Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Genius Hour Reflected

Genius? Hardly…after spending all summer working on in-depth research on rethinking math instruction, I still feel I have more questions than answers.  While my genius project is technically not finished, since I haven’t implemented it, I feel a bit premature to reflect on the process.  In trying to consider it “complete,” I actually feel a bit unsatisfied by the process because I haven’t been able to put it into motion.  I feel a bit like I am in limbo, but September will be here before we know it, and then I can truly see then if my work has been worth it.

Reflecting on my personal experience going through this genius hour process is a mixed bag.  Overall, I felt the process was very natural and what I would typically do in researching a major change in my classroom, yet I felt a bit constrained by the formality of it as an “assignment.”  For myself, I would not formalize some of my early work in favor of spending more time on the real elements.  But, that is the essential classroom problem-create a real scenario, yet we still have to track progress and see evidence of learning.  I think for my students, this is a key killer of a project—too much perceived “busy” work and not enough “real” work.  So the teacher is stuck-we need checks along the way to monitor and provide feedback, yet those same elements might be holding students back.  It feels like a tight rope-you want to turn kids loose and let them be completely free, yet they are still kids, so they need safety nets and guidance.  Getting student buy in and being judicious and careful about checkpoints is something I will be very mindful of in the future.

As far as my own learning and the project itself-I am hopeful.  I have always wanted to incorporate deeper learning problems in my geometry course, but I didn’t move forward on it because I couldn’t find the “right” problems.  In working on this project, I forced myself to let go of the idea of a “perfect” problem and sought out good problems.  I realized I was hoping for some magical single problem to encompass an entire unit’s objectives; I wanted this overarching problem to provide a frame.  I still think that might be possible for some areas, but I need to start working with deeper problems and let the evolution take me to the bigger scenario, not wait for the bigger scenario to even start.  Start small, go fast.  I have been letting my desire for perfection stop my progress.

I still have a lot of loose ends as to the actual implementation-I need to pick a definite path as I begin to design my lessons more in depth this fall.  This is just part of the process for me—build something even with the gray areas and run with it, tweaking as I go.  I feel pretty good about my initial ideas for implementing the ELO cover sheet, but in working with my department, other ideas have surfaced that I need to consider.  I also want to do a better break down and correlation of the ELOs to the mastery quizzes and guided notes.  I want a repeat, consistent message about learning targets and skills.  Some implementation may also be changed when I decide how I will deliver instruction-lecture, blended, or flipped.  Making one or two changes in a classroom design can have huge domino effect on other elements, so all factors have to be considered.  Then, the best laid plans can be thrown amuck by the reality of kids and teaching-being flexible and resilient are teaching necessities, especially when implementing change.

Despite the drawback of implementation, summer is a great time to really throw yourself into something in-depth which is the heart of a genius project.  I do feel I have done that, and no matter what the final form is, I do believe the changes I will make are in the best interest of the learning of my students, and I think as I share my successes, failures, and questions with my department, my ideas will be stronger with their input and insights and my students' learning better.