Tuesday, September 16, 2008

3.4.6: Desiging authentic problem-based learning opportunities

In researching for the fourth E-Primer, I read an article by Herrington, Oliver & Reeves (2003) called "Patterns of engagement in authentic online learning environments".In it, ten principles for generating authentic learning environments are listed:

  • Authentic activities have real world relevance:
    match as nearly as possible the real world tasks of professionals in
    practice rather than decontextualised or classroom based tasks.

  • Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity:
    inherent in the activities are ill-defined and open to multiple
    interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of
    existing algorithms. Learners must identify their own unique tasks and
    sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.

  • Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time:
    are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or hours.
    They require significant investment of time and intellectual resources.

  • Authentic activities provide the opportunity for
    students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a
    variety of resources:

    The task affords learners the opportunity
    to examine the problem from a variety of theoretical and practical
    perspectives, rather than allowing a single perspective that learners
    must imitate to be successful. The use of a variety of resources rather
    than a limited number of preselected references requires students to
    detect relevant from irrelevant information.

  • Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate:
    is integral to the task, both within the course and the real world,
    rather than achievable by an individual learner.

  • Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect:
    Activities need to enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning both individually and socially.

  • Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain specific outcomes:
    encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and enable students to play
    diverse roles thus building robust expertise rather than knowledge
    limited to a single well-defined field or domain.

  • Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment:
    of activities is seamlessly integrated with the major task in a manner
    that reflects real world assessment, rather than separate artificial
    assessment removed from the nature of the task.

  • Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else:
    Activities culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than an exercise or sub-step in preparation for something else.

  • Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome:
    allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of
    an original nature, rather than a single correct response obtained by
    the application of rules and procedures.

Clearly these are worthy criteria for developing activities, defined in E-Primer 3 as "working with knowledge in an applied context" (p.21). Recently on the Henderson Laidlaw campus we had a visit by Dr Terry Stewart of Massey University. Terry won the 2008 DEANZ award for his work on problem-based learning and the SBL Interactive tool (Scenario-Based Learning). It is easy to see the value of Herrngton et al's criteria as a framework for using SBLi!

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