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Curtin University

Authentic learning

Authentic learning is experiential learning located in settings that reflect complex real world problems. It is characterized by:

  • Situated learning contexts within which the application of knowledge and skills may be demonstrated
  • Tasks with ill defined real world problems
  • Sustained investigation (i.e., time and effort) to arrive at solutions
  • Scenarios with multiple roles and perspectives and where expert performances and processes are modeled (i.e., making tacit knowledge explicit)
  • Collaborative activities to produce real world 'products' or 'performances'
  • Reflective practice (as a basis for professional learning)
  • Scaffolding and coaching at critical times. Assessment of authentic learning should be seamlessly integrated with a learning activity that is practical, realistic and challenging.
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Benefits of authentic learning experiences

Educational research has shown that authentic learning experiences give learners the capacity to turn information into useful transferable knowledge and to build professional identity. By situating knowledge within relevant contexts learning is enhanced.

Authentic learning experiences:

  • Encourage learners to assimilate and connect knowledge that is unfamiliar
  • Expose learners to different settings, activities and perspectives
  • Enhance transferability and application of theoretical knowledge to the ‘real world’
  • Create opportunities for learners to collaborate, produce polished products and to practice generic (e.g., problem solving) and professional skills
  • Build capacity to exercise professional judgments (in a ‘safe’ environment) and attachment to professional knowledge and principles.

Authentic learning potentially builds learners' capacity in all four domains of learning: cognitive, affective, psychomotor and conative and is therefore a useful learning approach to preparing students for work in the 21st century.

Jump to: Designing authentic activities

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