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.”
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