Have you ever met an adult who doesn’t really love what he or she does? They seems to go through the motions in their job and everyday life. Have you ever spoken with someone who constantly complain, showing no passion for anything in the world? I’m sure that, like me, you have met those people. I also see the making of these people in university: students who are consistently being ‘prepared’ for the next assessment. Students who find out, after graduation, that they don’t know what they are passionate about. These are the same students who are never allowed to learn what they want in university. Forced down a curriculum path that we believe is ‘best for them’, they discover there is very little choice in pace, subject matter and learning outcomes.
The idea for 20% time for students comes from Google’s own 20% policy. Employees are given twenty percent of their time to work and innovate on something else besides their current project. It’s been very succesful in business practice. With 20% time, we can solve a big problem by giving students a purpose for learning and possibilities to find their passions and interests. The idea is simple: students get time to create their own project and learning outcomes while still hitting the standards and competences for their level. In fact, these students often go ‘above and beyond’ their standards by reaching for a greater depth of knowledge than most curricula tends to do.
So what will be the benefits for education and learning?
Students and the future of our world are the reason we teach, I hope. I want this generation to have opportunities to explore, analyze and create projects that have unique meaning to each of them. Through 20% time, we give our students a voice in their own learning path. In that way we allow them to go into depth in subjects that we may skim over in our curriculum.
We sometimes have a tough but most of the time extremely rewarding job. Great teachers inspire and make a difference. Great classrooms have students inspiring each other and that is likely to happen giving 20% time. This is because students will learn everyone’s true interests and passions. It is the single best oppertunity to let students experience and understand that learning doesn’t start or end with schooling.
Parents want their children to be successful. Sometimes they equate that with an A/10 on an assessment. But what 20% time does is make success something tangible. It drives their hidden passions to the surface, and reinvigorates conversation about purpose in their lives. These kind of experiences last longer and have more common value in life.
Sometimes as administrators, we can get lost in the numbers (assessment scores, graduation rates, NSE results), but 20% time projects bring us back to why we got into education in the first place. You can see a certain conviction for their work that makes it very good.
As an administrator, it is important to lead through support. Let your students and teachers make you proud by supporting these types of inquiry-based experiences.
It is the passion and purpose of our students that counts. Most research has a hard time to show that, but 20% time will make a difference.