Authentic, contextualized, and real-world learning

Learning is more interesting when you learn things you need and skills you can use right away. Studying a degree means that you have to learn things you don’t find essential or fascinating at all, but since they are part of curriculum you just have to leave your comfort zone and familiarize yourself with also dull themes you probably never need. When I was studying my Bachelor’s degree, accounting was such topic for me. I most certainly knew that I may be many things in my life but I’ll never be an accountant! Yet I managed to wade through the course I hated more than I can say…

Last year I found a hobby that is really made for me: fishing! I spent hours after hours with my spinning rod to learn the right technique. I didn’t even think of quitting because I succeeded in what I was doing. I caught a fish after another and even when I didn’t, I enjoyed every moment. At the same time my feelings about studying was quite different… When you want to learn something that really interests you, you are ready to spend hours and hours to internalize a new skill or to understand a theory. The main word is relevancy. When you study something that is relevant for you, you will be more motivated.

Working with real-life problems makes learning more interesting and when you are able to combine the things you already know with new things all pieces start to fall into place. When you are taught skills you need, you find a meaning to learning and contextualization has really succeeded.

Authentic learning is real-world related and learning tasks are designed to innovate educators. There are 10 design elements that form the essence of authentic learning:

1. Real-world relevance
Real world tasks makes learning more authentic.

2. Ill defined problem
Authentic activities are open to multiple interpretations.

3. Sustained investigation
Tasks require thorough familiarization and they will not be solved in minutes.

4. Multiple sources and perspectives
Learners will use many resources and they learn to see the difference between important and meaningless information.

5. Collaboration
Learners have to co-operate when they are doing tasks.

6. Reflection
Learners will reflect their learning.

7. Interdisciplinary perspective
Wider perspective and use of knowledge is needed in doing tasks.

8. Integrated assessment
Formative assessment attached to activities and tasks.

9. Polished products
There will be an output, not just tasks without purpose.

10. Multiple interpretations and outcomes
There is not only one solution, but many possibilities to solve the problem.
(Marilyn May Lombardi, 2007)

Authentic Learning by Dr Lam Bick Har
Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview by Marilyn May Lombardi
Authentic learning: what, why and how? e-Teaching
Contextualization:Creating a Support System for Contextualized Instruction A Toolkit for Program Managers