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Genius Hour: Critical Inquiry and Differentiation

In the August English Leadership Quarterly, teacher Elaine Simos explores the Genius Hour. The following excerpts from her article answer three important questions:

This differentiated learning technique gets students reading in depthWhat is “the Genius Hour”?

In the Genius Hour model, instructors allocate a portion of class time—often the 20 percent that gives the approach an alternate name (20% Time)—for student exploration of a self-selected and/or given topic. Students turn to an array of sources in the course of their explorations and consider the topic from a wide variety of angles before synthesizing all of their research into a central understanding. This culminates in a final product, project, or other such artifact, that is shared with the class and potentially the larger school community. …

What are the benefits?

Student interests, both existing and burgeoning, are brought to the forefront of the classroom when a differentiated model is implemented, allowing teachers to “use time flexibly, call upon a range of instructional strategies, and become partners with their students to see that both what is learned and the learning environment are shaped to the learner.” Accordingly, learning strategy implementation can be targeted to each individual’s needs and strengths. …

Why does it matter?

[T]he correlation between an increased focus on critical inquiry and its natural connection to differentiated instruction highlights the need for learners who are able not only to produce the “appropriate” artifacts of learning, but also to independently design or direct their own learning in a manner which builds upon their unique strengths and areas for development…

The curricular concept underlying Genius Hour embodies an optimal learning relationship: students embracing their own power and responsibility in the learning process work in conjunction with educators who can facilitate and guide that learning to ever-greater heights.

For more, including Ms. Simos’s personal experiences with this approach, read her full article, Genius Hour: Critical Inquiry and Differentiation.