What is Authentic Learning?
"Authentic" is a buzzword in the project-based learning world. Authenticity is the foundation of PBL and plays a role in every step of the process from project design to final evaluation.
That is one feature that separates project-based learning from other teaching methods. Learning experiences, final products, sources of information, the presentation, assessments, reflections, etc. should all be authentic - i.e. relevant, real-world, have meaning in the lives of learners, and give students clarity of purpose.
Top Young Adult Books for Women's Studies
About ten years ago I picked up a book called "Half the Sky". Within the first chapter I read this quote: "More than 100 million women are missing..." at any given time. This is because of trafficking, gendercide, domestic violence, etc. This quote, and this book, really struck me. I mentioned it, and the PBS documentary that goes along with it, to a few of my high school students. They were interested, largely because many of the issues resonated with them personally. These students led project-based learning experiences on some of the issues and shared their final products with the school community.
Project-Based Learning End Product Ideas to Demonstrate Learning
I have seen students produce some pretty outstanding final products in my 13 years as a project-based educator. Many of those outcomes were produced by experienced project-based learners. There is a learning curve with PBL, and it requires breaking some pretty strong habits that have formed from prior training in more traditional learning environments.
The biggest challenge for me has been getting students to think more creatively and authentically about how to demonstrate learning. Based on habit and ease, students naturally gravitate toward copy-and-paste poster boards and slideshow presentations.
The last several blog posts have been around self-directed project-based learning and how to plan such an experience. Last week I talked about writing a driving question. This in important part of the project design. The next step would be identifying community experts and organizing authentic learning experiences to enhance the experience.
Last week's blog post was all about how to coordinate and implement self-directed project-based learning. Whether the experience is teacher-led or student-directed, writing a driving question is often the first step in PBL design.
I am a former high school teacher of ten years. As an educator with an experiential philosophy, I have found project-based learning to be the most effective way to engage teenagers.
Project-based learning for my students, however, is self-directed 90% of the time. I (usually) do not plan their PBL experiences for them. I offer the structure and tools for students to successfully direct their own experiences.
This week's post is all about managing those details. You are a facilitator of learning. The trick is knowing how to coordinate and manage these PBL experiences. How do you get started? What do you do next? How do you wrap up? It's super easy when you know how!
There are a few elements that are important to include in project-based learning, otherwise your students are just doing projects. I vaguely talked about this in a post published last week, "What is Self-Directed Project-Based Learning Anyway" and now I'm back with details on specific elements of PBL, and how to modify those components to be self-directed.
I facilitate a women's studies seminar every year, and as a seminar finale, students design and lead their own high school project-based learning experiences around a subtopic of their choice.
Imagine you walk into a classroom. You look around and see students spread out around the room. Some students are quietly lounging in bean bag chairs, reading or writing. In the center of the room you see a small group of students chatting around a large table. You find students sitting at desks, working away on computers. One of the students is creating an animation and another student is writing an email. You scan the room and see a couple of students watching a live webinar streaming from Facebook.
Relevance is important for students, not only to engage in learning but for them to care about the content. But why does it matter if they care?
Focusing on concepts that are part of the real-world, part of your students' worlds, helps them find purpose in the experience, which is an important piece of experiential learning.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.