540 discussion

Get perfect grades by consistently using www.assignmentgeeks.org. Place your order and get a quality paper today. Take advantage of our current 20% discount by using the coupon code GET20


Order a Similar Paper Order a Different Paper

 

Read Moore C. 10-11; Post YOUR thought-provoking and discussion worthy summaries, questions, riveting points from chapter reading to the Discussion Board AND YOUR RESPONSES TO AT LEAST TWO OF YOUR CLASSMATES’ POSTS no later than SUNDAY BY MIDNIGHT AT THE END OF THE WEEK.

Digital Collections @ Dordt Digital Collections @ Dordt

Master of Education Program Theses

5-2018

Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can

Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work

Rhonda Van Donge

Follow this and additional works at: https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/med_theses

Part of the Curriculum and Instruction Commons

Recommended Citation Recommended Citation
Van Donge, Rhonda, “Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their
Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work” (2018). Master of Education Program Theses. 119.
https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/med_theses/119

This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by Digital Collections @ Dordt. It has been accepted for
inclusion in Master of Education Program Theses by an authorized administrator of Digital Collections @ Dordt. For
more information, please contact [email protected]

Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their
Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work

Abstract Abstract
This action research study investigated how an authentic learning experience impacted the motivation
and engagement of students toward finding intrinsic value in meaningful work in a sophomore English
classroom at a private Christian high school in the Midwest. The participants were 57 sophomores at the
high school taking required English 10. The students participated in an authentic learning experience
(ALE) designed by their teacher in which they were split into 10 teams, each team writing and designing
one issue the sophomore class’s newspaper. The 57 students completed an anonymous survey at the
conclusion of the authentic learning experience. Eight students were randomly chosen to be interviewed
about their experiences in the ALE. The results of the study suggested that authentic learning experiences
do contribute to the overall motivation and engagement of students to find intrinsic value in their work.

Document Type Document Type
Thesis

Degree Name Degree Name
Master of Education (MEd)

Department Department
Graduate Education

First Advisor First Advisor
Patricia C. Kornelis

Keywords Keywords
Master of Education, thesis, authentic learning, motivation, engagement, high school, Christian education

Subject Categories Subject Categories
Curriculum and Instruction | Education

Comments Comments
Action Research Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of
Education

This thesis is available at Digital Collections @ Dordt: https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/med_theses/119

Authentic Learning Experiences:

Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful
Work

By

Rhonda Van Donge

B.A. Dordt College, 1999

Action Research Thesis
Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

Of the Requirements for the
Degree of Masters of Education

Department of Education
Dordt College

Sioux Center, Iowa
May 2018

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !ii

Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Students to

Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work

By

Rhonda Van Donge

Approved:

___________________________
Faculty Advisor

___________________________
Date

Approved:

___________________________
Director of Graduate Education

___________________________
Date

Pat Kornelis, Ed.D.

04/30/2018

Stephen Holtrop, Ph.D.

04/30/2018

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !iii

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dr. Tim Van Soelen and Dr. Pat Kornelis for their encouragement

and guidance throughout this project. They were instrumental in helping me clarify my purpose,

research, and writing. I also need to thank Mr. Nathan Ryder for his patience in helping me with

my statistical analysis of my data. He has patience beyond measure.

I never would have begun this journey without the support of my husband, Benj. He

helped me stay focused and motivated, even when that meant attention taken from my family and

job as a wife and mother. I also need to thank my four boys, Micah, Jamin, Eli, and Isaac,

because even though they may not have realized, they had to sacrifice summer activities and time

from their mom so that I could pursue this goal.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !iv

Table of Contents

Title Page ………………………………………………………….…………………….………i

Approval ………………………………………………………………….…………………….ii

Acknowledgements …………………………………………………………………………….iii

Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………iv

List of Figures ……..……………………………………………………………………………v

Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………….…..……vi

Introduction …………………………………………………………….………………….…….1

Review of the Literature ………………………………………………………….……………..7

Methods ……………………………………………………………………………….………..19

Results ……………………………………………………………………………….………….22

Discussion ………………………………………………………………………………………30

References ………………………………………………………………………………………35

Appendixes
Appendix A……………………………………………………….…………..………….40

Appendix B ………………………………………………….……………..……………42

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !v

List of Figures

Figures Page

1. Figure of Berger’s Hierarchy of Audience ……………………………………………8

2. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Real World/Audience ……….…………………23

3. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Critical Thinking …….……………..…………24

4. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Community of Learners ………………………24

5. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Student Choice ………….…………………..…25

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !vi

Abstract

This action research study investigated how an authentic learning experience impacted

the motivation and engagement of students toward finding intrinsic value in meaningful work in

a sophomore English classroom at a private Christian high school in the Midwest. The

participants were 57 sophomores at the high school taking required English 10. The students

participated in an authentic learning experience (ALE) designed by their teacher in which they

were split into 10 teams, each team writing and designing one issue the sophomore class’s

newspaper. The 57 students completed an anonymous survey at the conclusion of the authentic

learning experience. Eight students were randomly chosen to be interviewed about their

experiences in the ALE. The results of the study suggested that authentic learning experiences

do contribute to the overall motivation and engagement of students to find intrinsic value in their

work.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !1

The needs of today’s students are changing. “No pupil in the history of education is like

today’s modern learner. This is a complex, energetic, and tech-savvy individual” (The Critical,

2017). Students need skills that will allow them to be successful in an ever changing and

expanding workforce. In the early 1900’s, 95% of jobs in the United States called for low-skilled

workers (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008) to work mainly as production workers and laborers

(Fisk, 2003). In 2008, the workforce called instead for workers with specialized knowledge and

skills (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The growth of service industries in the 20th century

jumped from 31% in 1900 to 78% of all workers in 1999 (Fisk, 2003). Our global economy and

expanding technology “have redefined what it takes . . . to prosper” as working members of our

shrinking world (Hale, 1999, p. 9). Students today have very different needs to prepare them for

the workforce than students did earlier in our nation’s history. It is the responsibility of our

educational system to lead the students to skills that will prepare them for their future as working

members of a constantly evolving society.

When students graduate, they need to be prepared to join a global economy and

workforce. This workforce wants people with analytical skills and initiative to problem-solve.

Workers need creativity to find new solutions by looking from different angles in order to

synthesize information. Collaboration and communication are essential as students will find

themselves working and communicating with people from all over the world. They need to be

able to communicate their values and beliefs effectively with other people. Finally, businesses

want employees with ethical standards who want to be held accountable and responsible for how

they handle situations in their job (The Critical, 2017). In short, our students need to graduate

from our schools prepared to join a work force that calls for skills in communication and

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !2

collaboration, as well as skills in researching, collecting, analyzing, synthesizing and applying

knowledge. Because of this, schools need to equip and enable students to do more than

memorize and regurgitate information. Students need to be able to think critically, to transfer

knowledge to new situations, and to adapt in different environments and with many people

(Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). Students need to take an active and independent role in

their education to be prepared for what lies ahead outside of the school building.

