‘AUTHENTIC Learning’ Mindset

 

 

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A week vacation skiing in Whistler with the family, suitcases full of clothes for 5, including bulky ski gear and a return home only to find that when I went downstairs to put the first load into the dryer…it breaks! F01 error code I learned, means panel control malfunction. So needless to say, I marched upstairs to my computer and what did I do? Yup, I Googled it!! I found a YouTube video of a 20 minute repair with a link to AppliancePartsPros.com and ordered the part. Two hundred and seventy dollars later, I  waited a week for the part to come in and then took my tools and went to work. I didn’t lose any parts or screws and the best part was when I plugged it back in and pressed that sweet button, sending the dryer drum rolling again! SUCCESS is a sweet reward!

This exact situation demonstrates all the components necessary in what is called authentic learning. “Authentic learning is a relatively new term that describes learning through applying knowledge in real-life contexts and situations.” as defined by Audrey Rule of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego. There are four components to authentic learning and if we take a look at my experience we can identify each:

Real-world problemssmelly clothes, a family of 5 and no means to wash them. I was naturally incentivized to save some money by not paying for a plumber and do it myself. The satisfaction came when I accomplished what I intended and it worked. Even if it didn’t work, I would still have had the sense of satisfaction.  

Inquiry and thinking skills…Research! This was not my first home project so I had some background on where to start my research for an answer and how to go about solving my problem. I was also confident in my skills and abilities based on my previous successes. I have to say that it is getting easier and more convenient for do-it-yourself projects because of the internet and access to information both textual and visual. I had some initial trials and errors when trying to find the right ratchet wrench size I needed for the bolt screws, analyzing how best to pull the dryer away from the wall without detaching the exhaust vent hose (didn’t want to attach that again) or the gas line, not to mention once I removed the cover from the machine I needed to figure out how to unhook each wiring component and dismount the old control board.

Discourse in a community of learners…My earlier projects involved hanging out with my friends at Lowes or Home Depot asking for explanations of how-to-do this or that and then I’d go home to read the directions that came with the kit or ‘fix’ it project. I would not have been able to successfully fix the dryer if I went into it with my own thinking. Why do we always put kids into learning situations with their limited life experience bank thinking they will be able to figure anything out on their own without access to information, conversations and a community of other learners. That’s not the real world. We have to remember the needs of a learner in the moment of their learning…provide the opportunity for them to communicate, collaborate, question, grapple with their problem.

Student-directed learning…Open-ended and choice driven are the key to student learning. I may not have had the choice of my dryer breaking but I did have a choice in how I would solve my problem. The situation was open-ended in that it provided opportunities for… “divergent thinking, heuristics-based learning, and exploring fuzzy, ill-defined, and ill-structured problems”. I said earlier that I didn’t lose any screws…well I didn’t lose any but I did have an extra one left over. I had to think on my feet and make a judgment call when one of the screws needed for securing the control panel to the metal interior plate didn’t want to go back in its place. I determined that it was secure enough without it and didn’t want to risk forcing it in or having it fall down the side of the dryer as I struggled to ‘make’ it fit.

We must start providing students with opportunities to experience learning in this way. We must start to build their confidence, background and repertoire of learning.

We must start thinking of students as drivers of their learning. Learning is finding the best ways to access and internalize information in order to create/apply it to something new.

Let them do it! Get out of their way!

Because they CAN!

Please read this article for more information on authentic learning.

 

Sound bites from a day with Dr. Tom Guskey

Dr Guskey

Recently our district had the honor of hosting Dr. Tom Guskey from the University of Kentucky, College of Education. His presentation to our district faculty and staff was on the topic of Standards Based Grading and Reporting. As I sat in the auditorium, as close as I could get to the front…I listened intently to deepen my understanding of this practice and also to have my own thoughts validated! I took notes during the presentation in hopes of later rereading and synthesizing all of the important points of Standards Based Grading & Reporting.

Here are some of the sound bites from my day listening to Dr. Guskey:

“We don’t agree on the purpose of WHY we grade and report.”

“We also disagree on what counts for a grade as well.”

“Let’s bring this (disagreements) out in the open and deal with them first.”

“Checking is NOT grading.” Learning still in progress

“It’s what you do with the evidence that makes it formative; and what you do must be different then what you did before.”

“Method follows purpose.” Determine the purpose of a grade and then the best method of reporting.

“The more grading options (ie. A-F or 100-0) the greater subjectivity rate. No chance of teachers coming to the same grade on one students work.”

“Choose 4-6 standards to report. More is not needed. Break down standards and report by strand.”

“Mathematical precision does NOT yield fairer or more objective grades!”

“If you want to show what a student knows and can do, you won’t find out through mathematical precision.”

“Kids have figured out percentages before we have.”

“If you aced all the tests and quizzes and didn’t do any homework, would you not still deserve an ‘A’?”

“Professional judgment has greater impact on measuring true student proficiency.”

“Grading Criteria: Product, Process, Progress. Problem if they are all lumped together.” Pull them apart to measure each area separately.

“All parents want to know is, ‘Is my kid on track?’ and don’t wait until May to tell me he’s not.”

So what have I learned…like in everything else we do…

  • We need to understand the WHY…FIRST!!
  • We need to put our parents and students understanding first!
  • We are in the business of learning so we need to start measuring it.
  • We are professionals and need to start trusting ourselves, not publishers, for what is best to teach students.
  • We won’t get any further down this road unless we rely on and trust each other!! Notice each sentence starts with WE!

So what thoughts did I have validated…all this is possible with the courage to lead!

Disclaimer: I tried my best to capture his every word and quote accurately but in some cases I came very close 🙂