Thursday, 15 April 2021

Open Colleges - Authentic Learning


10 Ways Authentic Learning Is Disrupting Education

Learning Strategies
Authentic learning is a term used to describe instructional strategies that are designed to connect the subjects students are taught in school and university to the real world.

Authentic learning experiences help students understand the relevance of what they’re learning and how they can apply their skills in the professional world. Rather than discussing hypothetical situations or memorizing information, students are given the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to practical use in the development of solutions or products that will be of immediate benefit to their communities and the world at large.

Although authentic learning has similarities with project-based and service-based learning, it’s unique in that students aren’t merely doing role play or running through a simulation of what happens in the workplace. In order for a learning experience to be truly authentic, students must do work that is relevant to their lives while also having an impact on or application in the real world.

According to the 2018 NMC Horizon Report, a growing number of learning institutions are now looking to provide students with more authentic learning experiences by partnering up with local organisations. This includes job-shadowing initiatives, study abroad programs, and virtual internships or on-site apprenticeships.

Want to know more about how authentic learning is disrupting education? Here are ten ways this approach to teaching and learning can and already is benefitting students.

1. It prepares learners for the real world

The most important benefit of authentic learning is that it prepares students for the real world more effectively than traditional classroom-based learning. With authentic learning, student activities match the real-world tasks of professionals in practice as closely as possible. So once they enter the workforce, they already have a much clearer notion of what to expect.

For example, students might learn about advocating for a cause by actively participating in a local campaign. They might learn to express their ideas and opinions effectively through a variety of media by actually using social media platforms and blogs to start conversations and share ideas. They might even work on developing a product or service that will be used by real people, whether it’s a website, app, or innovative solution to a problem like global warming.

2. It helps students make informed career choices

Most of us had no idea what we wanted to be in our twenties, let alone when we were 17 or 18-years-old, and this is why authentic learning experiences are important. Research by Universities UK recently found that one in three graduates end up being mismatched to the jobs they find after leaving university.

The researchers point out that this isn’t necessarily because students are taking the wrong courses. Instead, it’s because they lack a clear understanding of how their skills and attributes match different career options, and which skills they’ll need to break into certain industries.
But when students are given the opportunity to explore different fields and transfer their knowledge from theory to practice while they’re still at university, they’ll be able to make informed decisions about the career they want to pursue or at least the direction they want to take their studies in.

3. It can help bridge the skills gap

The skills gap has been growing for some time now, and a recent report by National Australia Bank (NAB) shows that the skills shortage is hampering business growth and opportunity in Australia, with many small to medium-sized businesses saying they can’t find the right staff to grow their company.
Authentic learning has the potential to bridge this gap by not only ensuring that students understand what employers in their chosen field are looking for, but also providing them with opportunities to develop the necessary knowledge and skills before they leave university.

4. It can enhance creativity

Cognitive flexibility, which involves creative thinking, is one of the most in-demand skills of the 21st century, and authentic learning experiences can help students develop this skill. An important characteristic of authentic learning is that there are multiple possible outcomes or solutions to a problem rather than a single correct answer. This can encourage students ask questions and think outside the box. Research published in SITA found that authentic learning strategies encourage higher order thinking skills and engaged students’ creative thinking.

5. It improves critical thinking

Research shows that guiding students to autonomous decision-making while carrying out common experiments can significantly improve their critical thinking skills. Why? Because when students are encouraged to think for themselves and make their own decisions, they’re able to learn in a more deliberate way and have a much richer experience.

This is exactly what happens with authentic learning. Rather than simply committing information to memory or following a specific set of instructions, students engaged in authentic learning take the lead in identifying key problems, asking questions, brainstorming ideas, and going through the process of trial and error in order to create a final product or solution.

6. It increases engagement and motivation

Authentic learning is more relevant to students, because it shows them how they can apply theory to the discipline or profession they’re interested in, and make a difference in their local communities as a result. Research also shows that when learning is relevant to students, it’s also more effective.

This is because relevant learning activities engage students emotionally and help them connect new information to what they already know; which in turn strengthens neural connections and improves long-term memory storage. Moreover, when students understand that their work can have a real-world impact, they’ll simply be more invested in the outcome.

7. It boosts retention of information

Another thing that changes when students understand the relevance of the work they’re doing and are given a chance to apply knowledge as they acquire it, is that they’re much more likely to remember what they’ve learned and use it again for future tasks.

