According to Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview, an interesting white paper published by EDUCAUSE, we need to immerse our students in authentic learning activities because it is through this sort of learning that they will develop
- The judgment to distinguish reliable from unreliable information
- The patience to follow longer arguments
- The synthetic ability to recognize relevant patterns in unfamiliar contexts
- The flexibility to work across disciplinary and cultural boundaries to generate innovative solutions (p.2)
While the article focuses on technology-based examples, it includes an interesting 10-point checklist that teachers can use to judge the authenticity of any learning component.
- Real-world relevance: Authentic activities match the real-world tasks of professionals in practice as nearly as possible. Learning rises to the level of authenticity when it asks students to work actively with abstract concepts, facts, and formulae inside a realistic—and highly social—context mimicking “the ordinary practices of the [disciplinary] culture.”
- Ill-defined problem: Challenges cannot be solved easily by the application of an existing algorithm; instead, authentic activities are relatively undefined and open to multiple interpretations, requiring students to identify for themselves the tasks and subtasks needed to complete the major task.
- Sustained investigation: Problems cannot be solved in a matter of minutes or even hours. Instead, authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time, requiring significant investment of time and intellectual resources.
- Multiple sources and perspectives: Learners are not given a list of resources. Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, using a variety of resources, and requires students to distinguish relevant from irrelevant information in the process.
- Collaboration: Success is not achievable by an individual learner working alone. Authentic activities make collaboration integral to the task, both within the course and in the real world.
- Reflection (metacognition): Authentic activities enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning, both individually and as a team or community.
- Interdisciplinary perspective: Relevance is not confined to a single domain or subject matter specialization. Instead, authentic activities have consequences that extend beyond a particular discipline, encouraging students to adopt diverse roles and think in interdisciplinary terms.
- Integrated assessment: Assessment is not merely summative in authentic activities but is woven seamlessly into the major task in a manner that reflects real-world evaluation processes.
- Polished products: Conclusions are not merely exercises or substeps in preparation for something else. Authentic activities culminate in the creation of a whole product, valuable in its own right.
- Multiple interpretations and outcomes: Rather than yielding a single correct answer obtained by the application of rules and procedures, authentic activities allow for diverse interpretations and competing solutions. (pp. 3 – 4)
Do any of those 10 checkpoints stand out to you with respect to an assignment that has worked well in your class? Please share a brief description of that activity—what you do and how it works? Let’s start an authentic Lincoln learning list!