Developing Leaders, Social-Emotional Skills and Voice in Self-Organizing Teams


The complexity of a globalized world, accelerating technological advances, and rapid change also challenge educational systems around the world. At the same time around the world the call is to develop 21st century skills with a focus on career readiness, the ability for lifelong learning, and more recently also social-emotional skills (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009). To get there research and practice in education have encouraged to create more student-centered learning environments, such as project-based learning (Bell, 2010), where students can develop 21st century skills. Or schools implement social-emotional curricula that are often not embedded in the daily instruction. Even rarer are systematic approaches to develop student leadership skills, student voice and critical consciousness.

The focus often remains on the individual learner whereas in the real world tasks are often accomplished as a team. It is crucial for learners to not only improve their collaboration skills, but to also learn how to improve the team functioning and team learning. Furthermore, in workplaces the design and cultures of organizations trend towards flatter, networked organizations with participative leadership approaches and expectations for members to be entrepreneurial. In such organizations all members have to be confident and skilled self-managers to take on leadership and make their voices heard, while being able to work with people from diverse backgrounds. As with the achievement gap or the social-emotional skills gap, responsible educational leaders have the responsibility to assure that underserved students do not have another disadvantage to overcome, but on the contrary become ready for the careers of the future and develop their leadership skills and voice.

This presentation is about a learning process called eduScrum. It was developed in the Netherlands. It combines collaboration and work methods from software teams in the Silicon Valley with a pedagogical approach focused on personal, leadership and team development.

The structural key elements of the eduScrum method consist of grouping students in self-organizing teams of 4-5, training them in a method to develop and track their tasks, and creating a basic macro structure for each lesson, within which students have a very large degree of autonomy. Each lesson starts with a brief planning meeting, during which the teams decide what they want to work on. Then they work. Towards the end of the lesson there is a demonstration meeting, where the teams present to the whole class what they have achieved. To finish the meeting there is a retrospective meeting, where the individuals rate their team’s performance and teams reflect on how they function and opportunities to improve. Also each individual reflects on their strength and how they could further improve their leadership skills. Willy Wijnands the developer of eduScrum says: “eduScrum puts students in the driver seat and gives them wings”.

This is a method that offers teacher a very solid structure within which they can facilitate the personal development of students. They can develop the leadership and collaboration skills necessary for the future. I believe that eduScrum would not only give underserved students in California wings, but voice.


Christian A. Wandeler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor in Research Methods and Statistics
California State University, Fresno
Kremen School of Education & Human Development



Ananiadou, K. & M. Claro (2009). 21st Century Skills and Competences for New Millennium Learners in OECD Countries. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 41, OECD Publishing


Bell, S. (2010). Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. The Clearing House83(2), 39-43.