Let’s Make It Authentic: Writing authentic objectives for authentic learning

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Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

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Authentic learning is a relatively new term that describes learning through applying knowledge in real-life contexts and situations. It often involves instructional strategies like high fidelity simulations, role-plays, scenario-based activities and case study for problem-solving tasks. Authentic learning usually involves higher-level learning such as hands-on application, analysis, and synthesis.

To create authentic learning, we want to ask ourselves what will the learners actually be doing on the job? The answer to this question is a good place to start to identify and create more authentic learning objectives, activities, and assessments.

Authentic Objectives are learning objectives that reflect real-world scenarios. They specify what learners will be able to do after instruction is over and are closely linked to what the learner will be doing in the real world (e.g. the learners may be performing a real job task in the training program or they may be introduced to simulated scenario-based activities that are very close to the real-world task they will be expected to perform).

Authentic objectives are usually stated as the Terminal (Key) Objective of a module or other unit of instruction and involve higher-level learning skills.

Authentic learning objectives have three components:

  1. Elaborated Condition (see the examples below)
  2. Authentic Action
  3. Authentic Standard of Performance

See below for our non-examples contrasted with more authentic examples.

Example 1

Non-Authentic: Identify ethical and unethical behavior when operating school technology.

More Authentic: Given a role-play scenario with the learner acting as a school principal, determine whether the technology usage activities of teachers and students are ethical or unethical behavior. Your solutions must reflect the school district’s terms of usage.

Example 2

Non-Authentic: Given a customer scenario, list the banking products that meet the needs of the customer. (Application Level)

More Authentic: Given a customer scenario in which a customer describes his or her needs, the learner will be able to select a bank account structure for the customer. The learner’s choices must be accurate, complete, and consistent with the bank’s mission statement, compliance policies, and U.S. laws, as well as match the choices of an expert in nine out of ten cases. (Analysis Level & Evaluation level)

The next time you are revising a training program or creating a new one, try making the program more authentic by starting with writing more authentic learning objectives.

See you next time,