What is Authentic Learning?
Authentic learning involves students undertaking complex, sustained real-world tasks.
The aim of authentic learning is to have students develop professional and disciplinary expertise and confidence.
Authentic learning and assessment can take forms such as:
- investigating real-life scenarios
- applying theories to real-world problems
- engaging in complex & ill-defined problem definition, analysis and problem solving in real-world contexts
- producing materials/performances/products relevant to industry/professional contexts
- engaging in social enterprise &entrepreneurship
- considering social, cultural, economic and environmental factors in personal, local, national & global real-world contexts
Authentic contexts, problems and projects may:
- be fuzzy, ill-defined and unpredictable. Students will need support to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. This support may involve designing low stakes, developmental tasks that enable students to practice, take intellectual/creative risks and to receive formative feedback.
- require students to pose their own real-world research questions, choose their methodological approach, define their own tasks and sub-tasks and manage their project.Students will need to be supported to develop skills and capabilities to succeed in these tasks.
- involve collaboration and working in teams. Students will need to be supported to develop skills and capabilities in collaboration and management of teams, including inter-personal skills, cultural capabilities & awareness, time management and project management.
Examples of Practice
Authentic learning involves tasks & assignments undertaken in actual or simulated environments, such as:
- Producing a professional report/brief/policy
- Conducting a needs analysis/audit
- Interviewing a client
- Writing a letter of advice to a client
- Working with a client/stakeholder group
- Performing in professional environments
- Producing an artefact that mimics a professional product
- Engaging in complex project that involves field work/lab work
- Developing social enterprise & entrepreneurship projects
- Developing a professional learning network via social media
- Developing a professional online presence & personal social media strategy
- Undertaking designated WIL/employability activities
- Undertaking industry/community projects/service learning/practicum/work placement/internship
- Engaging in hackathons
- Undertaking industry networking
- Engaging in capstone experiences
- Undertaking career development activities
- Developing a portfolio reporting on graduate attributes
- Engaging in co-curricular activities
What digital tools can be leveraged?
Digital tools to support authentic learning include:
- Tools used in professional contexts/settings (communication tools, social media, production & presentation tools, specific professional/disciplinary software applications, data analysis applications, project management applications)
- Simulated/virtual environments
Course Design Standards
We foster active, authentic and collaborative approaches to learning to build our students’ professional capability and confidence and cultivate their ability to learn effectively in work contexts.
Why is Authentic Learning Important?
Authentic learning has a number of benefits for learning:
- Authentic learning involves designing learning to support students engaging with the ideas and challenges that they will encounter in their current and future life and work.
- Authentic learning is motivating to students as they can see the relevance to their lives, professional goals and aspirations.
- As many authentic tasks are complex and open-ended, students have more freedom and agency to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial.
Authentic tasks can develop students’ skills, capabilities & attributes such as:
- Professional judgement, problem solving & decision making
- Written & oral communication
- Digital literacies, including social network literacy
- Project management & time management
- Self-regulation & critical reflection
- Collaboration & teamwork
- Cultural capability, effectiveness & awareness
- Innovation, creativity & entrepreneurship
- Social responsibility, including considering the social, cultural, economic & environmental impact of problems & decisions
Where could I learn more?
Here are some colleagues explaining the ways they involve students in authentic learning:
- Connecting students to First Peoples communities through collaborative music making
- Taking Flight: Active learning through online aviation business simulations
- Building employability through assessments in a comparative management course
- Enhancing laboratory classes through a Virtual Techniques Centre
- Understanding and implementing the balance between sustainability, ethics and community-based ecotourism
- Supporting science students to be problem solvers, not recipe followers
Here is some recommended reading:
- About authentic learning Herrington, J (n.d.)
- Authentic tasks in web-based environments Herrington, J & Oliver, R (2005)
- Elements of authentic learning as evaluation criteria (includes questions to guide curriculum design) Herrington, J (n.d.), based on Herrington, J., Reeves, T.C & Oliver, R. (2010). A guide to authentic e-learning. London and New York: Routledge
To start a conversation about applying authentic learning please contact your Group Learning and Teaching Consultant (Curriculum).