Authentic learning – What is it and why is it so important?

If we are not careful or more deliberate in our efforts to understand it, the concept of authentic learning could be in danger of becoming just another educational buzzword. Fully understanding authentic learning will be the first step to understanding how your students will directly benefit from this new style of teaching and learning.

Authentic learning is the application of relevant knowledge, thinking skills, and interpersonal skills to the solution of real problems. It involves finding and focusing on a problem, identifying relevant information, categorising and critically analysing that information, and synthesising and effectively communicating the results of an investigation or creative endeavour (Renzulli, Gentry & Reis, 2004).

When first introduced to the concept some years ago, I began to question its necessity. What do I have to change? What am I doing right? How will I know if I’m correct now? Where will I find the time? Who will help me? And so on. And so on. Ultimately, the question for me was: would it really matter if I kept doing what I was doing? The answer is yes.

Authentic learning is a part of what I call the New School Approach‘. The Old School Approach to teaching and learning consisted of schools forcing students to walk the metaphorical straight line rather than give them a choice in their learning. The New School Approach allows students to pursue talents and interests as they identify their passions through authentic learning and find new sources of motivation. To find more information about the New School Approach, visit this link.

Authentic learning becomes more than simply learner-centred instruction and instead can begin to focus on the relationships the students will have as they grow older. While authentic learning ultimately focuses on taking and processing data and information, there must be an instance of giving and disseminating information to others. Eventually one of the key implications of this type of learning is that students will start to realise their capacity to make a difference in the lives of others.

Authentic learning requires educators to constantly construct, evaluate, deconstruct, reconstruct and evaluate in a cycle of planning for teaching and learning. The end result is a fairer, personalised and more equitable style of learning for students. The concept of teachers tailoring the learning of students to their individual needs ultimately becomes a thoroughly moral practice. As educators, we must accept the morality of authentic teaching and learning for the benefit of students.

Simply put, to teach without authentic learning would ultimately be immoral.

– Nick Brierley (@mythsysizer)

Renzulli, J. S., Gentry, M., & Reis, S. M. (2004). A time and a place for authentic learning. Educational Leadership, 62(1), 73-77.

For another perspective on authentic learning, please see Steve Mouldey’s Authentic Challenges Blog: http://stevemouldey.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/authentic-challenges/. Steve Mouldey is a great supporter of the work we do. We can only aim to mirror some of that support. Thanks Steve.

About The Author

Primary Teacher
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Moderator #aussieED. Teacher. Innovator. Amateur Writer, Speaker and Podcaster. Doing what I can, when I can, the best I can.

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