The first issue arises with that question - how do you define and measure impact? I hope that the rest of this post clears that one up.
After announcing the inclusion of 20% Time into the timetable, children were buzzing with ideas and interests. Parents were discussing it on the playground, children were gathering resources or researching relevant material, and my Head Teacher was a star in trusting me to try it out.
Each child spent a three minute 'meeting' with me to discuss and document their ideas and, most importantly, what they would be learning and achieving with their project. They had to be critical too - what did they need to improve upon? What did they genuinely want to learn? Each child left the meeting with a clear idea on their learning and a rough idea of what the success criteria would look like. The best part? Each and every child had an intrinsic desire to learn. Promise.
As the 20& Time sessions began flowing over the next couple of weeks, the atmosphere was remarkable. I spent a good twenty minutes (and I'll happily admit this!) just sitting and observing the children. Did they even need me anymore?!
In reality, 20% Time sessions were the busiest sessions that I'd be involved with, and they continue to be so. Effectively monitoring 24 different projects to ensure definite, powerful learning isn't a laid back task. But it's lovely. Advice and feedback is fairly easy though - each child has 23 contacts for that.
Projects began to take shape as weeks went by and children rarely lost focus. If they did, they soon got it back by looking at what they set out to learn and improve upon. A proportion of the learning that took place was also serendipitous (a type of learning that I'm beginning to fall in love with) - learning things that they hadn't necessarily set out to learn along the way.
We had recipe books, websites, help guides, movie reviews, game reviews, storybooks, manuals, artwork and more, with a plethora of topics. Topics that genuinely interested the child.
The pessimistic amongst you (that's unfair - I guess 'realistic' is the word I should be using) will want to know about 'that one child'. You know - the sort of child who seizes an opportunity like this to waste time on a computer and produce not a lot. All it took to remove this was careful monitoring and more structured feedback from me. And in terms of children with SEN? They just got on, seeking support as and when it was required from whoever they felt was right for the job. In fact, they really shined.
The gritty bit for data lovers: Progress made by children has been above what I would have expected. 20% Time is not solely the credit-taker for that, but it has definitely had an impact - you only have to look at the attitudes of the class. Children work hard on their other work to ensure 20% Time and their standards are higher - if their own projects are so good, they must be capable of doing that with other work too, right?
One girl really summed it up for me. This quote isn't modified at all. Promise number two.
"Yeah I'm actually pretty proud of this. It's the sort of thing I joked to my mum about doing when I'm older. I've learnt how to make instructions interesting to read and I know how difficult it is to make something that stands out to a reader. It'd probably have been easier with someone helping me though."
20% Time has developed a class of intrinsically motivated learners who strive to make themselves proud without any fear whatsoever of making mistakes. They are flexible, find solutions to problems and they offer realistic advice to their peers - appreciating the importance of interdependence within society. Their projects are memorable and they are unique - bursting with creativity. 20% Time will be a part of my timetable until the day I leave the teaching profession.
INTERESTED? If you're interested in the concept of 20% Time and would like to know more, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.