The Case for Authentic Learning
It was John Dewey who created the notion of “learning by doing.” His famous line was, “Education is not preparation for life: Education is life itself.” And years later it was Jerome Bruner who stated that it wasn’t enough to learn, say, history. The more successful approach would be to teach students to think like a historian. The ideas of these education philosophers, and others such as Johann Pestalozzi, are making something of reappearance in the call for more authentic learning experiences in an age of extensive testing. Authentic learning could be defined as learning that involves real-world tasks and problems. Testing, and the preparation for it, would be seen as decidedly un-authentic. Overemphasis on testing and test preparation was recently called “a perversion of what was intended” by outgoing Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott.
There is a real desire among many teachers to move away from rote learning. The flipped classroom, in which students receive direct instruction at times other than class time, reserves teachers’ time with students for more authentic activities, such as projects or simulations. Organizations such as Future Problem Solving Program International and National History Day provide formats and competitions for students to hone their skills and create authentic products.
To find out more about authentic learning, read this white paper by Marilyn Lombardi, which lays out a thorough overview of authentic learning for the 21st century. Also, you can check out this on-demand webinar on authentic learning with noted education consultant Dayna Laur who will guide you through the basics of authentic learning with lots of examples for all levels of students.
Teachers: What’s your take on authentic learning? Are you incorporating opportunities for your students to experience authentic learning in your classroom? If so, we want to hear about it in the comment section!
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