Emerging Pedagogy: Genius Hour

Which emerging pedagogy appeals most to you, and might be most useful for your classroom and students? Why?

Genius Hour- Allowing a time for students to learn about something that interests them. Letting them become the expert in an area. Teachers are facilitators, helping guide students when necessary, but the student is driving the learning in a self-paced format. Students learn from a variety of sources (Genius Hour). Students have the freedom to design their own learning experiences within a designated time frame. “It allows students to explore their own curiosity through a self-manifested sense of purpose and study while within the support system of the classroom” (Heick).

This appeals to me because my school has been promoting inquiry and personalized learning. The idea of Genius hour seems to fit in nicely with both of those ideas. We also already have Passion Projects in the high school. When I grapple with these types of learning I often jump to the idea that they mean that students have to have the ability to research whatever interests them without any constraints. The more I read about them though, the more I realize that Genius Hour is used within a structure. The teacher can facilitate by giving a genre or broad topic and allow students choice within that space. It is, however, less formal and organized than typical teaching, as it is, “open-ended learning characterized by student self-direction, passion-based learning, inquiry, and autonomy” (Staff). That does not mean that it is a free for all without structure or focus. Students are researching based on a driving question, and must have some sort of end result that they share.

One reading that really helped me to fully understand this idea was Teachthought’s “10 Characteristics and 10 Non-Characteristics of Genius Hour”. They give the following characteristics:

Characteristics of Genius Hour

Genius hour is…

  1. Student-centered
  2. Messy
  3. Emphasizes inquiry and research
  4. Authentic
  5. New challenges (i.e., it creates new problems to solve in your classroom)
  6. Inherently personalized
  7. Inherently creative
  8. Purpose-driven
  9. Maker-friendly
  10. Often collaborative and social

Non-Characteristics of Genius Hour

Genius hour is not…

  1. Standards-based
  2. Data-driven
  3. “Free time” for students
  4. Teacher-centered
  5. Without any rules or expectations
  6. Less rigorous (compared to other approaches to learning)
  7. Structure-free
  8. Requires whiz-bang technology
  9. Unfit for schools and other formal learning environments
  10. Requires less planning and less teacher ‘effort'” (Staff).

Assessment of Genius Hour products can sometimes be tricky, but I liked Nichole Carter’s idea in her blog post “Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Learning”, where she had her students create Ted talks to teach their peers about their topic. According to Teachthought the final product is some sort of making, where that be acting, doing, publishing, or designing, but the most important aspect of the process is the creativity. Therefor, I think it would benefit students to write reflections afterward looking into further questions they may now have after finishing and strengths and weaknesses of their process and final product.

Further Questions:

  1. Differentiated vs. Personalized Learning
  2. Can personalized learning be a small group?

Carter, N. (2014, August 04). Genius Hour and the 6 Essentials of Personalized Education. Retrieved May 31, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/genius-hour-essentials-personalized-education-nichole-carter

Heick, T. (2016, May 12). 6 Principles Of Genius Hour In The Classroom. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/6-principles-of-genius-hour-in-the-classroom/

Staff, T. (2016, May 12). What Is Genius Hour? -. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/what-is-genius-hour/

What is Genius Hour? (2017). Retrieved May 31, 2017, from http://www.geniushour.com/what-is-genius-hour/


Photo credits: CREATE- gfpeck Flickr, Question Mark- pexels


5 thoughts on “Emerging Pedagogy: Genius Hour”

  1. Pepper,

    The idea of Genius hour appealed to me as well. I really liked the 10 characteristics and non-characteristics that you shared. Genius hour is a lot of work for both the teacher and the students. I think that it can look messy at times, but it is definitely not free time like you pointed out. I would love to see this in action!

  2. Hi Pepper,

    I was also drawn to the idea of genius hour. I understand that it is not easy to “measure,” and will therefore be difficult to grade, but I think it is important that educators (and those who make decisions about schools) realize that learning does always fit neatly into a little box.

    I really like the idea of asking students to create a TED talk in which they teach their peers about something, and I REALLY like the idea of asking students to develop a research question. That is a skill that will serve them well as they go into college. I ask students in my writing classes to develop research questions that will turn into semester long projects. I suppose it is a bit like a college-level version of genius hour in that I give them an umbrella topic and a set of assignments, but they must pick their own focus (from under that topic), develop a research question, and use that topic/question to inform how they do the assignments. I think in the future I will try to build more options for creativity into the process.

    How do you use genius hour in your classes?

    1. So far, I haven’t, as I worked in the middle school. However, the high school has done Passion Projects. I know that some teachers have done it in their class, but other students have done one for Discovery Day and/or for some sort of course credit. I would need to do some research into what they do up there.

  3. Pepper

    Thank you for introducing Genius Hour to me. I like the characteristics vs non-characteristics you shared it says a lot about the program. I think Genius Hour would be a great addition to any classroom, I’m wondering how my district would feel about incorporating a Genius Hour into my classes as they have been very strict about watching our pacing with current adopted curriculum.

  4. Good blog. You hit on the two of the three things I really like about genius hour; the emphasis on curiosity and inquiry, and the personal aspect of learning, both personal interest and personal control. The third thing I like is that genius hour can fit almost any curriculum and project based learning. Good work.

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