I strongly resonated with Howland et al.’s discussion of the authentic attribute of learning. According to these authors, meaningful learning, the type of learning to which educators should aspire to instill in their students, requires this authentic component. The authors stress that authentic learning is based in real-world experiences, the type of experiences not often conducive to a classroom environment. Instead of merely lecturing to students, authentic learning’s proponents argue, teachers should pair this passive instruction with active, real-world learning. [1] A recent assignment for a class showed me how beneficial authentic learning can be.

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself pouring through the textbook for my Technical and Professional Communication class. As I was reading a chapter on writing e-mails, letters, and memos in the workplace, I asked myself, “How will I ever remember all of the unique stylistic devices used in these genres of writing?” I finished the chapter, retaining some of what I read but unable to recall all the steps necessary to draft a memo. Yesterday, though, my professor assigned an in-class authentic learning task, the object of which was to write a sample complaint memo to a university official. When I began writing, I heavily referenced the chapter that I had read for homework to ensure that I was formatting the document properly, but by the time I finished the assignment, I was confident in my ability to write a memo without having a template in front of me. I attribute this change to authentic learning and to the act of doing. Yes, passively reading the textbook taught me how to write a memo, but actually writing a memo actively allowed me to hone the skill, to practice, to remember. I believe the authentic component is an invaluable part of learning, a part that facilitates true, and meaningful, learning.

[1] Howland,  J.L., Jonassen, D., & Marra, R.M. (2011). Meaningful learning with technology. (Fourth ed.). Boston, M.A.: Allyn.