The key to preparing our students in these skills starts with motivation. Teachers need to

motivate students to become engaged in the classroom so that they can participate in their own

learning. Motivation gives students the “direction, intensity, quality, and persistence of [their]

energies” (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Motivation happens by creating learning that

challenges the students, that allows them to show what they have discovered in a product that has

greater purpose then the classroom assignment, thus giving them the confidence to master the

next problem or task set before them. As teachers equip them to grow into responsible

individuals motivated to achieve for the intrinsic value of their learning (Beesley, Clark, Barker,

Germeroth, & Apthorp, 2010), students will feel prepared to join a workforce that demands

communication, collaboration, researching, collecting, analyzing, synthesizing and application of

knowledge (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The challenge of designing curriculum laced

with motivation falls then on the teachers tasked with preparing our students for this future.

Students are motivated by real world learning. “The more we focus on students’ ability

to devise effective solutions to real world problems, the more successful those students will

become” (The Critical, 2017). Students feel disengaged when they do not feel that what they are

learning is relevant to their own lives (Certo, Cauley, Moxley, & Chafin, 2008). They need

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !3

opportunities in learning that show them what it means to be a productive member of society

(Cronin, 1993). Beesley et al (2010) stated that research has shown that students involved in

their community are more likely to excel and thrive in all areas of their lives. Community

service opportunities increase students’ future involvement and behavior in their communities.

Introducing service in the curriculum led to better social behavior and future involvement in the

community.

Choice in learning also motivates students to engage in the classroom. When teachers

simply pass on information, students do not have as great of a chance to connect personally with

the knowledge, with each other, with the teacher, and with the real world (Kalantzis & Cope,

2004). Choice allows students to self-regulate, to make goals, to make a plan, to make a

commitment, and then to reflect on what they have done. When given choices, students feel a

sense of control in their own learning.

Self-efficacy allows the students to take on a task and to believe that they can do the task.

Teachers then have the responsibility of giving feedback to their students in order to raise the

students’ self-efficacy, to guide them in their learning process while allowing them to use trial

and error (Beesley et al, 2010). Teachers motivate students by creating student-directed learning

balanced well with the teacher as coach and facilitator in the classroom.

Critical thinking and problem solving also motivate students. If a teacher stands in front

of a classroom of students who are disengaged from what she is teaching, little hope remains that

any deep learning and critical thinking skills are taking place. A teacher needs to create a

classroom in which disengagement is not an option, where learning demands the students’ full

attention, where what happens in the class creates the challenge and rigor most students

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !4

ultimately crave (Kalantzis & Cope, 2004). When students are engaged both cognitively and

behaviorally, students’ effort and concentration are high. Students choose tasks that challenge

and initiate action. Without motivation to engage in critical thinking, students become passive,

defensive, and bored. They give up easily (Beesley et al, 2010).

Further, being a community of learners motivates students. Cooperative learning results

in higher achievement than competitive or individual learning does (Beesley et al, 2010).

Working in community leads to students who are more willing to take on difficult tasks that

involve higher-level reasoning, more creativity, positive attitudes, more time spent on task,

higher motivation and thus higher satisfaction (Beesley et al, 2010). Students feel connected in

caring, supportive classrooms (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012).

According to Kalantzis and Cope (2004), “learning happens by design” (p. 39).

Classroom motivation happens when students are “psychologically engaged, active participants

in school, who also value and enjoy the experiences of learning at school” (Quin, 2016, p. 345).

By designing a classroom setting in which students are involved in real world problems with an

authentic audience, in the need for deeper critical thinking skills, and in defining the problem and

the direction for the solution (Rule, 2006), teachers develop motivated students who recognize

the “intrinsic fulfillment of meaningful work” (Romano, 2009 p. 36). These students become

equipped with the skills and attitudes to be successful after their formal education is completed.

Authentic learning experiences (ALE’s) are the “learning by design” (Kalantzis & Cope,

2004) students need to develop the motivation to engage them in the classroom. When they

understand meaning behind learning, they become engaged. Instead of giving students a math

equation to figure out, the teacher can ask them how much it is going to cost for the school to

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !5

pave the entire parking lot. Instead of having them write a fake letter in order to learn proper

letter formatting, they can write a letter to a family member or friend about the last book they

read. Instead of researching a recent war, they can interview a war veteran for firsthand

information. Instead of studying various websites to understand how they are made, students can

work directly with local businesses to create websites for the business’s actual use (O’Hanlon,

2008). Teachers then give their students meaning in their classroom work and the rigor that

students ultimately want (Romano, 2009). Students want to be challenged with high

expectations for achievement, knowing that their teacher does in fact believe they all can achieve

success (Varuzza, Eschenauer, & Blake, 2014; Vetter, 2010). The teacher needs to help the

students feel they are competent to accomplish real world work (Vetter, 2010). With clear

expectations, time to delve into the work, and freedom to explore, students find motivation to

learn (Lawrence & Harrison, 2009). They find that intrinsic value in what they learn, as well as

the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in a job well done (Romano, 2009). The teacher

becomes the facilitator rather than the director (Vetter, 2010). Teachers no longer stand at the

front of the room lecturing; rather, they coach their students through the learning process.

Teachers can guide students to this kind of learning through ALE’s.

Purpose of the Study

Authentic learning experiences have the power to pull students to that “intrinsic value of

meaningful work.” Students will have work that allows them to interact, to take ownership of

their learning, and to work outside the classroom (Varuzza et al., 2014). This study sought to

answer the question: Do authentic learning experiences in secondary English classrooms lead to

“the intrinsic fulfillment” of secondary students? In other words, do authentic learning

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !6

experiences lead to greater levels of motivation thus leading to greater engagement as students

realize the importance of the work they are doing for their future lives?

Definitions

For the purpose of this study, the following definitions will be used. Unless otherwise

noted, the definitions are those of the author.

Authentic Learning Experiences: classroom activities with a real world/real audience focus that

incorporate critical thinking skills, that center around a community of learners, and that are

student-directed rather than teacher-directed.

Motivation: direction and energy in a student’s behavior that empowers them to take on a

challenge, to do quality work, and to persist until they have accomplished a meaningful goal

(Beesley et al, 2010, Fredricks & McColskey, 2012).

Engagement: cognitive or behavioral action that results from a high level of motivation and

leads to strong effort, concentration, enthusiasm, and curiosity (Beesley et al, 2010).

Real World Experiences: classroom activities that tie directly to situations that happen in the

world outside the classroom that students may encounter in their daily life now or in the future.

Real World Audience: an audience for classroom work other than the teacher, such as parents,

school community, public audience beyond the school, anyone capable of critiquing student

work, and recipients of service done by the students (Wagner, 2017).

Critical thinking skills: ability to think clearly and rationally, to engage in reflection, to

synthesize and analyze, and to think independently, creatively, and with vision.

Community of Learners: multiple students or the class as a whole engaged together in the

learning process, working collaboratively rather than in competition.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !7

Student-directed learning: students taking responsibility and ownership in their learning while

the teacher becomes more of a facilitator and coach.

