Saturday, November 6, 2010

More on Authentic Learning

I am on a journey to find outstanding resources for my classroom. I have taken the road labeled authentic learning and I am in the process of finding an accurate, comprehensive definition so that I may use this pedagogical style in me classroom.
Three "big ideas" in authentic learning are:

A learner-centered class: Students are allowed to ask questions. Student knowledge, skills and beliefs are referenced and at times used to construct the lesson.
Students are active learners: students actively participate rather than get lectured. They write, discuss, analyze and take responsibility for their own learning.

An authentic task: The activities have real-world quality to them. The students can relate the ideas of the task to their real lives outside the classroom. Role-playing exercises, problem-based activities, case studies, and participation in virtual communities are examples of tasks that get the learner closer to authentic.

Students learn across curriculum and are required to use a broad base of knowledge and skills. Immersion in authentic learning activities cultivates the kinds of “portable skills” that

newcomers to any discipline have the most difficulty acquiring on their own:

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


A brief synopsis of a lesson: A teacher has been approached by Zoo Atlanta requesting the students’ assistance in a local advertising campaign. The first goal of this campaign is to educate the community about Giant Pandas and their struggle to continue to exist as a species. Secondly, the zoo hopes to increase park visitation from the Athens area by publicizing their Georgia Panda Project and creating interest that will draw people to the zoo.

In a three step process of completing this task, students were highly engaged by the idea, talked to actual panda handlers, took their own route to research, incorporated math, and got some writing in.

You may be thinking well, duh, of course this is effective, all those great skills, it is all-encompassing, and students are engaged (or you may not be thinking that at all). However, I think the reality of implementing this method with success is more of a challenge than it seems, when faced with standardized tests and district requirements. The key may be in the accuracy of assessment. Which means for the teacher, guiding, scaffolding, focussing children in the right direction will take a lot of forethought, planning and effort along the way. Authentic learning is not just letting your students go fill in data worksheets on their own time with their own choice of book. That may be one part, but it is certainly not the big picture thinking that authentic learning requires.

Here are tips for the teachers:

You must think like a coach.

Bring earplugs

Ease your way into it

Get some help

You are learning, too

References retrieved November 6th, 2010 from:

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