Research shows that learning through experience greatly improves student retention, and one study from the University of Chicago found that students who physically experienced scientific concepts demonstrated a deeper understanding and also scored better on science tests.

8. It promotes collaboration and teamwork

Another characteristic of authentic learning is that it calls for collaboration and teamwork, just as most real-world tasks do. Students engaged in authentic learning will learn to communicate more effectively with their peers while they discuss possible solutions, make shared decisions, and work together towards developing a solution or product.

Research shows that when students work together cooperatively to accomplish a shared learning goal they can enjoy social, psychological, and academic benefits, including a more positive learning environment, reduced anxiety, and improved problem solving skills.

9. It provides multiple perspectives on a single issue

In the real world, it’s rare to be faced with a situation where there’s only one correct approach or solution, and this is something authentic learning can help students understand. Rather than worrying about whether or not they’ll be able to provide the correct answer to a problem, students learn to develop multiple solutions to a problem by examining a task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources, and separating fact from opinion or speculation.

10. It helps build 21st century skills

Authentic learning is also an effective way to help students develop important 21st century skills like digital citizenship, coding, and critical reading and fact checking. One reason for this is that authentic learning encourages the use of a variety of tools, both new and old.

For example, students working on a group project might brainstorm together in the classroom, share ideas and collaborate online through a blog or Twitter account, view and provide peer feedback through a Pinterest board, and use other technology tools to create visual presentations of their findings and make sense of the data they’ve collected.

So to sum it all up, although authentic learning can be difficult to define, it’s the instructional approach that will best prepare students for our rapidly-changing world because it’s grounded in reality and builds learners’ capacity in all domains of learning.



Monday, 21 October 2019

Environment ~ using Spaces to support learning and thinking

Going beyond the cool factor

Going Beyond the “Cool” Factor

Years ago, I remembered walking into this redesigned library that was seemingly the stuff of dreams in education.  It was more like a media center and had spaces that were created for collaborative learning as well as spaces to work your own. Flexible seating accommodated the learning needs of many different learners, and it was a space, unlike anything I had seen in education before.
As I looked around, I noticed students working on a project together that was focused on starting an initiative to help seniors in their community, and they were doing some truly incredible work.  As I left the table, I noticed a librarian coming over to the students and “shushing” them, which immediately took me back to how I remember a library being used when I was a student in school.  You can be seen but not heard.
A couple of things. The students were not obnoxiously loud.  Also, this was a moment I just happened to notice, and I have no idea what was going on in that space or with the librarian that day, so I am not judging.
What that moment did make me realize though is that you can provide all of the technology in the world, you can create the most magnificent spaces, but if our thinking about school and learning stay the same, we have spent a lot of money to make an impact that is based more on cool aesthetics than actual learning.
I wrote about this in “The Innovator’s Mindset”:
A school with all the latest technology may well be a twenty- first-century school—modern in every way—and still not offer twenty-first-century learning. If we are only accessing the same information that previously existed in textbooks and handing in assignments with this technology, computers are no more than the equivalent of $1,000 pencils.
I have never been a big fan of the term “21st century” when dealing with education, and it has less to do with the fact that we are 20 years into the century and more because we have 80 years to go. We have no idea what those next 80 years are going to look like but we know that learners will always need to adjust. I love this quote from Peter Drucker:

The space I am referring to was something I saw years ago, and I have seen a massive shift in how spaces and technology are being used. One of the reasons I even thought about this was because I was recently in a district that had not only these fantastic spaces but was revamping professional learning in a way to utilize these spaces to mirror what they want happening in their classroom. It was incredible to watch. I have also noticed that there are a lot of places that are providing innovative and compelling learning experiences in spaces that would be deemed “traditional.”  How we think and act upon those ideas is what matters most.
The “stuff” definitely can help create opportunities, but if we don’t think differently about teaching and learning and shift our mindset in how to empower our learners truly, these things look impressive from a distance but add little value.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Never Punish Loyal Employees for being Honest ~ Brigette Hyacinth

Never Punish Loyal Employees for being Honest

Brigette Hyacinth

Brigette Hyacinth

Author: The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artif... See More
My new boss told me to never be afraid to give feedback. The next Monday morning in a meeting, I happily shared my viewpoint on a new policy. Thereafter, I noticed my boss's disposition towards me changed. He stopped talking to me. I was shunned. I even felt the effects of this in my monthly performance appraisal, where he noted, I was not supportive of the organization, and I needed to be a better team player. The picture was quite clear - truthful feedback was not appreciated.
Heather, a co-worker approached me and said, "You are new, honest feedback is just lip service, don't fall for it." I quickly learned loyalists and sycophants were appreciated, while realists were punished. They built a culture of "yes employees." I knew I had so much to offer, yet I couldn't. Six months later, my boss was fired. He made a mistake on a proposal that cost the company its biggest client. This could have been easily avoided if he had just asked for honest input.
Listening is the most powerful skill a leader can master but it requires humility.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" - Promoting honest feedback