Intrinsic value of meaningful work: when students feels personal satisfaction, enjoyment,

curiosity, and focus in the activity itself, not from an outside force.

Summary

Because of our changing work force, our global economy, and the changing skills

required of our graduated students, authentic learning experiences have become essential for our

students. We need students to step out of the classroom ready to problem-solve, to find

solutions, to think critically and analytically, to collaborate, to communicate effectively, and to

be ethical and accountable in the workforce. To be successful in their future, they need authentic

learning experiences now to get them actively involved in their learning so that what they gain

from their education is the “intrinsic fulfillment of meaningful work” which will “develop a

productive, tenacious attitude toward such work” that they can “take . . .with them throughout

their lives” (Romano, 2009, p. 30).

Literature Review

Four Characteristics of an Authentic Learning Experience

When teachers plan for an authentic learning experience, four characteristics encompass

what makes those plans authentic. There must be a real world problem, use of inquiry and

critical thinking skills, a community of learners working together, and student choice in their

learning.

ALE’s use real world problems with impact outside of the classroom to motivate and

teach students (Rule, 2006). For example, an English teacher can connect her students with pen

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !8

pals from another country so that rather than writing letters only for the sake of learning the

format, they can learn the format while writing letters to these pen pals. Part of a real world

problem, as in this example, means a real world audience. Berger (2017) has implemented what

he calls the “hierarchy of audience.” According to Berger (2017), as the authenticity of the

audience increases, so does the motivation and engagement of the students. At the bottom of the

hierarchy is the audience of the teacher, followed by parents, the school community, a public

audience beyond the school, people capable of critiquing the students’ work, and at the top of

Berger’s hierarchy is authentic work done for service to the world (Wagner, 2017).

As a service in the outside world

People who can critique

Public Audience beyond the school Motivation and

School Community Engagement

Parents Increase

Teacher

Figure 1. Figure that shows the hierarchy of audience for whom students can present their work

in order to increase student motivation and engagement (Wagner, 2017).

By incorporating both real world and real need elements, students’ view of the world

broadens as the world is brought into the scope of their learning environment (Kalantzis &

Copel, 2004).

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !9

Use of inquiry and critical thinking skills is another characteristic of authentic learning

experiences. The teacher creates problems that the students can use to discover, inquire, and

deduce (Rule, 2006). Teachers push students to think outside of the box as they connect the

learning to the real world. This critical thinking may happen through hands-on activities,

through debate, or through problem solving (Certo et al, 2003). For example, at Silverton School,

in Silverton, Colorado, students used critical thinking skills as they discovered what it means to

be “rich” or “poor”. The students looked at personal finances, national economic problems, and

then global issues of wealth and poverty to come to an understanding that being rich or poor is

not measured only by money (Expeditions, n.d.).

ALE’s also share the characteristic of being formed within a community of learners.

Even if students are working individually to find a solution to a real world problem, they are all

in a community of inquiry, striving for answers within an environment created by the need for

discovery. Students may collaborate in problem solving, creating, or presenting. They talk,

argue, and discuss with their peers while searching for solutions. They become actively involved

in making meaning (Kukral & Spector, 2012). For examples, they may collaborate with their

fellow students by writing a website together (Mac & Coniam, 2008), with the community by

working hand in hand on a community project or by offering valuable services to businesses

(O’Hanlon, 2008), or with a real audience through a newspaper or bulletin (Mac & Coniam,

2008).

Finally, ALE’s allow students to direct their own learning. They have ownership and

responsibility in the problem at hand. Teachers give choice to allow the students to both define

the problem and design how to find the solution (Rule, 2006). Teachers may use mini-lessons to

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !10

guide students through the decision-making process and to lead them to real life skills, but as

students are equipped, they become the primary directors of their learning (Huntley-Johnston,

Merritt, & Huffman, 1997). Teachers may have created the opportunity, the equity, and the

participation, but the students must engage with the learning to make it their own (Kalantzis &

Cope, 2004). At High Tech High in San Diego, California, through a collaborative project

between the humanities and Spanish classes, teachers tasked the students with doing a project

that related to the U.S./Mexico border. That was the only parameter given. Students decided for

themselves what topic or area they wanted to research, and then they decided how they wanted to

display their research for an audience of the school community as well as for Mexican students

they had been conversing with since the start of the unit. Their work, though given an

overarching theme, was completely student-driven, and much learning took place (Schwartz,

2018).

No teacher wants to hear, “How much does this count for?” or “How long does this have

to be?” or “Does this have to be typed?” These questions show that learning is a task for the

teacher, not for the student to learn life skills needed in the real world or for an authentic

audience. Teachers need to deliberately connect students to the real world to help them

understand the why behind what they do in the classroom. When teachers have created authentic

learning experiences well, learning becomes meaningful to the student (Barron & Darling-

Hammond, 2008). Students are committed with a sense of belonging within the learning

environment. The opportunity to step out of the classroom either physically or through their

mental attitude toward the task gives the students a sense of control over their own learning.

This sense of control in turn creates positivity (Shernoff, Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, &

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !11

Shernoff, 2014). Students gain factual information in the process of problem-solving and can

transfer that knowledge to different situations and contexts. They are able to explore and apply

their learning as they discover solutions. In the discovery, they learn to define problems and find

solutions without being teacher directed (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The teacher gives

appropriate help as needed, but students rise to the challenge by increasing the skills they need to

reach a solution (Shernoff et al, 2014) Not only can the students find solutions, they are able to

give reasons and support for those solutions. In doing this, the students increase their motivation

and form work-habits to use beyond the classroom. They learn to collaborate and become

experts with confidence (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). In other words, they become

motivated and engaged students learning life skills needed after they graduate from high school.

As teachers design work to motivate and engage their students through authentic learning

experiences, students realize the importance of what they are doing. With real tasks and real

audience, the need to think critically, collaboration and community, and self-directed learning,

students feel accomplishment and success knowing they have worked for their own learning

purpose, not just for a grade. Often they have shared what they have learned with an audience

outside of simply the teacher (Huntley-Johnston et al, 1997). By careful design, teachers have

created the “intrinsic fulfillment of meaningful work” for their students through authentic

learning experiences.

Misconceptions of Authentic Learning Experiences

As teachers work toward authentic classrooms, they may feel intimidated by certain

misconceptions of what ALE’s must look like. One misconception is that an ALE has to be all or

nothing. Teachers can work toward authenticity in their classroom as a progression. Creating

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !12

experiences in a daily lesson can be just as beneficial as creating a semester-long authentic

project. Teachers need permission to start small and to use other teaching methods besides ALEs

as well (Cronin, 1993). Another misconception about ALE’s is that a teacher’s lesson plans need

to be completely redone to include the authentic experience, but ALE’s may be designed from

already-created lesson plans. Many teachers subconsciously know that their students need to feel

that what they are doing is tied to the real world in some way (Cronin, 1993). Teachers may have

already created opportunities for collaboration, critical thinking, differentiation, and student

choice. A final myth about ALE’s is that they must always be fun, creative, and original.

