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Authentic Learning: A way forward in educating our children for the future

Definition of Authentic: ´‘of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.’

Authentic Learning though is: ‘… real life learning. 

´It is a style of learning that encourages students to create a tangible, useful product to be shared with their world’

´Or a fancy new term for  ‘Real-World Project Based Learning’

Why Authentic Learning:

Authentic learning requires a paradigm shift in the true purpose and execution of learning;

  • ´from disconnected ideas and activities to real-world relevance.

Psychologists have described the immense difference between taking the time to learn about science and actually learning to be a scientist.
The meaning and relevance of isolated facts is minimal until a student can identify what those tools can do for them – Lombardi 2007
Further research has found that unfortunately most of what is “learned” in the school context is unapplied or inert knowledge with little value – Mims 2003

Researchers have cautioned that for too many years, the focus in education has been primarily on those skills that are relatively easy to obtain, as opposed to the fundamental skills of analysis and creativity – Lombardi 2008

It is by manipulating new knowledge in the solving of unfamiliar problems with increasing complexity, that knowing takes place and concepts are learned by using them.

  • … problems, questions or projects must capture the learners’ interest and draw them into the content domain.
  • As the students attempt to solve the problem, they come to know the meaning of the language and symbols used in specific professions.
  • Finding a solution to the problem must be seen as important by the learners for whom the learning environment is designed.
  • Educators must take great care when selecting and/or designing problems and should consult with experts in the field to ensure the problem is realistic and at an appropriate level for the specific learners.

A well designed, authentic learning environment provides a relevance and career preparedness not overly present in more traditional, dialetic forms of education most importantly because they employ industry standards and professional expectations in much of what they do – Windham 2007

Summary of the Key Characteristics:

  • Learning is centred on authentic tasks that are of interest to the learners.
  • Students are engaged in exploration and inquiry.
  • Learning, most often, is interdisciplinary.
  • Learning is closely connected to the world beyond the walls of the classroom.
  • Students become engaged in complex tasks and higher-order thinking skills, such as
    • analysing,
    • synthesizing,
    • designing,
    • manipulating and
    • evaluating information.
  • Students produce a product that SHOULD be shared with an audience outside the classroom.
  • Learning is centred on authentic tasks that are of interest to the learners. Students are engaged in exploration and inquiry.
  • Learning, most often, is interdisciplinary.
  • Learning is closely connected to the world beyond the walls of the classroom.

Design Thinking is very much a part of Authentic Learning

Learning is more student driven than with most other approaches
Students have opportunities for social discourse.
Students receive feedback (and assessment?) from external experts/clients/interested parties.

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