20% Time: Cultivating Creative Research in the Classroom

Posted: June 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Idea of 20% time allows students the freedom to research, design, and execute their own project in the classroom. Students have an opportunity to break away from the standardized learning model, planned regulated by the instructor and learn about something that appeals to their own interests. The concept, originally initiated by Google is actually beneficial not only the student, but also the educator and student body. The one aspect of the original Google concept that would not necessarily work in a K-12 classroom is Google never required the 20% time to be productive, if an employee wanted to shoot pool or sleep, it was accepted activity (Hayes, 2008). A K-12 learning environment would need a validating project to account for time spent in class. A 20% time project offers teachers insight into the unbiased interests of their students, while other students acquire ideas and points of interest from their peers. The idea is a great way to encourage creative thought when used with appropriate guidelines.

A similar variation is Genius Hour, where students are given several one hour sessions of independent learning at the end of which they are required to present their projects to the class. The idea of Genius hour is credited to Dan Pink author of Drive and to Passion Based Learning expert (ZVI, 2012).


ZVI, G. (2012, June 06). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.gallitzvi.com/2/post/2012/06/what-is-genius-hour.html

Hayes, E. (2008, May 12). Google’s 20 percent factor. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=4839327&page=1

  1. This is an interesting concept, but the key is that it must be directed towards a goal and not free time. Student learning time is valuable enough, particularly when Common Core subject matter content learning must be achieved. Many education texts discuss keeping students engaged 90-100% of the time – giving them 20% unstructured time may make it difficult to achieve other goals, therefore some structuring and direction, as you point out, would be required. I frankly see this as working for the higher achieving students; others, such as English Learners may not benefit from this approach. Still, it is an interesting concept.

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