Students may not enjoy the task, the task may have been done by another teacher already, or it

may feel ordinary to the teacher, but that does not mean it is not authentic. If it is tied to an

authentic task or has an authentic audience, if critical thinking skills are in full play, if the

classroom has become a community of learners working together, and if students have choice in

their own learning, then it has the potential of pulling students into a real world situation with

intrinsic, meaningful work (Cronin, 1993).

Educators and students must understand that “our main task together in the classroom is

to attend to learning – not just to learn but to attend to learning, to understand how we learn, and

get good at it, and talk about it, perhaps differently than we might other places” (Whitney, 2011

p. 58). When teachers design ALEs and students are motivated to engage, intrinsic learning can

take place and break through the stereotype of school as boring and rigid. Authentic learning

experiences may not take students out of the actual school setting. Even in the most well

designed ALE, teachers must admit to their students that what they do in the classroom may not

perfectly mirror the real world, but that does not mean what they learn is not connected to life

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !13

skills and assets they will need both now and in the future. An English teacher asks students to

read and write because the teacher needs to help the students learn to be “self conscious about

those practices” (Whitney, 2011 pg. 57). This is a student choosing to learn. Teaching students to

be discerning readers or effective writers also teaches them to become better “users” of these

skills (Whitney, 2011). This is a student thinking critically. Creating peer groups so that

students can give each other feedback on writing allows them to collaborate and communicate.

This is a community of learners. Teachers can use ALE’s to motivate students at a deeper level,

to create an atmosphere of authenticity in which learning is attached to life skills needed in the

real world. Teachers want students who are not just surviving school by counting seconds,

goofing around, or staring out the window; teachers want students who feel motivated to engage

in meaningful work. Students cannot feel disconnected from their learning (Shernoff et al,

2014). Instead, teachers can use authentic learning experiences to create connections between

the students and their life outside of the school building.

When teachers work to “attend to learning,” they can position their students to find that

intrinsic value in learning through authenticity in the classroom. ALE’s become useful tools for

learning when students and teachers find their place of identity and understanding together in the

classroom, through interaction and relevance. Teachers understand that each student comes from

an individual context that teachers can use to empower each student to make choices and

connections for their own learning. Teachers become facilitators and guides within the

classroom, empowering students to be competent decision-makers. Teachers also create

empowerment and motivation by setting high expectations for accomplishment within an ALE

(Vetter, 2010).

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !14

Creating Motivation with Authentic Learning Experiences

Teachers design many experiences in which students move into the intrinsically

meaningful work of ALE’s. The best way to clearly understand how ALE’s create motivation

and engagement is to see authentic learning at work. O’Hanlon (2008) shared how he connected

his students with local businesses to create content for websites that the businesses actually used.

Students received real world experience for a real audience. Another teacher created a real

audience by having her students publish an anthology of their work that they sold to local

businesses. The writing became specifically for an audience, causing them to choose topics that

made more sense for that broader audience. The editing and proofreading the students had to do

took on significant meaning because they knew mistakes would show carelessness and laziness

as writers. The class even learned about marketing and letter writing as they got word out that

their anthology was for sale. Not only did the students benefit, but so did the community

(Putnam, 2001). Another teacher organized her journalism class like an actual newspaper that

caused the students to take on the responsibility of all parts of brainstorming, researching,

writing, editing, and publishing. The students never worried about their grade because they were

too focused on putting out an excellent newspaper for a real audience. These students had a

sense of ownership, accomplishment, and pride in their work (Denman, 1995). Another example

of an authentic learning experience happened in an English classroom in which the teacher led

her students through the process of writing how-to books. Students were able to share their

expertise and saw how that expertise helped others learn something new (Huntley-Johnston et al,

1997). In a research project, Powers (2009) explained how he saw students go above and beyond

research requirements as they took ownership of their topic and became personally involved.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !15

One student was invited to a private dinner for a Nobel Peace Prize winner through her research

project. This student’s research led to an extracurricular club at her school that allowed students

to meet people making a difference in the world, and to realize how they themselves could make

a difference. All of these examples increased student motivation because they incorporated a real

problem with a real audience, they allowed the students to use critical thinking and problem

solving skills, they took place as a community of learners, and the students had choice in the

direction their learning took.

Authentic Learning Experiences in the English Classroom

English curriculum is designed to focus on skills in discussing, reading, researching, and

writing (Kahn, 2007; Powers, 2009; Speaker & Speaker, 1991; Vetter, 2010). In any of these skill

areas, ALE’s can be used to motivate and engage students toward intrinsic learning in

meaningful work. Students will find meaning in discussing, reading, researching, and writing

when that learning is tied to real world/real audience work, to the need for critical thinking, and

to student-directed learning within the context of a community of learners.

Discussion is a skill area in the English curriculum that can be designed as an ALE. To

create an authentic learning experience using discussion, the discussion becomes open-ended,

not a question and answer recitation. Teachers create an ALE in discussion when they introduce

conflict or controversy and allow students to defend or analyze without implying a right or

wrong answer. Instead, students use discussion to analyze and assess their information and

experiences. Discussions take on the medium that best suits the students and situation; for

example, a blog post creates authentic commenting or an online forum allows students to speak

openly with people outside of their own classroom (Kahn, 2007). In one study, a group of

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !16

students in inner city Chicago began a discussion with local leaders, police, families, and clergy

about gun violence that led to service within their community (More Than You, n.d.). Students

can be motivated to feel meaningfully engaged as they become personally involved in the

contributions they bring to any classroom and to a greater audience. The discussion becomes a

sharing of ideas with others through critically thinking, which in turn leads to stronger sense of

community with whomever the discussion takes place. Right or wrong no longer becomes the

focus; instead, the process of discussing becomes the focus.

Reading is another area in which ALE’s can be incorporated. Students become authentic

readers when they engage with the words they read and incorporate the new knowledge into a

real problem or audience, into the need for critical thinking skills, into work as a community of

learners, and into the desire to direct their own learning. What the students do with what they

have read can lead to a meaningful authentic learning experience. For those students in inner

city Chicago who began a discussion on gun violence, that discussion began after they had read

information on the United States constitution. This led them to a connection between “We, the

people . . .” and themselves as those very people of whom the constitution spoke. Reading led to

authenticity through relationship (More Than You, n.d.). Teachers can lead their students to

notice vocabulary or themes or conflicts they have found in their everyday reading that trigger

authentic conversations such as the one these students had regarding the Constitution. These

conversations can then lead to a heightened awareness of what makes good writing (Speaker &

Speaker, 1991) as well as heightened awareness of the needs of others (More Than You, n.d.).

