Endorphins are opiate like molecules that are produced at neural synapses. They produce a euphoria and sedation, and increase the pain threshold. They are known as the happiness hormone.
We naturally increase endorphins when we achieve a personal goal and when we learn, which then often induces us to set more goals and learn more. This sets up a virtuous feedback loop, where certain behavior leads to feedback which encourages more of that behavior.
It’s not a great leap, then, to see how allowing students to set their own achievable learning goals could lead to increased happiness and increased learning. It doesn’t have to be all or none. Even letting students devote 20% of their school time to personally chosen projects can have an incredible effect.
And since most of us are in education because we’ve set our own goal as enabling kids to succeed, that students’ increased learning will increase our own happiness as well.
- How can we give students the ability to choose their own learning goals and activities when we already have too much to cover?
- How do I get started?
- What if the students come up with really bad projects?
- I already work really hard, I just don’t have more time to manage all these student projects.
- What if my school won’t let me, or parents object?
These are what are called “obstacles”. They exist so that we can continue with what is comfortable instead of taking risks and embarking on the unknown.
Not that they are trivial. But each has many possible solutions.
And educators such as A. J. Juilani, Kevin Brookhouser, Don Wettrick, and Sherry Crofut have tried it and couldn’t conceive of going back. They’ve found that 20Time, also known as Genius Hour, has re-energized their classrooms and their careers.
If you think this might be of interest to you, we are having a discussion on 20Time with Kevin Brookhouser on Edchat Interactive on Thursday, March 9. For more information and to register (free), click here.