In my first post on my school’s SML project of 400+ students, I mentioned four key elements of success: Teachers taking risks, students succeeding, students failing, and admin support. But there are two other hidden factors I don’t see emphasized enough about Genius Hour which are just as, if not more, important. These two hidden factors are an emphasis on research and accountability.

1) A focus on research

My team of Social Studies teachers have spent a LOT of time and effort sequencing out research skills and project-based learning. Our students leave Grade 8 as proficient gatherers and decoders of information and are able to organize themselves to complete large projects. And it’s not just us; the Science curriculum involves lots of inquiry and problem-based learning. The end result is that our students are given many opportunities to develop the resilience needed to stick with a huge project. When they have time to work on their SML, they are able to follow the routines we’ve already exposed them to.

2) Students are accountable

Even though the project is student-driven, that doesn’t mean students aren’t accountable. We are using a simple Google Spreadsheet “Exit Ticket”, which allows the teacher in the room to quickly see the quality of work produced each day. Students simply answer three questions at the end of each lesson: What did you accomplish, what’s your next goal, and what do you envision the final product / presentation looking like at this point?

And even though we don’t grade the final presentation / product AT ALL, there’s still a strong desire among students to put in hard work. With the project being emphasized across the school, students know that if they don’t focus in class their lack of effort and enthusiasm will stand out. Imagine being the kid who is sharing a 30 second long blurry basketball trick-shot montage that was obviously pulled together in the last hour. Then imagine that you’re standing next to the kid who made a working electric violin. Yes, embarrassment is a real consequence of a lack of effort. In that case, the trick-shot video kid would probably prefer the bad grade to the embarrassment.