Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Process and Content: Reflections on Genius Hour

Many years ago my brother and I chose to drive 6 hours to witness the PhD defense of my brother-in-law. Our reason for the trip was primarily to show family support and encouragement, not because we expected to necessarily understand or gain anything from the content of the actual presentation.  During the intensive review of his multi-year work, one of the things that amazed me most was the focus on what hadn’t quite worked out, what was unexpected, and what he should do differently as he continued to expand his research. I learned that the process mattered as much as the content.

I was asked to come to grade seven last week to attend “Genius Hour” presentations. Mr. Hosmar had opened up class time for quite a number of weeks that allowed students to commit themselves to investigate something of their own choosing. There were few requirements, but a key objective that was supported was to encourage reflection about the process of doing the work they set out to do. Students planned a wedding, designed shoes, created stop-motion animation, made a butterfly house, and attempted to improve basketball shots with technique. What did it make them learn, perhaps even about themselves, by doing the work?  What do they now want to do? It was a pleasure to have conversations with them after their presentations and have a window in on their own learning. What they shared was less about the content of their learning, and more descriptions of how they had self-guided themselves through obstacles and challenges.

The nature and purpose of learning continues to change as we move through time.  We do not “serve” content in neat ready-made packages to students, we aspire to develop patterns of exploration, reflection, and self-actualization – doing the important work of risking something new to grow in wisdom and understanding about God’s amazing world.  May that learning never end.  SJ

No comments:

Post a Comment