Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Authentic Learning: Making Space for Quality Instruction

Authentic learning is the way we actually learn in real life.  In order to create authentic learning opportunities, we must find ways to make space in our day to do the things that really matter.

Let me pose a scenario.  Your child is learning to read.  You have 3 goals for your child.  You want your child to comprehend what is read, increase his/her vocabulary, and improve his/her spelling.

Now, thinking of your own child, which of the following ways do you go about helping your child meet these goals?
  • A) Read to your child.  Have your child read to you.  Discuss what was read.  Find interesting books to read together.  Model reading.  
  • B) Give your child a list of words to memorize and then spell them at the end of the week.  Give your child a list of words to define.  Fill out a worksheet where the child matches definitions on the left with words on the right.  Do a crossword puzzle.  
In order to create the most effective learning environment, we must do it in the way people actually learn.  We clearly understand that increasing the amount of time reading will have a larger impact on vocabulary, spelling and comprehension than the alternative.  As we consider how to create authentic learning opportunities in the classroom, we have to make decisions of what we will give up to make this happen.  We can't do everything, so we must make space for authentic assessment, powerful feedback, quality instruction, and a focus on learning rather than teaching.

Making Space for Quality Instruction

  • Increase the amount and quality of feedback. Decrease the number of graded assignments.
  • Increase authentic learning experiences. Decrease worksheets and quizzes.
  • Increase student engagement through choice.  Decrease direct instruction (not eliminate).
  • Increase problem based learning.  Decrease memorization.
  • Increase connection to the learning target. Decrease busy work.
  • Increase creating tangible products. Decrease tasks that don't lead to a final product.
  • Increase focus on the student.  Decrease focus on the teacher.

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