Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
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.
For example, an authentic learning experience would be one in which a student interviews an oncologist vs. read about cancer on Wikipedia. An authentic final product might be a mini-documentary that follows the experience of a cancer survivor vs. a poster board with tidbits of information about cancer. An authentic presentation would be hosting a community screening of that mini-documentary vs. showing it exclusively to the class.
This post is specifically about that authentic presentations. Backtrack a few weeks to posts from my project-based learning series for more details on authenticity in other aspects of project-based learning.
What is an Authentic Presentation?
An authentic presentation is the demonstration of new skills and knowledge to a relevant audience in the community. The idea is that the information or the final product reaches an audience that could use the final product or benefit from the material in some way, where the learner can experience and visualize their new understanding of a concept or skill at play in real life.
An authentic presentation leaves a mark on the community, and depending on the nature of the presentation, it may make a profound long-term impact (check out my community action projects, a type of project-based learning that leaves a lasting impact on the local or global community).
Why Bother with Authentic Presentations?
The result is deeper learning that goes beyond content knowledge. This is true because learners construct meaning through real-life experiences. They see relevance and purpose as it relates to their lives. They also consider quality when they are expected to share their work publicly.
Adding learning outcomes such as authentic final products and authentic presentations to a portfolio deepens the experience that much further. Students showcase their accomplishments into something tangible that they can see and take pride in. Grab my digital project-based learning outcomes digital portfolio for free right here!
Authentic Presentation Ideas
Reaching a relevant audience and making an impact on the community doesn't mean your students have to do public speeches everyday. Speaking to a community audience, such as performing an original skit on bullying to a local elementary assembly, is one way to deliver new skills and knowledge in an authentic way.
There are other ways for those educators and learners that are confined to the classroom. Other options include publishing work on digital media, submitting work to an online publication or contest, displaying student work in the community, and even bringing the audience to you.
If you are distance teaching or don't have the flexibility to take your students to an authentic audience, check out my blog post on digital authentic presentation ideas.
Check out the free graphic organizer below for more authentic presentation ideas. My students use this organizer when designing their projects. Feel free to do the same with your students. A free printable version can be found here.
Let's go through an example. You assign a PBL project about symbiotic relationships to your life science class. Each student chooses a specific symbiotic relationship to explore. They also choose how they will find information, which experts to connect with, a final product to demonstrate learning, and how they will share it.
One student decides to create an infographic on the different types of symbiotic relationships. She collaborates with an ecology professor from a nearby university and a graphic designer in the area. They work together to create an infographic.
The student then needs to determine how she will share her final product with a relevant audience that will benefit from the information (authentic presentation).
Determining an Authentic Presentation
The following are examples or options for project-based learning authentic presentations for the symbiosis example:
1) Distribute Final Product to a Relevant Audience in the Community:
2) Display Final Product to a Relevant Audience in the Community:
3) Present Final Product to a Relevant Audience in the Community:
4) Publish the Final Product:
5) Share your Final Product Digitally:
Implementing authentic experiences in your curriculum does not have to be chaotic or extra work. Even student-led learning can have structure and SHOULD be teacher facilitated not directed.
For help implementing and planning these project-based learning experiences, try out my free PBL planner. Drag and drop important elements such as authentic presentation planning.
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Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
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.