UNF Center for Instruction and Research Technology

Instructional Design

Authentic Instruction

Understanding Authentic Instruction

Authentic Learning has been tossed around for many years as an activity that brings real world experience to the student through assignment. Whether it is done face-to-face or online, authentic learning should be viewed first as a method of instruction in the design phase before any activity is delivered.

Reshaping our thinking towards authentic instruction as a method starts with a good definition. This definition provided from researching articles for Authentic Learning is precise and embodies substantial evidence of its purpose. “In education, authentic learning is an instructional approach that allows students to explore, discuss, and meaningfully construct concepts and relationships in contexts that involve real-world problems and projects that are relevant to the learner (Donovan, Bransford & Pellegrino, 1999).”

In the world of online learning, it is the tools that are used that will help facilitate the authentic activity and should be included in your design phase. With the use of tools like web conferencing, wikis and discussion boards, students can be presented activities that increase engagement and gain information through exchange of various experiences. Constructing your own knowledge or constructivism is an area that is paramount for quality and sustained knowledge to take place. In order to achieve a better playground for this method of instruction, you must build or design your activities with principles or standards that encourage quality, sustained knowledge and real-life solutions to real-life problems. Authors Newmann & Wehlage (1993) provide a good framework called the Five Standards of Authentic Instruction to design valid authentic learning activities. These Five Standards of Authentic Instruction include: Higher Order Thinking, Depth of Knowledge, Connectedness to the World Beyond the Classroom, Substantive Conversation and Social Support for Student Achievement (Newmann & Wehlage, 1993).

Each of the five standards have their own measure or scale of least to greatest, negative to positive, low to high, no connection to connected, non-substantive to substantive in determining the integrity of the activity as being authentic during the design phase. With the five standards one can develop authentic learning activities using each standards scale to determine what kind of activities can be formulated to provide the standards optimal results in the delivery phase.


Donovan, S., Bransford, J., & Pellegrino. (1999). How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authentic_Learning

Newman, F. M. & Wehlage, G. S. (1993). Five Standards of Authentic Instruction. Educational Leadership, Volume 50, p. 8-12. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr93/vol50/num07/Five-Standards-of-Authentic-Instruction.aspx

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