Weekly Reflection: Using Authenticity to Power learning

Kids Learn to Fish
Image by tuchodi used under creative commons licence

Daniel Pink’s book Drive and nifty little RSA lecture have been talked about and watched in schools for a number of years now. This along with Carol Dweck’s Mindset are the two books that I feel should be required reading for any teacher and more importantly any making educational policy.

Pink’s central thesis is that traditional notions of motivating people through financial reward doesn’t actually work. Instead he points to three factors that lead to better happier and more productive people. Autonomy, or the desire to be self-directed; Mastery, or the itch to keep improving at something that’s important to us; and Purpose, the sense that what we do produces something meaningful.

If there were a fourth factor I would add to apply for schools it is authenticity. I see authenticity as putting the purpose motive into action.

Time and time again I’ve seen learners up their game when they know what they are doing has consequences beyond the classroom.

Writing becomes more effective when the kids know there is an audience beyond the teacher are reading or seeing their ideas. Kids who hate maths with a passion are suddenly be able to calculate how much money they made at the bake sale with alarming speed and accuracy. A social studies unit on citizenship comes a live when kids actually get to participate in the process rather than watch from the sidelines.

Too often in schools learners are faced with dumbed down problems that have little or no meaning outside of the classroom.

So why do we place them inside the classroom?

To keep to a nice neat timetable?

Because it is easy?

Because those problems will be on the exam?

And soon teachers forget why it is that we learning all this stuff in the first place.

We bemoan the assembly that takes time away from our classroom programme or cultural and sporting events that disrupt the school day without realising those events are just as much part of our students learning as the reading groups.

But how do we capitalise on those projects?

Authenticity doesn’t take much.

It just takes time.

Time to notice.

Time to appreciate.

Time to act.

3 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: Using Authenticity to Power learning

Add yours

  1. That’s a great post, Stephanie. Pink, Dweck, Absolum, Nottingham and Claxton have driven my practice and changed everything about the way I teach over the past 3-4 years. I agree that authenticity is a significant factor in lifting outcome for our students but I believe the real shift is in Agency and Ubiquity. My teaching inquiry last year lead to the realisation that learning conversations need to be student led and the springboard for learning.


  2. It does take time for all the things you mention. And it takes courage to live with the messiness of doing authentic activities, and the willingness to refuse to give in to the doubts about whether the work you are doing is “real school.” I know from your other posts you have both.


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