An authentic learning experience can then find a fertile place to grown.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !17

Another example of authentic reading is in the Reading Workshop format. Students

connect with books because they have choice in what they read, they learn to read critically

through mini-lessons and use of mentor texts by the teacher, they use their community in the

classroom to share about their books, and reading becomes more real world because students are

no longer being forced to read one certain book. They become the directors of what they get to

read, hopefully also as lifelong readers well after graduation day (Brunow, n.d.). Reading leads

students to critical thinking, interaction, and self-confidence–important life skills needed in the

real world.

Researching in an authentic context allows students to have choice in order to develop

ownership toward their work. Students feel that ownership as they direct their own learning with

the guidance of their teacher. The students in inner city Chicago took ownership of their learning

by addressing a need that they were personally connected to in their neighborhood. Their

research moved from a textbook on the American Constitution to interviews and personal

experience with people of their community (More Than You, n.d.). Instead of using a magazine

article as research to satisfy a requirement for a research paper, students realized that the deepest

research comes from face-to-face contact, telephone interviews, or travel to historical sites for

hands-on research. Learning becomes personal as the students become authorities and confident

experts (Powers, 2009). No longer is researching necessary only for a paper for their teacher;

researching becomes a part of discovery, teamwork, and critically thinking towards a solution to

a real world problem for a real audience.

Writing becomes authentic when it is done for an authentic audience with a real need and

a real purpose that leads students to an intrinsic need to use precise wording, details, revisions

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !18

and proofreading (Powers, 2009). In one teacher’s classroom, the teacher created an authentic

writing experience when her students took their study of Benjamin Franklin’s aphorisms in Poor

Richard’s Almanac and each wrote a children’s book. The students used one of the aphorisms as

a basis for their book, explaining it in the form of a digital story for local kindergarteners. The

real audience gave the students a real need to critically analyze the aphorism of their choice and

to write about it in a way that the kindergarteners would be able to understand (Sztabnik, 2015).

In another example of authentic writing, a teacher had his students research writing

contests, choose one, read and understand the manuscript guidelines for submission, adapt one of

their own pieces of writing to the contest, and submit it to the contest they had found. The

students then learned to use proper MLA citation for their own piece in order to include it in a

resume. Many of his students became published writers from this authentic learning experience

(Sztabnik, 2015).

Authentic writing also happens when students write about their personal passions in order

to share with the school community as a whole or students write a script for a public service

announcement that they turn into a video (Sztabnik, 2015). Students understand the need to be

effective and responsible communicators when what they write is for an audience outside of their

classroom walls. They see the meaningful value of writing as the prerequisite to becoming

active members of the world outside of their classroom walls.

In all of these examples, students find themselves a part of a real world problem or

working for a real audience. They are defining a problem or asking a question, searching for

solutions or designing a product, using critical thinking and inquiry skills, working as a

community of learners toward similar goals, and taking ownership and responsibility in their

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !19

own learning. In these experiences, students find their voice, find their purpose, and find

confidence in hard work. New skills are learned, new interests created, new doors opened that

they would not have thought possible had the teacher not designed learning for them to step into.

Students leave school knowing the value of intrinsic fulfillment in meaningful work because

their teacher valued authenticity in the classroom. By designing ALE’s in the classroom that

focused on real problems and audiences, on critical thinking skills, on student-directed learning,

and on learning in community, teachers prepare their students for life outside the classroom

walls. They give their students skills in communication, collaboration, researching, collecting,

analyzing, synthesizing and applying knowledge. These are the skills that will lead them to

being successful working members of their local and global communities (Barron & Darling-

Hammond, 2008). As one student stated, “We work together to get smart for a purpose, to make

our community and our world a better place” (More Than You, n.d.).

Methods

Participants

The participants of this research study were 10th grade students at a small private high

school in the Midwest made up of 261 ninth through twelfth grade students. The majority of

these participants are from white, middle class families who live in rural communities

surrounding the high school. There were 30 females and 27 males in the study. All 10th grade

students take the required English 10 class in their sophomore year. This research study took

place in an English 10 course that split the students into three sections: one section with 21

students, one with 16, and the third with 20. All sections participated in the same authentic

learning experience with the same teacher.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !20

Materials

The material used in this research were a survey given to the students at the end of the

authentic learning experience. The anonymous survey was created by the researcher using

SurveyMonkey.com. The survey, located in Appendix A, used a five-level Likert-type scale

ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The survey was used to determine the intrinsic

engagement and value of the ALE for each student through the four characteristics of an ALE.

The researcher also conducted semi-structured interviews of eight students selected randomly

through a random number generator. See Appendix B for interview questions.

Design

A descriptive research design was used for this study. An anonymous survey was given

to all 57 students at the end of their authentic learning experience. In order to describe the

relationship between each of the characteristics of an ALE and overall student motivation in an

ALE, the survey statements focused on the four characteristics of an authentic learning

experience. Five statements focused on real world problem/audience, five on the use of inquiry

and critical thinking skills, five on being a part of a community of learners, and five on student-

directed learning.

The researcher also used a semi-formal interview process to interview eight randomly

selected students at the end of the ALE. These interviews used open-ended questions to allow

for more than yes or no answers. The purpose of these interviews was to understand more

deeply how students were motivated intrinsically within the ALE. The responses to each

interview were recorded and then analyzed and sorted according to different themes and

categories.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !21

Procedure

The 57 students all participated in the same authentic learning experience. The students

were divided into ten different teams ranging from 6-8 students in a team. Within their teams,

the students worked together to write and layout a newspaper issue to be distributed to the

school’s student body. Each student was responsible for interviewing someone, focusing the

story around the theme of joy in the interviewee’s life. In order to put out their issue of the

newspaper, each team chose various jobs for each member. The jobs included editor-in-chief,

revisers, word choosers, proofreaders, picture editors, and layout editors. The teams had

autonomy over which roles each person played in their newspaper team. Together they had two

weeks to write and design their issue of the sophomore class newspaper that they titled 20/20

Vision.

After the ALE was completed, the researcher gave all 57 students the survey through

SurveyMonkey.com. The survey received a perfect rate of return because the survey was taken

during class time. The researcher was present when the students took the survey with anonymity

preserved because no names were associated with answers on the surveys. The semi-structured

interviews took place the day after the teams turned in their final newspapers. Interviews took

place within this class period while other students had silent reading time. The researcher

interviewed each of the eight students to gather a deeper understanding of the feeling of intrinsic

motivation and engagement in the work they did for their authentic learning experiences. The

answers to the interviews were coded and analyzed immediately following the interviews

according to similar words, phrases, and beliefs common in all of their answers.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !22

Results

After the students completed the authentic learning experience, they anonymously took

the survey to determine the extent that they felt intrinsically motivated by the characteristics of

an authentic learning experience. The survey focused questions around the four tenets of an ALE:

real world/audience, critical thinking, community of learners, and student-directed learning.

Eight randomly selected students were also interviewed in order to further clarify the students’

level of motivation after the ALE was completed. Their answers were coded and analyzed

according to the themes and trends that their answers revealed.

