Engage your students and help them apply classroom lessons and concepts to real-world scenarios through authentic learning.

authentic learningTeachers continue to shift focus from traditional methods of presenting curriculum to more inquiry-based approaches that will help students grasp concepts learned in class by using them to solve global issues. Similar teaching methods including experiential and project-based learning are also based in the belief that students who learn concepts through tactile approaches will not only learn, but be able to apply the lessons they are taught. But how do you create authentic learning experiences and how do you know whether authentic learning is taking place?

As an authentic learning innovator in education, Steve Revington — a teaching veteran and top 50 finalist for the Varkey Foundation‘s Global Teacher Prize — believes that the most effective way for students to maximize their potential in the classroom is to have them solve problems that are occurring out in the world.

“…authentic learning provides a learner with support to achieve a tangible, useful product worth sharing with their community and their world. Our greatest shortcoming in education these past few years has been to ignore the brain research that is richly available to us that affirms that implementing multi-sensory activities, pursuing meaningful tasks, exploring a variety of skills with real-world applications is optimal learning and that it needs to be practiced regularly.”

To utilize authentic learning, teachers should encourage students to use all of their senses to provide solutions to a real problem, through which the community will benefit. According to Revington, to be considered authentic learning, teachers must ensure the following criteria are met:
*students provide a product to the community
*students create marketing to the community target
*students and instructors create a design-back plan (a map for success)
*the project establishes well-defined criteria
*role-playing through establishing professional roles withing each group
*integrated subjects
*blended scheduling
*personalized experiences
*master skill support
*professional development
*any extension activities to support lessons

The Advantages and Disadvantages

authentic learningThough authentic learning tactics are effective, there can be some obstacles to incorporating this method of teaching. Planning effective authentic learning experiences takes time, which can be a barrier for many teachers. In addition, students who are used to direct instruction are likely to struggle initially when asked to take control of their own learning and apply concepts instead of simply memorizing them. Teachers should start with smaller projects to get students used to the process before moving to a large-scale project.

While the disadvantages of authentic learning comprise a short list, the advantages of this approach are numerous. As many student-centered efforts in learning promote critical thinking, this educational method also promotes higher cognitive functioning, reasoning, and altruism.

Authentic Learning Activities

1. Cropping Up in the Classroom

In this video, social studies teacher Andrew King prepares 11th-grade students to navigate agricultural business in the late 19th century. This activity helps students understand history lessons, but also develop economics skills.

2. Classroom Coding

Teaching children to code creates many opportunities for lessons in authentic learning. Provide a platform for students to learn how to create the game Flappy Birds through coding and move forward with additional lessons for developing solutions to problems that affect people around the globe, such as fighting cyber attacks.

3. Magnetic Lessons

Students will learn about the attraction and repellent abilities of magnets through studying texts and listening to lectures. They will then apply principles learned by exploring how these properties can be used in daily experiences.

4. No Drought About It

One of the most pressing issues worldwide is water management, especially as drought conditions increasingly plague areas around the globe. Using lessons in Earth science and engineering, ask students to choose a drought-affected area in the world and, considering the climate and other resources, create tools that will solve this issue.

5. Take Time for a Genius Hour

Allow students to determine their own way to apply concepts learned in class to a project that aligns with their personal interests. By incorporating a genius hour, teachers can encourage students to provide a solution to an issue they’ve often thought about, but will also benefit the entire community.

When using authentic learning in the classroom, be sure to abide by all the principles of this teaching method. By using STEM to help communities, students will develop greater cognition and become better citizens.

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