By Lauren Hurt-Ashwin
From kinder through high school, students give us 20,000 hours of their lives. It’s no surprise they eventually start asking, “Why are we learning this?”
That’s actually a valid question! Authenticity helps students find relevance in their learning. Learning becomes authentic when they apply knowledge in real-life contexts and situations, such as through connections to their community or careers.
Students are typically much more motivated to learn the necessary content, and work on quality solutions or products, when the audience is real or the work has a purpose. Learners are more motivated if it is not just for a grade. They often know how to creatively link discrete learning to solve problems in unique ways that adults or professionals immersed in the problems are not able to see.
The roadblock educators often run into is the connection between the standards for mastery and the authentic application of those standards. As a coach, I often hear, “I don’t have time to take that extra step of making it authentic.” I understand those pressures. But that extra step can actually be the one thing, that by doing, will make everything else easier. When students are engaged, attendance increases, behavior issues decrease, and the data begins to rise.
When designing for authentic learning, start early. Begin by selecting a cluster of standards students will master in your scope and sequence.
Then ask yourself these questions:
Resources for finding authentic connections:
Real examples include:
See your e2L Coach for more details on these units and many others!
Designing for authentic learning is a creative challenge, and the more you practice the better you get. Pro Tip: reach out to your peers and colleagues for ideas or connections; they will make your ideas even better!
When students see the purpose from the start of the unit, they stop asking “Why am I learning this?” and start asking, “How can I solve this problem?”
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