Survey

In order to answer whether ALE’s lead to greater motivation and thus greater engagement

for students, the survey was used to show the individual relationship of the four characteristics of

an authentic learning experiences to the ALE as a whole. The researcher assigned a value of 5 to

each survey answer that showed the best attitude toward an ALE. So if the best attitude answer

for a question was “Strongly Agree,” then that answer received a 5, if “Mildly Agree” then a 4, if

“Neutral” a 3, if “Mildly Disagree” a 2, and if “Strongly Disagree” a 1. These assigned scores of

each survey were then added together to get a total number of points for that student’s survey.

The total possible points available for the 20-question survey was 100. The researcher then

collated the answers into the four characteristics of an ALE. Each of those sections of five

questions was also totalled for each student. The researcher then had a total number for each

characteristic as well as a total number for each survey. This data was used to calculate

regression, or the relationship between each characteristic of an ALE to the ALE as a whole.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !23

Figures 1 thru 4 show the regression lines for each of the four characteristics. The regression is

measured using R-squared. The R-squared value for each of the characteristics are as follows:

Real World/Audience: 48.4%; Community of Learners: 38.7%; Critical Thinking: 63.3%;

Student Choice: 15.1%. The results of this analysis show how each of the characteristics of an

ALE fall in relationship to the ALE as a whole.

Figure 2. Linear graph showing the correlation between Real World/Audience to the total sum of the

survey.

The R-squared value of 48.4% shows that having a real problem and/or a real audience

was motivating for the students. It was the second highest correlation of the four characteristics.

S
um

o
f R

ea
l W

or
ld

/A
ud

ie
nc

e
S

co
re

s

10

13

16

19

22

25

Total Sum
55 64 73 82 91 100

R² = 0.4835

Real World/Audience

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !24

Figure 3. Linear graph showing correlation between Critical Thinking and the total sum of

survey.

Critical thinking had the highest R-squared value of 63.3%. This is a very strong

correlation to show that students felt motivated when they could use this skill while working on

their ALE.

Figure 4. Linear graph showing the correlation between Community of Learners and the total

sum of the survey.

S
um

o
f C

rit
ic

al
T

hi
nk

in
g

S
co

re
s

10

13

16

19

22

25

Total Sum
55 64 73 82 91 100

R² = 0.6331

Critical thinking
S

um
o

f C
om

m
un

ity
o

f
Le

ar
ne

rs
S

co
re

s

10

13

16

19

22

25

Total Sum

55 64 73 82 91 100

R² = 0.3874

Community of Learners

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !25

Though the R-squared value for Community of Learners was third highest with a value of

38.7%, it does shows a correlation between the motivation of the ALE as a whole and being able

to work in community with their classmates.

Figure 5. Linear graph showing the correlation between Student Choice and the total sum of the

survey.

Student choice in their learning had the lowest R-squared value. The 15.1% is much

lower than the other three characteristics and indicated this was the least motivating factor in

how the students felt about the ALE. Even as a lower score, 15.4% does show that students were

motivated by being able to have choice in their learning, but the lower score suggests that having

choice in their work was not as motivating to the students as the other three characteristics.

Interviews

This study sought to answer whether authentic learning experiences lead to greater levels

of motivation thus leading to greater engagement as students realize the importance of the work

S
um

o
f S

tu
de

nt
C

ho
ic

e
S

co
re

s

10

13

16

19

22

25

Total Sum

55 64 73 82 91 100

R² = 0.1514

Student Choice

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !26

they are doing for their future lives. The interview responses of the eight randomly selected

students were overwhelmingly positive in regards to answering this research question. Their

answers reflected their attitudes in the four basic characteristics of an ALE.

Real world/real audience. The interviews showed that the students enjoyed connecting

with a real audience through the newspaper unit. Student C said that reading the articles written

by other students “helped me find joy when I’m busy or find joy when life isn’t really going my

way” (Student C interview, March 1, 2018). Student H said that they received reassurance from

reading other newspaper articles from fellow classmates because they felt that “my life is kind of

hard . . . but it made me get reassured that life will get better” (Student H interview, March 1,

2018). This student also said that publishing the newspaper allowed them “to show people

reading it that joy comes in many different ways and it’s not the same for everybody” (Student H

interview, March 1, 2018).

Having a real audience changed all of the students’ perspectives in how they wrote their

article. Student A said that it “changed the way I write when it’s meant to go to everyone instead

of just the teacher” (Student A interview, March 1, 2018) Student B said, “I tried harder to make

sure I represented myself and the class well” (Student B interview, March 1, 2018).

Having a connection to the real world and real audience changed the amount of effort

students put into their work. One hundred percent of the students commented in their own words

that the real audience made them work harder to publish a well-written article. Student D said,

“I wanted more people to see that I can do better than what I probably have done in the

past” (Student D interview, March 1, 2018). Student G responded, “I knew that people I knew

were going to read it and it had to be good because I had to put my name on it” (Student G

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !27

interview, March 1, 2018). Student B shared that she hoped “that people would know that the

sophomore class was a great class” because of their newspaper (Student B interview, March 1,

2018). On the negative side of a having a real audience, only one student, 12.5%, found a

downside of having a real audience. Student C stated “I don’t want people to know it’s from me”

(Student C interview, March 1, 2018).

Community of learners. Eighty-eight percent of the interviewed students found benefits

in working as a community to accomplish their project. Student A said that it was “fun to read

other people’s stories, where other people find joy in their lives” (Student A interview, March 1,

2018). Student B “loved seeing the creative ideas that the rest of the class did” (Student B

interview, March 1, 2018). Student G enjoyed connecting with the greater school community

through the newspaper. This student stated, “We got to interview different people and find out

about their stories of joy . . . that was really cool” (Student G interview, March 1, 2018). Student

F said that he felt “like I put a good amount of effort in for my team” (Student F interview,

March 1, 2018), and Student D said, “We each did our part and we got it done” (Student D

interview, March 1, 2018). Student H stated “It was nice to have people to hold me accountable”

(Student H interview, March 1, 2018). Two of the students agreed that they did the work because

they knew that their team was depending on them. Student F said that he “didn’t want to be the

weak link that drags everyone else down so you do your job, so I felt responsible for

that” (Student F interview, March 1, 2018) while Student E said she knew that “people were

counting on me” (Student E interview, March 1, 2018). Student B said that “Everyone did what

we assigned them to do, on time, and if someone didn’t get something done, we always helped

them. Yeah, I think we really did well together” (Student B interview, March 1, 2018). There

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !28

were negative feelings toward working as a team in 37% of those interviewed. Student C said

that she didn’t feel like her team worked that well together “because half the people on our team

don’t care,” and when asked her least favorite part of the project she simply stated, “Some of my

team members” (Student C interview, March 1, 2018). Student G said that “there was some

people who didn’t really do a lot and some people who did like all of it so it was a mix of people

who didn’t think they had to do anything and people who knew they had to do

everything” (Student G interview, March 1, 2018). Student A shared, “Depending on others, I’m

not always sure that they will do their best work and I wonder how that will affect how well my

final project will be” (Student A interview, March 1, 2018).

