In a day and age when knowledge is easily obtainable by grabbing your smartphone from your pocket, and information learned may be outdated two minutes after a student graduates, employers care less about facts and more about whether a graduate can continue to learn over time and solve complex problems.
It’s not that content knowledge is not important. But it is not the end all, be all. Tony Wagner, Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute and an educational thought leader stated, “Content knowledge has to be engaging to kids. If kids aren’t motivated, you can pour content knowledge into their heads and it comes right out the other ear.” Kids need critical thinking and communication skills, and, above all, they need to be creative problem solvers. Wagner advocates that students need authentic, real world experiences and that through project-based learning “students are learning many more real skills, as well as content knowledge.”
Many schools are not requiring teachers to create authentic experiences. Instead, students are taught inside a bubble and do not make the connections that will make their learning more meaningful.
Authentic learning connects what students are taught in school with real world applications, problems, and issues. Everyone who cares about our children’s future must help children make meaning of their learning. In this way, project based learning serves to prevent burnout in learning! To make their point Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith use an example of what learning to ride a bike might look like in the traditional United States school system in their book, Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. It would start by students learning all of the parts of the bike. From there they might learn the history of bikes, learn the physics of how the gears and chain work to propel the bike, might watch other people riding a bike, and test the effectiveness of various bikes. In no part of this learning would anyone actually be riding a bike, experiencing that authentic lesson. We would then send these students out into the world with all the confidence that what we have taught them will enable them to ride a bike on their own.
It is time to accelerate the reimagining of schools and what learning looks like in today’s schools. One way to accomplish this is by moving towards a more Project/Problem-Based Learning approach (PBL) that promotes opportunities for application of skills alongside the essential skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. This approach has successfully been used with preschools through college students and in every subject matter. And recently published research presents the data that demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach.
It is our obligation to create an educational environment that is truly best for today’s children and one that inspires curiosity, authenticity, and is engaging.
For more ideas on how you can bring authenticity into your school or lessons, please email us.