As we prepare our students to be twenty-first century workers, our classrooms need to adapt also. Authentic teaching provides the opportunity for students to push their students through relatable content to deeply understand the material. Additionally, integrating technology fosters critical thinking and engagement. Authentic instruction fosters original, creative thinking within our students through four standards. Implementing the four standards of authentic teaching allows teachers to seamlessly transition their instruction.
Authentic instruction consists of four standards: higher order thinking, depth of knowledge, substantive conversation, and connectedness to the world. Higher order thinking requires students to manipulate information and knowledge to arrive at a conclusion. Newmann and Wehlage (1993) describe the impact of higher order thinking in their article Standards of Authentic Instruction: “Manipulating information and ideas through these processes allows students to solve problems and discover new (for them) meanings and under-standings” (p 4). Teachers can promote higher order thinking by questioning students learning.
When students analyze their own thoughts and learning, they are able to reflect and apply to new concepts. Brookhart (2010) describes this impact: “Rather, they become engaged in thinking about particular things and motivated to learn particular things. Higher-order thinking increases students’ sense of control over ideas. Thinking is much more fun than memorizing. ” Increasing higher order thinking increases student engagement. However, higher order thinking is implemented best when a teacher is also increasing depth of knowledge. Depth of knowledge is best described as the level that students demonstrate their knowledge.
Knowledge is like a linear continuum ranging from a basic understanding to deep understanding where learners can apply their knowledge to new ideas. As teachers we are forced to instruct numerous concepts throughout the year, therefore many students have a superficial understanding of knowledge. When authentic instruction is implemented, fewer concepts are taught. Thus, allowing learners to have a deep understanding of content rather than a broad understanding. Newmann and Wehlage (1993) reinforce this idea: “Rather, they become engaged in thinking about particular things and motivated to learn particular things.
Higher-order thinking increases students’ sense of control over ideas. Thinking is much more fun than memorizing” (p. 4). Depth of knowledge and higher order thinking are best implemented through student dialogue. Substantive conversation enforces the idea of students leading the classroom dialogue. When a teacher leads conversation lecture typically occurs. Therefore, students leading conversation allows opportunities for students to defend, analyze and elaborate their logic. Moreover, student lead discussion increases engagement.
Students become accountable for understanding, rather than listening and repeating information from a teacher. Connecting students learning to topics outside of the classroom promotes deeper conversation and engagement. Connecting content to student’s lives beyond the classroom increases engagement and understanding. Traditional teaching demonstrates little value to students lives other than needing to understand the material to move onto the next skill or concept. An authentic lesson that allows students to incorporate their own experiences to solve public problems embodies higher order thinking, deep understanding, and conversation.
Consequently, students become more engaged in the learning, allowing a deeper understanding of content. Miller (2013) defends this idea by stating: ‘When students are engaged in real-world problems, scenarios and challenges, they find relevance in the work and become engaged in learning important skills and content. ” Authentic instruction embodies all four of these characteristics. Each characteristic needs at least one or all of the others for support. One way for teachers to easily incorporate authentic instruction is through technology.
Incorporating technology is a phrase many teachers hear daily. As our schools are moving towards authentic instruction and assisting our twenty-first century learners, we need to incorporate more technology. Technology is attractive for twenty-first century learners. Blogging and video casting are just two examples of how teachers can incorporate technology while increasing authentic instruction. Blogging allows students to dialogue about their understanding, thus providing a demonstration of knowledge depth, while transforming learning to be more engaging.
Additionally, teachers can incorporate wikis, podcasting, video journals, etc as a means to increase substantive conversation all the while connecting their learning to real world scenarios. Technology provides opportunities for hands on learning. However, incorporating technology to increase engagement may seem overwhelming to some teachers. This is evident within my own classroom. Authentic instruction can be difficult to implement. The thought of teaching every standard utilizing authentic strategies is overwhelming. However, focusing on two or three concepts that are evident the whole year make this more manageable.
Additionally, utilizing one or two characteristics of authentic instruction within a lesson rather than all four at once, makes the transition seamless. One way I incorporate higher order thinking within my lessons is prompting my students through questioning. Asking students questions such as “Why does this happen rather than….? ” or “How could we create a rule that works for all scenarios? ” allows students to analyze their logic to create explanations. Moreover, using questioning to have students take previous knowledge and apply it in a new scenario will increase student’s depth of knowledge.
Moreover, implementing activities that connect student learning to real world forces students to analyze and elaborate on their knowledge. This can be most seen in a project where I had students apply their understanding of linear functions to plan for a dinner dance. Students were required to interpret information provided by various bands and caterers to determine which would be best company to use. Upon students using their knowledge of linear functions to find cost per person, start up fees, and future costs, students had to write a letter to the principal stating their findings.
Implementing projects like this allows students to apply their skills in a context that is more meaningful. Technology was not particularly used within this activity to promote student learning, other than word processing, but could easily be implemented for future use of this lesson. Moving forward, I would have had students create presentation of their findings. Students could use Excel, Google Sheets, or Desmos to create charts and graphs of their data. Using those charts, they would create a presentation to the student council. This would increase their depth of knowledge and conversation skills.
Both the problem solving and presentation skills required within this lesson increase understanding of the content. Yet, this is not the only location I plan on incorporating technology. Substantive conversation is a key piece of authentic instruction that is missing within my lessons. One way I plan on incorporating more conversation is by having students post journals either through a blog or Google Classroom. Students will be able to comment and dialogue with their peers outside the classroom, thus promoting deeper collaboration.
When students are able to connect their learning outside of the classroom students are more engaged. Authentic learning does not only provide the opportunity for this connection but also fosters conversation and deep understanding. As overwhelming as implementing the four standards of authentic instruction seems, technology can help ease this burden. Technology is a tool to implement authentic instruction. Through these tools and characteristics students can become the critical thinkers the twenty-first century workplace is requiring.