Critical thinking. Many of the responses showed that through the process of

interviewing people, students critically processed the true meaning of joy. They also had to use

their critical thinking and analyzing skills to work through the writing process on their articles.

Overall, 87% of the students commented on the need to think critically on this project. The

students wanted to use their critical thinking skills to submit a well-written article to their

newspapers. Student C said that she “just enjoyed learning about joy . . . because I need to work

on that” (Student C interview, March 1, 2018). Student D liked “learning about other people and

their stories” (Student D interview, March 1, 2018). Some of the interviewees made specific

applications to their own learning needs. Student B said that she “grew from it as a writer,

learning how to write more concise how to see things clearer, like grammatically, how to set up

things, so yes, think I grew from it” (Student B interview, March 1, 2018). Student H shared

that “I don’t say I’m very good at school but when I was correcting my paper I realized . . . it’s

not that bad actually” (Student H interview, March 1, 2018). Student D said that “if you don’t do

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !29

it right, just don’t do it at all. So I have to intentionally do as good as possible” (Student D

interview, March 1, 2018). And because of this project, Student H said, “I feel like I can do

school a lot better than I am” (Student H interview, March 1, 2018). Student D said that “At the

beginning it was a lot of work to do and at the end it wasn’t too hard.” Student D also stated that

he felt he needed to “do it right so you don’t get ridiculed for your specific article” (Student D

interview, March 1, 2018). Although Student B said that “The least thing I enjoyed would be

probably all the revisions we had to do,” she also said, “I know it is necessary” (Student B

interview, March 1, 2018). Student F shared that “I’m not a very good speller or with grammar,

so when I have to do something with a lot of spelling and grammar, it’s not my favorite because I

have to do a lot of correcting” (Student F interview, March 1, 2018).

Student-directed learning. The students had mixed reviews of being the directors of

their own learning. In regards to their ability to choose their own topic, Student G said, “I got to

know that part of their family and got to know them a lot more” because of whom she

interviewed for her article (Student G interview, March 1, 2018). Student F said, “I don’t know

my stepmom that well yet and I got to know her better” (Student H interview, March 1, 2018).

Eighty-seven percent of students said they felt personal satisfaction in their project. Student F

said, “I’m happy with my final project” (Student F interview, March 1, 2018), and Student B

said, “I can express myself through it” (Student B interview, March 1, 2018). Student E said that

he’d “never done anything like this before” (Student E interview, March 1, 2018). Only one of

the students interviewed said that he didn’t connect with his topic. Student D said that he didn’t

find personal meaning in the project because “just maybe the story I picked” (Student D

interview, March 1, 2018). Three of the students mentioned that the grade played a part in how

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !30

they worked on their project and one mentioned that he made sure to do a good job so he could

keep playing basketball.

Discussion

Overview of the Study

This study looked at whether authentic learning experiences increased the motivation and

thus the engagement of students, leading to a higher intrinsic value for the students in the work

that they did. Eight randomly selected students were interviewed and all 57 students involved in

the ALE took the anonymous survey after they completed the ALE.

Summary of Findings

When combining the survey results with the results of the interviews, the attitudes of the

students toward what makes an authentic learning experience motivating emerged. The

interview results along with the survey results showed that having a real audience for which to

do real work, being able to use critical thinking skills, and working within a community of

learners motivated the students while doing the project. The students interviewed shared that

they felt that the newspaper project gave them feelings of satisfaction, accountability,

responsibility, and improvement of skills. Students’ positive comments about being able to direct

their own learning showed that they enjoyed being able to choose topics that connected with the

people that they knew and had interest in. Although they stated that because of their ability to

direct their learning they were able to get to know other people better and express themselves,

38% of those interviewed also commented that the grade remained an important motivator for

them in the doing well on the project. So rather than being motivated by an intrinsic value in the

work they did, these students needed the extrinsic reward of a grade to ensure higher quality of

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !31

work. This seemed to be reiterated in the survey through the low R-squared value of 15% for

Student Choice.

Recommendations

Based on the results of this study, the researcher believes that creating authentic learning

experiences in the classroom is very beneficial to students in increasing higher critical thinking

skills, working well with others, taking responsibility in their own learning, and showing

students that the work they do has an audience and purpose outside of the classroom. Through

this project, the majority of the students involved remained motivated and engaged in their work

individually and as a team to put out their own issue of the newspaper.

Although the researcher suggests that authentic learning experiences do increase student

motivation and thus engagement in the task for intrinsic meaning, some students, for a number of

reasons, may still remain somewhat focused on working for a grade or other extrinsic rewards. A

well-designed ALE is essential for motivating and engaging all students, especially those who do

not enjoy school at all. Without a well-designed authentic learning experience, those students

who dislike school and who struggle academically will still resist engaging in the activity.

Motivational needs for all students include autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Fredricks &

McColskey, 2012). These students need clear connections to a purpose outside of the classroom

walls in order to find their intrinsic value in learning because they have completely lacked

connection to school in the past. Their connection to a purpose must allow these students to see

themselves fitting into the world outside of the school walls, so that they can begin to believe

that they can achieve. Then they will take up the challenge in the classroom and feel the

satisfaction of accomplishment in learning (Beesley et al, 2010). The researcher also suggests

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !32

ensuring that all students choose a topic with personal meaning in order to maintain the

motivation of student choice in their own learning. Unless students connect personally to their

topic, it will continue to remain nothing more than an assignment for their teacher. These

unmotivated students must be able to choose learning that matters to them outside of school.

Students need to understand that the framework of an ALE still stands within the context

of the school setting. Because some students have never found a true connection to school, this

researcher believes it is the teacher that needs to work closely with each student to help each

personally connect to the project. Unmotivated students need to be led to their intrinsic value at

a slower, more deliberate pace than other students who already feel the purpose of school in their

lives. When teachers provide opportunities for active involvement and give appropriate support

in problem solving (Shernoff et al, 2014), students feel a sense of commitment and belonging in

the classroom instead of passivity, boredom, or anxiety (Beesley et al, 2010).

The teacher must commit to act as a guide to all of the students in the classroom. The

researcher believes that having a strong community of learners can help pull these unmotivated

students into the project and into the intrinsic value of working as a team, but they must also

have a purpose within the community that fits their personality and gifts. If students believe they

won’t achieve well, they won’t take on challenges for fear of another failure (Beesley et al,

2010). As stated by Reeves (n.d), students “are more engaged and learn better when they are

challenged, exercise choice, feel significant, receive accurate and timely feedback, and know that

they are competent” (p. 10)

Students today need skills in communication, collaboration, researching, collecting,

analyzing, synthesizing and applying knowledge. This research study affirms that authentic

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !33

learning experiences do have the power to prepare our students for the world outside the

classroom walls as long as the design is well-thought out and the teacher walks intentionally

beside each student to guide them toward their intrinsic value in meaningful work.

