Authentic learning contexts

“The use of authentic tasks is also advocated to foster learning transfer in the belief that the collaboration among students helps them learn not only the concepts under discussion but also how these concepts are used in the workplace or in life (Jaworski, 1994 ). To accomplish an authentic task, students must interact through sharing what they are thinking, relating their ideas to past experiences, collaborating with their peers, actively constructing their own meaning, and incorporating the diverse perspectives of others,” (Woo & Reeves, 2007 p.20).

Although written in the context of web-based learning, this has implications for  ‘contextualising’ learning in face-to-face learning as well. To foster the transfer of learning, not only is collaboration needed, but a truly authentic context, rather than a forced one. Woo and Reeves identified ten characteristics of authentic activities (from p.21):

  • “1. Authentic activities have real-world relevance.
  • 2. Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity.
  • 3. Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time.
  • 4. Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources.
  • 5. Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate.
  • 6. Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect.
  • 7. Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain-specific outcomes.
  • 8. Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment.
  • 9. Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something
  • else.
  • 10. Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcomes.”

To summarise, authentic activities can take multiple paths, require flexibility, collaboration, and learner control. They require higher order thinking and certainly scaffolding to support students at their various stages of development. Authentic learning tasks are messy (and I would disagree that with point number nine that they create polished products – that isn’t necessarily learning.

Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 15–25.



AFL pedagogical approach

No. This is not a post about the best pedagogical approaches to coaching American Football League teams. This is about assessment (hence the tag). The research comes from De Luca, Luce, San & Klinger. Unfortunately I did not note the the title in my short notes when I made them several months ago.

Where to next? 

I assess for learning, but tend to be more literal in my approach (refer to details below). I involve the students in their assessment in bursts. I need to be more consistent in my approach and have more exemplars available.

Research Summary

Continue reading

Using annotations to inform an understanding of achievement standards

Using annotations to inform an understanding of achievement standards. Adie & Willis  Assessment Matters 6: 2014

“In practice, rather than being transparent, standards without exemplification can be quite opaque.” p.113

The article was written and based on work with year 6 & year 2 classroom teachers in Queensland, Australia.

  • Annotating exemplars prior to teaching enables better clarity of what to focus teaching on.
  • Use exemplars allows you to overcome assessment differences.
  • Annotate to develop a shared understanding for planning.
  • Create an exemplar and annotate to show aspects of importance.
  • Get students to annotate their own exemplars.
  • After discussion compare your annotations to National exemplars – reveal the variance in expectation.
  • Doing annotations as part of the process clarifies evidence for each standard.


  • Backward mapping: start with the assessment task when planning. This also helps clarify what evidence will look like.
  • Create a task which students will have to match their work to a criteria or criteria to a supplied exemplar
  • Create portfolios to guide moderations.
  • This can help when justifying decisions to parents.

Use of annotation – i.e. writing down rather than just talking – can help you focus on what to teach and learn and to identify specific examples of what you say a student can do.

Working for positive outcomes?

Working for positive outcomes? The standards – curriculum alignment for Learning Languages and its reception by teachers.  Martin East. Assessment Matters 6: 2014

Though aimed at the NZ secondary NCEA assessments, this article carries some ideas that can be practically transferred to the primary sector.

  • The NZC  is a learner centred experiential model where learning occurs through experience and co-construction.
  • E-portfolios should be a place where students can submit work they are happiest with.
  • When formally assessing work, get students to select the three best examples of their work rather than just summarily assessing them.

Summary – Singaporean teachers’ views of classroom assessment

Assessment matters 6: 2014 p.34-64.

  • Singaporean teachers’ views of classroom assessment.
  • Assessment is cultural and not easily transferable.
  • Teachers first need to know their views of classroom assessment.
  • Should be holistic.
  • Q: viewpoints can be subjective and can be communicative. Designed to explore “Subjective perceptions of groups of individuals.Easy Blog Photo

Notes from Unlocking Formative assessment

These are my short notes. I have tried to put it in my own words, however there will be cross-overs. Please refer to the original text.

Chapter 1

  • Make learning intentions clear
  • Design activities that enforce these learning intentions – not busy work.
  • Rather than displaying the short-term plan for the week, display the learning intentions for the week.

Chapter 2: Sharing learning intentions

  • Separate learning intention and success criteria from the task instructions. Ensure students differentiate between what you want them to learn and to do. Begin with activity instructions rather than learning intention: what to learn and what to do
  • Clear learning intentions – the last piece of the puzzle.
    • How will we know? 
    • Invite to participate
    • Display the WALT and SC – makes a significant difference to simply telling the students. 
    • Write the learning intention, not the instruction 

It doesn’t matter if the activity does more than the learning intention requires. The learning intention is the ‘minimum’. 

Teachers have found learning intentions develops learning culture, with students demanding learning intention if it is forgotten.

Create positive language around children getting stuck – learning occurs when something is hard.


  • Feedback is most useful when focussed on the learning intention.
  • Oral feedback: loudest on learning intention, whisper minor changes.

Feedback on 4 levels p.66

  1. about self – you are a good student – unrelated to task
  2. At motivation – leads to increased effort
  3. Aimed at the process – processes required for success.
  4. About the task – how to

To close the gap… (p.67)

  1. Highlight 3 places where best aspects against the learning intention.
  2. Indicate with an asterisk where improvement to be made
  3. Extend an arrow to the nearest white space and write closing the gap prompt by suggesting small improvement.


  • Give chance to respond
  • Students vote on possible answers
  • All students write down answer – read a few
  • Dialogue should provoke reflection.

Raising children’s self-esteem

Strategies to maintain self-concept.

  1. self-handicapping (excuses)
  2. Learned helplessness
  3. Discounting – dismiss feedback as not valuable
  4. Adopt less challenging goals
  5. Social comparison (with others).

Chapter 9: using this book to make a difference

  1. half term-term: ensure learning intentions clearly visible
  2. half term: introduce and trial sharing learning intentions. Feedback and continue
  3. Half term: introduce and trial student self-evaluation. Feedback and continue.
  4. Half term to term – introduce and trial oral and written feedback against learning intentions.
  5. Term: feedback all the strategies so far, to see how more time has changed their impact and teacher’s expertise
  6. Term: introduce writing target cards or flaps. Feedback and continue
  7. Discuss self-esteem in the light of the formative assessment strategies and review current practice.

Formative Assessment in Action: summary notes

Information taken from “Formative assessment in action: weaving the elements together” by Shirley Clarke.

p.6 Authority for the knowledge cannot be left in the hands of the teachers alone. All have a contribution to make. Making sense of new knowledge comes by connecting these to their prior knowledge and their expectations construed from this.


Assessments themselves do not result in learning. It needs to be deliberate. Formative assessment is defined Continue reading