Thursday, February 18, 2010

Keeping it Real: Authentic Connections for Students in the Classroom

Most educators would probably agree that learning is most effective when it occurs in a "hands-on", "learning by doing" environment, where students are engaged in real world, meaningful tasks. So how can educators keep it "real" for students? The third target area in the H.E.A.T./H.E.A.R.T. process is Authentic Connections. Authentic Connections represent what people might actually do in the real world - real life issues, themes, problems. The degree of authenticity may fluctuate depending on the age and background of the learner; yet all authentic assessments possess the following attributes: (1) allow for multiple solutions, (2) relate to student’s prior knowledge, (3) have personal meaning, (4) are challenging, and (5) employ complex thinking processes. One of the easiest ways to infuse greater authenticity into student learning experiences is by integrating one of more 21st Century Themes into the learning experience. These themes include:

* Global Awareness,
* Economic Literacy,
* Health and Wellness Awareness, and
* Civic Awareness


You can learn more about connecting to these themes at The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

When observing teachers and providing feedback, there are ways one can suggest making these Authentic Connections in the classroom. Outlined below are commendations and recommendations focusing on the third target area of H.E.A.T./H.E.A.R.T.: Authentic Connections.

Authentic Connections: Commendations
As always, start off with a positive and cite specific examples that the teacher used during the lesson to help students make connections to the content that is being presented. Then suggest the possibility of connecting this content in additional ways. Have the teachers review their own lessons to pinpoint where they can make authentic connections themselves. Additionally try to encourage small steps towards authentic activities by guiding teachers to examples of authentic learning using 21st Century Themes.

Authentic Connections: Recommendations
Remind teachers that all authentic learning experiences possess the following five factors that should be kept in mind while planning instruction:

1. Allow for multiple solutions
2. Relate to student’s prior knowledge
3. Have personal meaning
4. Replicate challenges found in the real world
5. Employ complex thinking processes (e.g., problem-solving, decision-making)


Keeping this mind, we can begin our attempts at keeping it "real" for students as you turn up the H.E.A.T. in your classrooms!

21 comments:

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  2. it's good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

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  3. Everything stated in this post was a great reminder for the importance of re-visiting, reflecting and adjusting current and future lessons to make connections happen for students.

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  4. I need to figure out how to find and show more authentic connections. I always enjoy the days when my lessons have these

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  5. I'd like to find time in the curriculum to have students create authentic connections

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    1. I totally agree with you! It is especially difficult when your students are learning a second language and need to first grasp the grammatical concepts in order to use the language. Making connections with language is usually possible with cultural and historical references to similar lessons, but more challenging with grammar and vocabulary lessons.

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  6. Recently when interpreting information from a graph, and discussing profit, we got into the discussion about after college, you really aren't "making money" until you have paid off a student loan. We discussed the cost of starting a business or renting a building for a business, "breaking even" and then making money, with paying off a student loan as "breaking even" and then earning a profit on your education. My students were very engaged and asked several questions about how to make the decisions about college and cost. While it may not have been "math" related, it was a great way to open up the room for thought provoking questions. Students also asked me about my own personal choices regarding continuing education. I would like to find additional ways to bring this type of discussion into my teaching.

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  7. I try to incorporate authentic connections during my lessons. It is amazing when the students can create one on their own.

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  8. By using personal connections in the classroom we can allow students to find meaning in the content, thus allowing students a greater chance at retention.

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  9. It is hard to for students to make personal connections when they lack background knowledge. Then it takes more time to set the stage and provide background knowlegde.

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  10. Teaching U.S. Government and Economics, I try to incorporate as many authentic real-world experiences into my lessons as possible. My goal is to increase my students' civic and economic literacy throughout the course to best prepare them for life outside the classroom. I find students are the most engaged when I connect my government content to political current events.

    -Garrett Bull

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    1. I wish my content area lent itself to making those kinds of connections. It sounds like you are doing a great job in your classroom!

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  11. It is difficult to have students make connections when they lack background knowledge in your content area (or related areas).

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  12. Making connections in the classroom is essential to allow students to make connections which will enhance their educational experience.

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  13. My content area does not often lend itself to allowing students to make connections. When it does, it is not guaranteed that all students understand the connection and some will never understand the connection.

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  14. When personal connections can be made in the classroom the content being learned becomes more relevant and easier to retain by the students. However, when students lack background knowledge it make the process much more difficult.

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  15. I find it very interesting and rewarding in making real world connections with my US History students. We have looked at different landmark events in history and talked about how our current reality would be different had the outcome of that particular event was changed. This type of critical thinking seems to really work within the HS classroom.

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  16. I try to make real life connections when teaching units in physical education. For example, when teaching proper lifting techniques, I give examples as to how one might use the deadlift movement to do manual labor jobs, pick up groceries, move furniture, etc.

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  17. I attempt to make real life connections by discussing social themes found in American literature that are relevant still today.

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