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
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).