Genius Hour is Personalized Learning

I feel the importance of personalizing learning for students should be at the forefront of any discussion relating to education and Genius Hour does that. We want to find ways to engage students as learners and creators of inquiry driven content. Students want to feel connected to the learning that is happening in their classroom and the standardization of learning across North America does not do that.  Students in many classrooms around North America are motivated by letter grades and percentages and NOT LEARNING! Students in our classrooms are like adults in the real world.  If you do not engage them in their learning then they will not know how to learn and not want to learn. How else can you explain large chunks of the population dropping out from school?

Please check out this journal article published in Educational Leadership. “Special Report: Why Students Drop Out” by Amy Azzam. She states,

“Approximately ⅓ of all high school students in the United States fail to graduate. For Blacks and Hispanics this rate rises to 50 percent. Why are students dropping out in droves? No one knows better than the students themselves.”

The number one reason the students gave for why they were dropping out was they were bored with school! Yikes!! Inquiry driven models like Genius Hour put the focus on how to question, persevere, and recognize the joy of learning more about their passions. If we give students more opportunity (time) to be creative and connect with what they are learning, then I am sure legislatures around North America and the world will have to adjust their thinking and education policy to support Genius Hour.  Our understanding of school is shifting and we must embrace it and listen to what the world of learners is telling us.

“Connect me to my learning, so I can inspire others and myself.”

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It is not enough anymore to say we are creating a generation of life-long learners if we are not embracing a change in our philosophy in schools to a more personalized inquiry driven model that connects a student’s learning to the world.  Engage them and teach them how to learn and they will learn for a lifetime. They will be motivated to ask questions and find solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems (poverty, cancer, aids, civil wars, etc…). Dan Pink’s book “Drive” and Ted Talk has really pushed my thinking on individual motivation.

Simply put, Genius Hour is here to stay because it engages the learner to question and want to learn more.  It provides the time and framework for students to engage in their learning and be driven by a connection to their passion rather than the “carrots” traditional models of grading use to attempt to engage learners.  We know this doesn’t drive learning.   Teresa Amabile is quoted in “Drive”:

“External rewards and punishments – both carrots and sticks – can work nicely for algorithmic tasks. But they can be devastating for heuristic ones.”

Knowing this the only question we should have is how do we create opportunities for all learners at all levels of schooling to experience the magic of Genius Hour? Above is a built upon excerpt of my contribution to the Genius Hour Manifesto.

Hugh McDonald @hughtheteacher

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7 Responses to Genius Hour is Personalized Learning

  1. AJ Juliani says:

    Hugh, your comments are spot on. What I like so much about this post is how you call it “personal learning” instead of “individualized learning”. It should be personal, because students need to CARE about what they are learning. That for me is the key. Keep doing amazing work and sharing it with the world!

  2. jackknife74 says:

    Great article, Hugh. Students have to learn to enjoy learning. Learning doesn’t always have to included teacher mandated nonsense. Go and learn something that interests YOU. I was a cruddy student and hated learning until college where I was given much more freedom to choose what I wanted to learn. Spot on article!

  3. mmebunker says:

    Great job! I agree that Genius Hour is an excellent model for inquiry-based learning. The concept also quickly begins to trickle into everything we do with our students! There may some big ideas that we want them explore, but ultimately, if it’s not personally meaningful to them, they will not be engaged and they will not be learning. It saddens me that so many are still so focused on letter grades and percentages. Every year, I have students that are so hyper-focused on the grade on their report card that they do miss out on learning. I think in addition to everything you’ve mentioned here, we need to start seriously exploring assessment as a contribution to the problem.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kim Chapman says:

    Great post! This year I have been searching for ways to incorporate choice and personal decisions into the learning of my Grade 7 students. Genius Hour is such an exciting concept and I am looking so forward to learning more about it at the STA convention on Friday!

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  6. Amber says:

    Thank you for the information on personalized learning. I am currently working for the Oregon Public School District in Oregon, Wisconsin. The district is in the beginning stages of developing models for personalized learning. We have just finished creating a shared vision which is step 2 of the transformation process according to The Institute @ CESA #1.
    I am very excited, yet I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around how it will all work. After doing the research and working with colleagues in staff meetings, I am totally invested in the idea. I agree that current methods are not working and that there is a serious need for change. Maybe the reason that I am having a hard time envisioning the changes is simply because change is hard and unexpected.
    Despite this, I am completely willing to take risks and attempt strategies if it means moving in a direction that better meets the needs of our students. I do believe that personalized learning is the change that we need. What I like most about personalized learning is the amount of ownership that it places on the students. I find it very valuable for both the teacher and the student to have a learner profile that identifies how the student prefers to learn, what the student’s interests are, and where the child stands academically. I also like the idea of the teacher being a facilitator of authentic learning tasks, rather than having students be completely dependent upon the teacher in traditional ways.
    I like that you mention the need for students to be invested in their learning, for the sake of learning and not just for the grade that they are given. This will need to be a huge adjustment in our school. I have observed far too often students only being concerned about a grade, and not about the actual progress that they have made as a learner. In addition, I mentioned that personalized learning puts the teacher in more of a facilitator role so students are not so dependent on the teacher for every learning decision that they make. When I made the jump from kindergarten to fourth grade, I was so excited to be working with what I thought would be independent learners. However, I was surprised to find that most students constantly asked for my approval before of a task that they had completed before moving on. I was shocked to find that these students were not independent at all and they seemed to have no confidence in their own ability. I truly hope that when they are given more responsibility over their own learning that this changes so they can be confident and make more choices independently.

    I’m excited to begin this journey, and I look forward to creating change so my students truly are engaged and love learning because it is meaningful to them.

    Thank you.

  7. Reblogged this on Genius Hour and commented:

    I am reposting this to the newly formed collaborative site geniushour.ca. It outlines the important role Genius Hour has in creating personalized learning opportunities for students.

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