularly well-suited to Agilists for whom experimentation, reflection and adaptation are second nature.

Instruction should be designed around learning outcomes

As agilists, we feel strongly that the work we do should be based on the outcomes we seek to create. In teaching, we start by determining what learning outcomes the learners need to achieve. Once that’s established, we design the content of the instruction in a way that achieves each of those goals.

Assessment of the impact of the lesson helps the learner and the teacher

Frequent feedback is a key tenet of Scrum. It helps the Scrum Team either continue on their current course, or adapt and change their approach. The same concepts hold true for teaching. When a learner is provided the results of an assessment, they can uncover whether they have achieved their learning goals, or if they need to consider another approach to learning.

Just as Scrum includes the Sprint Retrospective to assess whether the team used methods that were effective in achieving the Sprint Goal, a teacher should spend time reflecting on whether their methods were effective in helping the learners achieve their learning objectives.

Skills and Traits of a Teacher

Teachers come from varying levels of experience and different backgrounds. However, great teachers often have the following qualities:

  • Humility: Someone who is teaching should have a humble attitude in order to make themselves more approachable and provide a safe environment for learning. 
  • Subject Matter Knowledge: Teachers must have confidence in the subject they’re teaching. Being able to answer questions without preparation will help teach as well as give learners confidence in the knowledge they are receiving.
  • Patience: Teachers should have patience with their learners. Creating an environment that is not welcoming to those who may need more help will discourage them from learning.
  • Empathy: Being understanding of those who are learning is an important quality when teaching. A teacher should be able to put themselves in the position of the learner in order to assess whether or not they are teaching effectively.
  • Adaptability: When teaching, one should be able to change their teaching style when needed. If a concept they are teaching is understood faster than expected, move on to the next portion. If the concept is not well understood, shift to another style of teaching to accommodate the learners or material.

When Can Teaching Be Helpful for a Scrum Team?

 There are many ways that teaching plays a role in helping a Scrum Team grow, improve and have a shared understanding. Examples may include:

  • A Scrum Master can teach a Scrum Team about complexity theory and its connection to the fundamentals of the Scrum framework
  • A Scrum Master can teach a new Product Owner how to create and order a Product Backlog based on factors such as priority, risk, value and dependencies
  • A Developer teaches their team about concepts they learned in their UX course that they think will be helpful for his team to consider when building the product
  • A Product Owner teaches other Product Owners in a community of practice on how to use a lean canvas when pursuing new initiatives
  • A Product Owner teaches customers and stakeholders about the product


Other Teaching Resources