Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Unresolved issues about 'authentic' online learning

3 different interpretations of authentic learning
1. Making learning personally meaningful
2. Situated learning in the context in which is is surprised
3. Providing learners with authentic tasks (open ended and ill structured)

1. Linking learning to own personal situation - e.g. photographs linking chem to everyday life
2. Culturally situated context - where it will be applied. E.g clinical or professional placement, role play, etc
3. Authenticity of tasks rather than context (Herrington et al 2004). Real world relevance beyond domain specifics, ill defined, competing solutions, sustained period of time

Role of media 'skins' in a virtual world/environment. Context in which you learn heavily affects ability to recall information. Are learning environment skins window dressing? Taken too literally??? Representation of physical environments over-elaborate and missing cognitive and meta-cognitive tasks.

Are virtual worlds realising their potential as settings for authentic learning? E.g. surgeon in second life, are mouse skills really useful in what they can take into their career. Note too virtual patients have straightforward conditions with no red herrings, distractors, etc.

Whose authenticity and authentic to what? Rise in professional post-grad education. Educators often provide contrived contexts. The real world on a short leash.

Motivation - 1 & 3 intrinsic, 2 extrinsic. Personally meaningful especially benefits low (extrinsic) motivation students. 2 for students who know where they are heading (mature age etc). 3 for high ability students.

Transfer implications - near transfer to similar problems, far transfer is broader application.
1. indirect benefits to transfer via engagement and motivation
2. near transfer where context is simply a 'skin' around inauthentic tasks but potentially far
3. focus on far transfer due to higher order thinking require (Sweller & Clark 2006)


Ariane said...

I have many, many issues with the whole "authentic" learning thing. There is absolutely no point talking about authentic learning until we have something resembling authentic assessment. Ill-defined activities are lots of fun, but the assessment of them isn't. Until a person's opportunities are based on learning instead of on assessment, this sort of thing will always be regarded as a waste of time (and probably an unfair one) by anyone who wants to use their education beyond the learning setting.

Real-world relevance is utter rubbish - it's entirely in the eye of the beholder.

Personal relevance is so subjective as to be useless in groups of more than 3.

The obsession with authenticity always makes me feel like education is a side show.

Mick Pope said...

Actually, as someone who trains professionals I think I am more and more on board with the idea of real world authenticity. Agreed though on assessment, which is why some of ours is competency based. For other disciplines it may not be as clear cut

Ariane said...

I can see your point. When training professionals, there are 2 paths - pass/fail (competency based) or graded. The former helps to avoid the assessment issues, but has other issues - like how you know where to the draw the line, and what you can actually tell about someone who has achieved a pass.

The latter ends up in the same assessment issue. I did a course in which the activities were useful, relevant and I learned a lot, but I never worked out what the marker was looking for, and my results reflected that. OTOH, I did 2 other courses in which I learned pretty much diddly squat, but knew exactly what they wanted to see and got HDs.

If you don't grade people, you risk the course/qualification being meaningless, if you do grade, you risk completely failing to capture anything relevant.

And what's worse is that we did absolutely nothing in our teaching course on assessment. No study of the research, barely even a mention of it except in passing. When so much of how people learn hinges on how they are assessed, it seems rather ridiculous that one can do a Bachelor of Teaching without actually addressing it. I think authenticity, and lots of other aspects of learning, will be the playthings of academics until assessment is put under the microscope.