Genius Hour: Helping students to discover their passion
March 17, 2022
Wouldn’t it be great if students took charge of their education and showed enthusiasm about what they are learning? For educators, it almost seems like a distant dream, but that dream can become a reality with implementation of the inquiry-based learning model known as Genius Hour.
Simply put, Genius Hour is time set aside once per week during class for students to work independently on a topic of their choice. The purpose is to give students independence and teach them to be self-learners while researching a topic that genuinely interests and motivates them. With the proper planning and execution, teachers can incorporate this version of personalized learning sooner than they think without adding to their planning workloads.
It is simple to get started
To start, the teacher should set some time aside each week for Genius Hour. Teachers may want to start small and work the students up to a full hour. During this time, students work independently to find the answer to a question they have developed about their topic.
The teacher must set up a structured lesson plan so that the students have steps to follow. At a minimum, the student should:
- Choose a topic they are passionate about. This is a chance for them to learn about what they want, not something prescribed by the teacher or the curriculum.
- Formulate a focused question about the topic. If questions are too broad, researching it will yield too many results and create frustration for the students.
- Conduct research to find the answer to their question. Research can be internet-based, books, articles, interviews with their peers, or any other type agreed upon between teacher and student.
- Create a finished product in the form of a presentation. This could take the form of a PowerPoint, storyboard, written report, or another appropriate format.
- Reflect on the project, what they have learned, and what next steps they might take to further their learning. The reflection could be in a journal, diary, or online student-created blog.
During the process, the teacher should encourage problem solving when they encounter roadblocks. Additionally, while independence is part of the goal, teachers should monitor students throughout the process to guide and advise them during their research journey.
How does Genius Hour benefit teachers and students?
Teaching students that they can be independent self-learners empowers them to be confident in themselves and introduces vital life skills like autonomy outside of the classroom. Genius Hour allows the student to explore and encourages critical thinking and creativity. In addition, by collaborating with their peers, they are learning to work cooperatively with others and share their expertise, something they may be doing later in life.
Genius Hour is not just about students, it also benefits teachers by giving them a chance to observe their students in their learning journey. By doing so, teachers can get better insight into what learning styles and material formats best suit specific students.
Educators may also find this form of learning extremely rewarding. At the end of the assignment students will get their chance to shine through the presentations and final products created. Witnessing a new level of enthusiasm for learning, improved critical thinking, and discovering their unique talents can make a positive impact on students.
Possible roadblocks to avoid
As good as Genius Hour can be, there are some potential roadblocks. First, allowing students to work independently is terrific, but the time must be structured. Without a structure, the teacher runs the risk of the classroom getting out of control. There may be a period of adjustment for students not used to this style of learning, but with patience and persistence, the pay off can be worth the challenges faced in the beginning.
It is also important that the teacher align the components of the Genius Hour process to curricular standards and have tangible results. Genius Hour is not just free time for students to do what they want. It is a serious learning opportunity that should be treated as such. Additionally, if the teacher is observed by an administrator during Genius Hour, the teacher must be able to justify the lesson by showing how this format is aligned to the learning standards with positive outcomes.
Another roadblock is student ability. Some may like the feeling of independence, while others feel more comfortable in a structured environment. The teacher should be prepared with various levels of support that can guide students during their times of struggle.
Why is this important?
If done properly, Genius Hour is a productive way for students to become self-learners who explore their passions and themselves. It inspires a level of creativity, curiosity and capability not always found in traditional methods of teaching. While this method of learning is not standards based or data driven, the level of student growth seen can truly make it worthwhile.
LanSchool can help educators guide students through Genius Hour lessons with their award-winning classroom management software. Contact us to get started with a demo or free trial.