I came across this site today, which describes the concept of the Genius Hour. Based on a practice in place at in the corporate environment at Google, where employees get to spend 20% of their time working on personal creative projects detached from their regular work, this site gives examples of and how this idea can be applied in the K-12 classroom. Teachers allow a set amount of time per week for students to research and work on whatever they please. By all accounts, in the classroom, as in the corporate environment, creativity and worker/learner autonomy flourish, and motivation and engagement rise accordingly.
In the Classroom
It got me thinking about how this concept could be put into practice in the environment within which I work: an intensive pre-sessional adult EAP program. The program includes 30 hours a week of classroom instruction, so there’s certainly room to implement a project such as this one.
Students could be encouraged to read fiction or non-fiction for pleasure, do creative writing, start reading for their future program of study, work on their resume, build a website on a topic in their discipline, do some self-led pronunciation work in the lab; the possibilities are endless. And having students present back to the rest of the class about what they’ve been working on and their accomplishments has its own obvious benefits, as it fits right into the curriculum’s focus on presentation skills.
I think I’ll start researching whether this has been used with adult learners. I’d love to read some case studies or possible ideas and resources.
I oversee staff PD at my institution, and while it usually takes the form of observations and follow up or formal PD workshops on relevant topics, it’s interesting to think about how a paid Genius Hour per week (or perhaps one full afternoon or day per session–whatever) for instructors to pursue something professionally interesting to them could bear interesting fruit. Complicating this issue is the fact that like many institutions in Canada, our EAP instructors are not on salary, but are contractors paid by the hour, so giving something like this a try would involve quite a leap of faith on the part of the institution. But if past case studies can be taken as examples, it could lead to very positive results.
Food for thought!