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
  • PebblePad


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?