March 18,  2020

Personalized Learning with Genius Hour

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education.


Differentiation is tailoring instruction to meet individual needs of content, process, products, or the learning environment. The use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction. I, and many of my colleagues, were challenged by the notion of personalized instruction, until we discovered Genius Hour. It is a teaching practice that has absolutely exploded in popularity over the last couple of years. It’s where the teacher sets aside a certain amount of time every week or every day—maybe one class period per week or one hour per day in an all-day classroom setting—for students to learn about whatever they are passionate about.

Genius Hour is a movement, modeled after Google’s 20% and written about by Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, that allows students to explore their passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. Now, this is a practice that can close the engagement gap!


3 Big Ideas


    1. Before you say that state accountability won’t allow the time for Genius Hour, consider that there is no research to support the skill drill that many turnaround schools employ daily for much longer than 20%. A regular diet of teacher-directed instruction, discrete skills paper worksheets and some computer-based programs often create disengaged learners who aren’t passionate about school, learning, and certainly aren’t likely to be the “life-long learner” mentioned in your mission statement and vision!
      See “Genius hour’: What Kids Can Learn from Failure” by Emanuella Grinberg. 


    2. Genius Hour is not a free for all in the classroom. Rather, by establishing procedures and processes from day one, students know what to expect. The role of the teacher becomes the guide on the side resource and prodder (when needed). Relationships become even more important in Genius Hour as students reveal what they really geek-out about!


    3.  Learn the basics of Genius Hour:



“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

– Thomas Edison


“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

– Steve Jobs

1 Question

If you could learn anything you wanted, what would it be?


About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.



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