Primetime is the name our second grade team uses for the home learning assigned to our students every Thursday. Primetime is our application of the concept of 20% time used by companies like 3M, Hewlett-Packard, Google, and recently, Apple to foster innovation within their companies. The basic practice allots time and freedom for employees to pursue and develop new products or solve existing problems.
What Makes 20% Time Work?
Surprisingly it isn’t really about percentages of time—– it’s about three essential conditions that lead to intrinsic motivation and well-being. 20% time works because it fosters these three essential conditions:
- Competence—an increase in knowledge
- Relatedness to others
Over the past two plus decades, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan have been developing a theory of human motivation concerned with intrinsic motivation and well-being. This theory called Self-Determination Theory, or SDT, is a mature theory of human motivation with a rapidly expanding body of research spanning a broad range of social domains including work, relationships, parenting, virtual environments, sport, sustainability, health care, psychotherapy, and for our second graders’ purposes, education. (Deci & Ryan, 2012)
Every Thursday during Primetime, our students are required to determine something to learn about. This provides them with the condition of autonomy, the most important condition for intrinsic motivation. Students then spend time on that learning activity at home which allows them to increase their knowledge and develop competence. Finally, students have an opportunity to share their learning with their peers during a 15-20 minute sharing time on Fridays providing our students with the condition of relatedness to others.
What We’re Seeing
- Students who are planning their learning and sharing their intentions with peers and teachers before Primetime
- Students who are reading and following complex instructions in order to construct things
- Students who are designing & creating
- Students who are riffing off of peer interests
- Students who are choosing diverse learning pursuits
- Students who are beginning to develop pursuits like sewing, painting, or science experiments over time
- Students who are learning with their parents
- Parents who are interested in their child’s homework
- Students who direct learning resources around known interests to peers
- Students who make things expressly to share them with peers.
Setting It Up
First we shared a parent letter explaining the practice of Primetime and inviting parent engagement.
Through the Google Form & Spreadsheet, students were able to share their pursuits and read what their peers were learning about.
Third we allowed 15-20 minutes of class time for students to share on Fridays.
- Send a parent letter home explaining the practice and inviting parent engagement
- Rename and adjust the practice to fit within your context
- Join in–tap into the intrinsic motivation that can occur when you have autonomy, competence, and relatedness to others as conditions for your own learning
- Make students’ pursuits famous– post pictures of students with their artifacts somewhere that matters
Other schools have also been employing the conditions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom. Do you have any thoughts or stories about harnessing the power of these conditions for student learning?
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). Motivation, personality, and development within embedded social contexts: an overview of self-determination theory. In R. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation (p. 85). New York, NY: Oxford University Press USA.