A matrix of Authentic learning

Real or realistic; authentic or academic?
Can a learning environment be called authentic if it is completed in a classroom or on campus? Yes, we think so! Authentic does not necessarily mean real (as in practicums and internships). As a pedagogical model, authentic learning means that realistic tasks set in academic settings can challenge students to think and solve problems just as professionals do in the real world.

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If you think about the types of tasks and their settings, it helps to see where authentic learning is situated. In this matrix, the authenticity of the task is on one axis (from authentic to decontextualised), and the setting is on the other (the classroom/university to the real setting).

Academic tasks set in academic settings

Most educational tasks probably fit into this quadrant, where teachers set questions, essay topics, exercises, quizzes and tests for students to complete in the educational setting - the university or school classrooms.

Academic tasks set in a real settings

In this quadrant, tasks are generally set by the teacher, and they are completed in a real setting, such as a worksheet on an excursion to a factory or on a field trip, or set tasks for students to complete while on internship or practicum.

Real tasks completed in a real workplace

Most practicums and internships occur in this quadrant where pre-service professionals engage in the practices of the profession in the real workplace.

Realistic tasks set in an academic setting

This is what we mean by authentic learning (and what this website is all about!). It means realistic and complex tasks that can be completed in classrooms and educational institutions, giving students important opportunities to think as professionals!