- How to navigate this mini e-book
- Section 1 - The case for rich, authentic work.
- Section 2 - Defining authenticity
- Section 3 - Characteristics of authentic work
- Section 4 - Research on authentic learning
- Section 5: Authenticity and Critical Thinking
- Section 6: Characteristics of rich, authentic learning: Knowledge construction
- Section 7: Characteristics of rich authentic learning: Disciplined inquiry
Section 1 - The case for rich, authentic work.
Much attention is being given around the nation to the disengagement of students from the learning process, particularly at the high school level. In a 1992 study funded by IERI[i], Fred Newmann, formerly of the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, stated:
“The most immediate and persisting issue for students and teachers is not low achievement, but student disengagement. …student engagement is critical to educational success; to enhance achievement, one must first learn how to engage students.”
There is a national trend toward the devaluing of work done in schools. In a 2002 study[ii] released by the U.S. Department of Education examining the attitudes of high school seniors toward their schoolwork, only 28% of students responded that schoolwork is often or always meaningful. This is in contrast with a 40% response rate in 1983. In the 2002 study, only 39% of seniors felt that “school learning will be quite or very important in later life.” This represented a drop from 51% agreeing with the statement in 1983.
A national survey of school engagement completed in 2009 had similar findings, with less than 40% of students reporting that school caused them to be excited about learning or to want to learn more.
Several approaches to re-engaging students have been proffered across the nation. Problem-based learning initiatives, where learning is organized around “messy” real-world problems, have been in place from K-12 education through medical and professional schools since the late 1980s. At the high school level, service learning programs have become popular, partly in response to concerns about the disengagement of seniors who have completed most requirements and have been accepted for post-secondary study. Philip Schlechty, author, and director of the Schlechty Center for Leadership Reform, contends that it is the work that students do, not the work of teachers, which can make the difference in student engagement and achievement. Schlechty has created a model, Working on the Work (Schlechty, 2002), for developing authentic, engaging work for students, which is in use in schools across the nation.
Finally, Newmann, as a follow-up to his national investigation of student engagement, synthesized his observations of factors that engage students in learning (Newmann, 1996). He created a set of standards or characteristics describing authentic instruction, student performance, and assessment. This module will explore these standards and the kinds of teaching and learning that they describe, starting with a discussion of authenticity.
[ii] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2002,
NCES 2002–025, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002]