The epitome of enquiry-based learning: each of these experiences (20% project and Genius Hour) may differ slightly, but both involve student designing their own learning from the ground up. Learners choose the topic, the resources (including contacting experts where needed) and define how they are going to reach their own goals over a set period of time. At the end, they are usually expected to present their learning and reflect on the process.
Apparently this concept of setting working hours aside for 'passion projects' began with 3M and resulted in products such as Post-It notes. Google followed the model and has since gone from a simple search engine provider to the brand that gives us Google Apps, Google Cardboard and Gmail, to name but a few.
By allocating time in our lessons for students to follow their interests and forge their own learning pathway, we can harness the impact of this model in our classrooms and let students design their own learning experiences.
(This will be more challenging to facilitate in exam classes, but you don't have to go it alone! Teachers can team up to provide perhaps a percentage of class time in their subjects which then adds up to hours per week for students to work on these projects.)
STUDENT CHOICE AND VOICE
Following this concept, students have more or less complete freedom (according to the teacher's comfort level) to pursue learning in any domain. Time is allocated specifically for students to design their own learning experience across a lesson, a series of lessons (within a subject area) or every lesson (in school days) for a limited amount of time. There is no method that can surpass this approach in terms of students having complete agency over their learning.
This is a presentation I recently used as an invitation for 6th Grade students to create their own projects. Once they had some ideas, I was then able to add parameters according to how we could (or could not) address ELA standards.
- 20Time.org (includes suggestions and examples)
- 20 Time in Education (includes suggestions)
- Why 20% Time is Good for Schools (Edutopia)