Tip #737: Let’s Get Real!

“Authentic learning is the essential setting that education requires to move towards sustainable, meaningful, relevant learning in the 21st century.”  Steve Revington

Authentic learning means real world, learner-centered learning. Audrey Rule of the State University of New York at Oswego considers it learning through applying knowledge in real-life contexts and situations.

Although applied to children in the educational system, as described by F. Newmann, H. Marks and A. Gamoran, I think its precepts are applicable to adults: authentic learning

“Teachers provide opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge through engaging in self-directed inquiry, problem solving, critical thinking, and reflections in real-world contexts. This knowledge construction is heavily influenced by the student’s prior knowledge and experiences, as well as by the characteristics that shape the learning environment, such as values, expectations, rewards, and sanctions. Education is more student-centered. Students … experience and apply information in ways that are grounded in reality.“

According to Ms. Rule, there are four characteristics of authentic learning: four characteristic

  1. An activity that involves real-world problems…
  2. Use of open-ended inquiry, thinking skills and metacognition.
  3. Students engage in discourse and social learning in a community of learners.
  4. Students direct their own learning in project work.

I have written previously about the use of peer learning groups as an innovative method of professional development for managers. Peer learning groups are structured to enable authentic learning for adults.

In peer learning groups, the managers focus on a real-world problem in their worksite. They use inquiry and thinking skills to share their knowledge and experience and learn from provided materials. The peer learning group serves as a small (6-member) community of learners within the context of their own worksite. The managers themselves select their focus. Because peer learning groups are self-directed and self-managed, the managers facilitate their own learning. They also reflect on what they have learned.

The value of authentic learning and peer learning groups is supported by recent research, which I have mentioned in an earlier Tip:

In the 2017 Learning in the Workplace survey conducted by the Center for Learning and Performance Technologies, over 5,000 managers and employees were asked to rate the importance (value/ usefulness) of 12 work-related learning methods. The least-valued ways of learning in the workforce were found to be the traditional forms of learning: classroom training and e-learning. The top two most valued ways of learning were self-organized and self-managed forms of learning.

Training needs to get real and let the learners use their existing knowledge and inquiry to discover the answers to relevant real-world problems. Only then will learning be truly authentic. In the meantime, peer learning groups can effectively fill the void.

For more information about peer learning groups, please go to www.peerlearninginstitute.com

May your learning be sweet.


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