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!