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Make Learning Real: Implementing Real Authentic Learning Experiences

Posted by on in Student Engagement
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An important need and big challenge is making curriculum relevant to students so that they “want” to do the work because the content makes sense to them, and has meaning through their usage beyond the classroom walls. The value of such experiences cements learning as students have a real-world reference to recall the content when needed.

For example, students are more likely to remember their work on a fund raising campaign that raised awareness about cancer while soliciting donations that are given to cancer research. Such an experience is more powerful and lasting than approaching the same curriculum in the traditional format: memorizing the functions and structures of different cells, practicing research skills as an isolated skill for English, and completing a list of math functions without a real-world context. In the case of the fighting cancer campaign, the students developed understanding and application of all of those skills and content areas, while having a positive impact on their community.

Such Authentic Learning Experiences (ALE) ignite student motivation and deepen their practice with curriculum and developing Global Success Skills for college and career readiness. This series will look at the 5 lenses for developing meaningful ALE lessons and units.


Start application of these ideas where it feels best. Just know that there may be a little discomfort, but that just means you are growing your practice.

Publish, Publish, Publish

A core practice of Authentic Learning Experiences is to publish students’ efforts. Regardless of which of the four lenses used to provide an authentic purpose for the learning, publishing students’ work to an audience beyond the classroom creates a sense of urgency. Students are more likely to listen and follow through on skills taught and coached by the teacher because of the wider audience who may review their work.

Many classes now have a virtual space, such as Schoology, Edmodo, Google Classroom, Weebly, or CourseSites. What these sites have in common is a private area to share work among the students and teachers, beyond the sight of others. Some do provide parents with a limited view of their student’s work. These spaces offer a means for student work to be published for feedback and revisions. But these spaces are not enough by themselves.

Maintain a public space where the “world” can view students’ work. Use the sharing features of Google Drive and related apps, blogs such as Blogger and WordPress, or Social Media like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google Communities, or other social media tool. By making publishing public, many students will likely step up their efforts as their work will be reviewed by strangers everywhere.

Making publications public is a foundation for deeper authentic learning experiences. Where publication has a generic or anonymous audience, the lenses—Raising Awareness, Entertain, Advocating, and Solving a Problem identifies a primary audience who have an invested interest in the topics that students tackle in an ALE lesson or unit.

How have or might you have students publish to an audience beyond the classroom walls?

Coming next: Raising Awareness

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John McCarthy, Ed.S.

Follow on Twitter: @JMcCarthyEdS

An education consultant with extensive teaching experience, John McCarthy supports instructional practices around Differentiation, Student Voice, Authentic Learning Experiences, Project-Based Learning, Instructional Technology, Writing, and Assessment.

His website, OpeningPaths.org, offers rich resources in many instructional areas, publications, and support areas.

He currently travels across the United States to work with schools and also coaches internationally. He teaches online graduate courses for Madonna University and online educator courses for Dell. See his LinkedIn profile for more details.

John responds to comments on the blog and via social media such as Twitter @JMcCarthyEdS.


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Guest Thursday, 27 October 2016