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Personalizing Education with Genius Hour

Innovative methods of instruction and assessment are becoming more and more central to modern curriculum and instruction (C&I) design. One such innovation, "Genius Hour" (sometimes called "Passion Pursuit") is creativity-driven and personalized, incorporating numerous innovative teaching methods.

What Is Genius Hour?

Genius Hour enhances student learning by allowing them to explore their passions and creativity. It is a student-led and directed, inquiry- and project-based, personalized model of learning and education.

To prepare for Genius Hour, teachers set an allotted, regular period of time in which students can choose what they want to learn, how they want to learn the subject, and ways they will demonstrate what they learn. For the entire time, students determine and create their own model for learning instead of passively consuming teacher-led instruction.

While students explore and learn, teachers act as coaches and guides, setting the framework or structure for the genius hour. This structure commonly involves inquiry-based stages through which students progress. The following are the steps for the model:

  1. Students choose a topic they are passionate about.
  2. They then decide on a focused question regarding this topic.
  3. Once they establish their topic of interest and driving question, students conduct research using all types of available sources.
  4. Following research, students create a project through prototyping, revision, and final presentation, which shows what students have learned and created through any sharable medium.
  5. As the final step of the inquiry, students reflect on their project and what they learned, driving further inquiry and learning.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Genius Hour?

This kind of student-led learning has a wide range of benefits for both students and teachers. Genius hour:

  • encourages students to explore their passions and foster intrinsic motivation, engagement, and excitement about learning
  • helps students focus learning on content and subjects that are relevant to their lives, experiences, and cultural backgrounds
  • provides opportunities for students to engage in learning in ways they want to, through any kind of medium — (This is not simply differentiation. It is engendering an environment in which students differentiate their own learning, taking ownership of it.)
  • gives them freedom to pursue their passions and actively engages students in the inquiry-based, creative process
  • familiarizes students with the iterative practices at the root of modern creative endeavors like business development, technological innovation, science, and art

This model of inquiry-based learning also develops essential 21st century skills such as critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving. These and other life practices complement the digital literacy and technology skills students gain through research and presentation in multi-media formats.

Through the Genius Hour process, teachers learn about their students' interests, cultures, and learning styles, information that can help educators improve C&I design and personalize teaching practices outside of the model.

How Do Teachers Implement Genius Hour Effectively?

When introducing Genius Hour, teachers first help students learn the inquiry process. They also set the general timeline for ideation, research, and project creation, guiding students through brainstorming and topic selection and helping them focus ideas into tangible driving questions. This can include promoting collaboration among peers depending on each student's interests and preferences.

Throughout the process, teachers coach students as they research and help them source information through media platforms, interviews, community resources, and educational tools. Teachers can direct students to appropriate creative outlets and mediums for project creation and presentation like blog-writing, producing a YouTube video, organizing a community initiative, or designing a video game. This further ties in the creative interests and passions of students.

Lastly, teachers coach and support students as they revise and edit their creations through reflection and experimentation. In facilitating project presentation to a broad audience, teachers motivate students to share what they learn in compelling ways, engaging others in that learning.

How Does the Genius Hour Work the Remote Learning Environment?

Genius Hour can be particularly applicable to the remote learning or hybrid environment. During synchronous instruction periods, teachers set the framework, answer questions, and provide guidance. Passion-driven projects motivate students to engage and invest in their own learning during less structured and asynchronous instruction periods. Plus, virtual classroom and social media platforms facilitate student collaboration and presentation.

Teachers must implement Genius Hour effectively, promoting creativity while helping students achieve learning outcomes. Emporia State University's Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) — Curriculum Leadership PreK-12 online program emphasizes the development of these skills with courses that focus on incorporating education innovations into the classroom, whether in person or virtually. Through the study of innovative educational models like inquiry-based, student-led learning, effective C&I leaders will be instrumental in personalizing education with Genius Hour.

Learn more about Emporia State University's Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) – Curriculum Leadership PreK-12 online program.


Sources:

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: The Genius of Design

Edutopia: Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Education

Genius Hour: What Is Genius Hour?

New York State Education Department: Lawrence Public Schools: Instructors as "the Guide on the Ride": Implementing Genius Hour and Focusing on Student-Driven Learning

Scholastic: Genius Hour in the Classroom

Spark Creativity: Combining Genius Hour with Online Learning

We Are Teachers: What Is Genius Hour and How Can I Try It in My Classroom?


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