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Cultivating Authentic Learning and Why It Matters

By Firdous Sonia Butoni |



“Why do I need to know this?” If you have asked this question during a class you were taking (either silently to yourself or boldly directed at your teacher), you surely are not alone. One of the implications of education is the disconnect between what is taught in class and what learners encounter in the real world. This is where Authentic Learning comes in. Authentic Learning entails connecting learning material that mirrors real-world complexities and ambiguities. In doing so, educators create relevant tasks that are of interest to learners in an attempt to prepare them for the real world.


Authentic Learning Characteristics

Authentic Learning embraces a Constructivist’s learning theory in which learning is an active process. What this means is that learners construct knowledge for themselves, not only through physical actions and hand-on experiences but also through reflective activities that engage the learner’s mind. It is also characterized by situated learning contexts in which the application of skills is demonstrated to learners, thereby echoing the ‘learning by doing approach’ that goes by the premise that learning is best done through experience.


“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. ” -Benjamin Franklin

Learning experiences that are characterized by Authentic Learning are part of a broad spectrum, including, but not limited to, real-life relevance, complex problems to solve, multiple sources and interdisciplinary perspectives, opportunities for reflection, collaborations through social connections, and articulations of learning. All of these result in an increase in student engagement and motivation. Let us dive into each one of these characteristics a little further.

  • Real-life relevance: Creating learning experiences that reflect real-life relevance equips learners with the knowledge they can apply beyond the classroom, allowing them to make informed career decisions.

  • Complex problems to solve: This includes providing students with tasks that promote higher-level thinking skills. By doing this, learners can analyze given tasks and synthesize information while applying their problem-solving skills. Educators ensure that the given problem is realistic and at an appropriate level for the specific learners. This may require them to consult experts in the relevant field.

  • Multiple sources and interdisciplinary perspectives: Authentic Learning should have ample resources available to learners. It is also crucial to integrate content from other disciplines, resulting in broadened learning outcomes.

  • Opportunities for reflection: Learners can form abstractions through reflection. They are also able to compare themselves to experts or peers.

  • Collaborations through social connections: Authentic Learning environments should support collaboration among peers where tasks are addressed to a group rather than individuals. Beyond this, learners should be given opportunities to provide feedback to their peers.

  • Articulations of learning: It is imperative that learners are provided multiple opportunities to articulate learned knowledge explicitly.


Why Authentic Learning Matters


By drawing on real-world issues, learners can make meaning out of their learning while staying motivated through the learning experience. They can also develop sharper problem-solving skills and gain the confidence to utilize these skills beyond the classroom. Other benefits include broadened learning outcomes and greater knowledge retention.

Additionally, learners immersed in Authentic Learning activities cultivate skills such as the judgment to distinguish reliable from unreliable information, follow longer arguments, and the flexibility to work across disciplines.


Key Takeaways


One of the main goals of education is to equip learners with the necessary skills to apply in the real world. Implementing Authentic Learning therefore allows for:

  • educators to design learning material that is meaningful and directly linked to real-world experiences.

  • learners to drive their own learning through application and collaboration.

  • learners to have multiple sources at their disposal to help them formulate meaning which they can reflect on and articulate.

AUTHOR

Firdous Sonia Butoni

Learning Designer at Construct