Be Humble. Many people think humility is a weakness, but it actually takes strength. It makes you approachable. The more humble you are, the more team members would be motivated to share their suggestions and recommendations with you. One of the best employee engagement tools is transparency. To be transparent requires two-way communication, therefore, feedback from employees is important. Honesty creates a solid platform to building a relationship of trust and loyalty. Employees want to be heard and they want to be respected. Listening shows that you care. Additionally when you receive feedback, act upon it. This helps improve employee morale.
PRIDE - The ego must go. The ego blinds us with a false sense of indestructibility, clouds our judgement thus leading to poor decisions and a break down of relationships. It’s not about you. Build a strong team and surround yourself with smart, passionate and highly competent people. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Illinois in one research stated, "flattery and opinion conformity" makes leaders overconfident, resulting in "biased strategic decision making" and an overall disconnect from the execution on the ground.
Developing leadership skills is a lifetime project. It’s too easy, as a leader, to feel like you have to be the one who knows everything. Great leaders recognize that they need to keep learning. Leaders need to be willing to learn and be open to seeking input from both inside and outside their organizations. Feedback allows us and the organization to grow. Additionally, treat everyone you meet with respect, from the janitor to the CEO. Great business tips may come from the most unlikely sources.
" Listening is crucial to gaining a complete understanding of situations. Without this full understanding, one can easily waste everyone’s time by solving the wrong problem or merely addressing a symptom, rather than the root cause."
Titans as Blackberry, Kodak and Nokia have paid the price for leaders who refused to listen. Their leaders operated in a bubble and engaged in group think. The greater your success, the more you need to stay in touch with fresh opinions and perspectives and welcome honest feedback. Raw truth is needed to make well-informed decisions and steer the organization in the right direction.
As a leader, your job is to encourage others around you to be open and honest without a negative consequence. When employees offer their ideas and differing opinions - be open-minded. Companies that remain strong in this competitive market, understand the need to embrace change and continuous improvement. More than ever, leaders will need to master the skill of “Lead with Listening.” The success of your business will depend on it!

Monday, 30 September 2019


Assessment can often have a negative connotation for many educators. Grades, rankings, time, effort, frustration, misrepresentation, standardized tests etc. are often associated with assessment but it doesn’t have to be bad. Assessment for and as learning can be very powerful!
The teaching profession is a calling, a calling with the potential to do enormous good for students. Although we haven’t traditionally seen it in this light, assessment plays an indispensable role in fulfilling our calling. Used with skill, assessment can motivate the unmotivated, restore the desire to learn and encourage students to keep learning, and it can actually create-not simple measure- increased achievement.
Stiggins 2006
Based on this notion, I was working with educators last week on assessment for and as learning and unpacking some of our assessment practices in school. Some assessment practice impact learning and others, despite our best intentions, end up hindering the learning process.
Here is a list that we came up with and some others that we added from comments on Twitter.

Assessment Practices That

Improve the Learning Process Hinder the Learning Process
Transparent learning targets
Co-constructing success criteria
Examples (strong and weak)
Self reflection
Goal setting
Multiple attempts
Tracking progress over time
Peer assessment
Clear Structure
Mentoring/ conferring
Multiple attempts
Multiple ways of representing
Timed tests
Lack of high-quality resources
Red marks
Communicating in grades or percentages
Isolated feedback “great job”
Bias (implicit and explicit)
Narrow view of smart
Past experiences/ beliefs
No clear focus/ structure
Fixed pacing guides
Rubrics that are overwhelming
Deficit focused
Conflating behavior and skills
Grading homework and practice
Averaging Grades
What would you add or revise?

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Transforming Managers into Coaches

Have just listened to this webinar I booked into but ended up with the recording.

Thanks for registering for our webinar on "Transforming Managers into Effective Coaches." I know things come up and you can't always make it for the live session.

Below is the recording of the webinar and resources to help with your continued learning.

You can watch the recording of the webinar by clicking the button below.

Link to my notes