Students are too Smart for False Authentic Learning Tasks: I Need Your Help

As the school year comes to an end it is to take stock of the successes, failures, shining moments and heart breaking letdowns. One thing I can honestly say about education is that it is NEVER boring. While students may sometimes feel bored with what they must learn (i.e. polyhedrons) and teachers question what they are forced to teach (making polyhedrons meaningful to a 12 year old???), we do however get to experience authentic learning with our students. 

After spending the past 3 days in Toronto, Ontario with 50 grade 7/8 students I again see what education could be. Interacting with real people outside of our (falsely) insulated classroom walls is critically important. What is a teacher to do? The ridiculous size of the Ontario Curriculum Documents precludes most teachers from taking the time to provide their students with real life learning. Unfortunately we have tricked ourselves into thinking that authentic learning tasks are ones which mirror real life situations. 

The reality is that students are too smart to be tricked into fully engaging in tasks that are simply fake. Yes they may mirror real world situations but they are NOT REAL. Do we as adults give our best effort when engaged in meetings and situations that are not real? It takes more time, effort, creativity, money, and technology to provide REAL AUTHENTIC LEARNING TASKS for students. It also takes less curriculum being forced upon educators from above, less bureaucracy (hoops) for educators to jump through, and less time spent justifying that I am doing my job and more time spent on actually doing my job.

Next year…I want my students too feel that what they spent their time, energy and effort on was real, and not something I as an educator have developed to resemble the real world. 

This may only be a dream, but it is mine.

It may end up being yet another false authentic learning task, but I don’t want it to be.

If you have any real authentic learning tasks that you have completed with your students I would love to hear about them. I am looking for creative, interesting ideas I can try and share with others.

Happy teaching

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