Limitations of the Study

One limitation of this study was in the design of the authentic learning experience. While

the researcher incorporated each characteristic of an ALE into the newspaper project, not all

students found the real audience of the school’s student body motivating. Approximately 10% of

the students were not motivated by school or grades in general, so they did not find the audience

of the student body a strong enough motivator to increase their engagement or to make the work

personally meaningful.

Additionally, further research through multiple ALE’s throughout the school year would

have yielded more research results for this study. More research and data would give multiple

values of R-squared to be used to analyze the correlation of the four characteristics of an ALE to

the ALE as a whole more accurately.

Another limitation was the small sample of students in the study. This action research

took place with 57 students, 30 girls and 27 boys, in a small high school in the Midwest, the

majority from white, middle class families living in rural communities surrounding the high

school. With a larger, more diverse sample size of students, a broader range of data would have

been available to analyze for a more accurate regression lines using the R-squared values.

Finally, the bias of the teacher was a limitation. The researcher was closely tied to the

design and implementation of the project, to the students personally, and to this research study.

The researcher also gave the survey in her classroom as the teacher. These circumstances could

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !34

have led to bias in how the researcher carried out the study, how she interacted with her students

as both students and research participants, in how the students interacted with her as both teacher

and researcher, and in how the researcher perceived the results of the study. 


AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !35

References

Barron, B., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2008). Teaching for meaningful learning: A review of

research on inquiry-based and cooperative learning. Book excerpt. Furger, R. (Ed.),

Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding. Retrieved from

https://search.proquest.com/docview/1314330466?accountid=27065.

Beesley, A., Clark, T., Barker, J., Germeroth, C., & Apthorp, H. (2010). Expeditionary learning

schools: Theory of action and literature review of motivation, character, and engagement.

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL). Retrieved from https://

search.proquest.com/docview/864941500?accountid=27065.

Brunow, V. (n.d.). Authentic literacy experiences in the secondary classroom. The Language and

Literacy Spectrum, 26, 60-74. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from https://

www.nysreading.org/sites/default/files/regional/Brunow.pdf

Certo, J. L., Cauley, K. M., & Chafin, C. (2003). Students’ perspectives on their high school

experience. Adolescence, 38(152), 705+. Retrieved from http://

link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/apps/doc/A114740932/AONE?

u=dordt&sid=AONE&xid=cf7fc9fc

Certo, J. L., Cauley, K. M., Moxley, K. D., & Chafin, C. (2008). An argument for authenticity:

Adolescents’ perspectives on standards-based reform. High School Journal, 91(4), 26+.

Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/apps/doc/A178674145/

AONE?u=dordt&sid=AONE&xid=ebae2ff2

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !36

Cronin, J. C. (1993). Four misconceptions about authentic learning. Educational Leadership,

50(7), 78+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/apps/doc/

A13976846/AONE?u=dordt&sid=AONE&xid=20b2b852

Denman, C. (1995). Writers, editors, and readers: Authentic assessment in the newspaper class.

The English Journal, 84(7), 55-57. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://

www.jstor.org.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/stable/pdf/820585.pdf

Expeditions. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2018, from http://www.silvertonschool.org/

expeditions2.html

Fisk, D. M. (2003). American labor in the 20th century. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2004/02/art1full.pdf

Fredricks J. A., & McColskey W. (2012). The measurement of student engagement: A

comparative analysis of various methods and student self-report instruments. In:

Christenson S., Reschly A., Wylie C. (eds) Handbook of Research on Student

Engagement. Springer, Boston, MA.

Hale, R. (1999). From jobs for workers to workers for jobs: Better workforce training for

Minnesota. A Citizens League Research Report Minneapolis, MN: Citizens League.

Huntley-Johnston, L., Merritt, S., & Huffman, L. (1997). How to do how-to books: Real-life

writing in the classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41(3), 172-179.

Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40027135

Kahn, E. (2007). From the secondary section: building fires: Raising achievement through class

discussion. The English Journal, 96(4), 16-18. doi:10.2307/30047157

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !37

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2004). Designs for learning. E-Learning, 1(1), 38-93. Retrieved

November 13, 2017, from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/doi/pdf/

10.2304/elea.2004.1.1.7

Kukral, N., & Spector, S. (2012). Authentic to the core. Leadership, 41(5), 8-10. Retrieved

November 27, 2017, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ971416.pdf

Lawrence, S. A., & Harrison, M. (2009). Using writing projects in a high school classroom to

support students’ literacy development and foster student engagement. Language and

Literacy Spectrum, 19, 56-74. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/

1697497155?accountid=27065

Mac, B., & Coniam, D. (2008). Using wikis to enhance and develop writing skills among

secondary students in Hong Kong. System, 36(3), 437-455. Retrieved November 29,

2017.

More Than You Think Possible. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2018, from https://

eleducation.org/resources/more-than-you-think-possible

O’Hanlon, C. (2008). Designs on the future: Hired to create websites for local businesses, high

school students are building up their online portfolios while gaining a glimpse of the

world that awaits them. (e-learning). T H E Journal [Technological Horizons In

Education], 35(9), 28+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.dordt.edu:

8080/apps/doc/A187765362/AONE?u=dordt&sid=AONE&xid=2268706b

Powers, B. H. (2009). From national history day to Peacejam: Research leads to authentic

learning. The English Journal, 98(5), 48-53. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://

www.jstor.org.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/stable/pdf/40503297.pdf

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !38

Putnam, D. (2001). Selling our words to the community. The English Journal, 90(5), 102-106.

Retrieved November 21, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/821862

Quin, D. (2016). Longitudinal and contextual associations between teacher–student relationships

and student engagement: A systematic review. Review of Educational Research, 87(2),

345-387. doi:https://doi-org.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8085/10.3102%2F0034654316669434

Reeves, D. B. (n.d.). Motivating unmotivated students. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from http://

www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/504-reeves.aspx

Romano, T. (2009). Defining fun and seeking flow in English Language Arts. The English

Journal, 98(6), 30-37. Retrieved November 4, 2017, from http://

www.jstor.org.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/stable/pdf/40503454.pdf

Rule, A. (2006). Editorial: The components of authentic learning. Journal of Authentic Learning,

3(1), 1-10. Retrieved November 15, 2017, from https://www.ernweb.com/educational-

research-articles/the-four-characteristics-of-authentic-learning/

Schwartz, K. (2018). Education Writers Association. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from https://

www.ewa.org/blog-educated-reporter/high-tech-high-focus-goes-beyond-classroom

Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Schneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2014). Student

engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. School

Psychology Quarterly, 475-494. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9094-9_24

Sztabnik, B. (2015). Authentic writing: What it means and how to do it. Retrieved February 22,

2018, from http://talkswithteachers.com/authenticwriting/

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !39

Speaker, R. B., Jr., & Speaker, P. R. (1991). Sentence collecting: Authentic literacy events in the

classroom. Journal of Reading, 35(2), 92-95. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://

www.jstor.org.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/stable/pdf/40033116.pdf

The critical 21st century skills every student needs and why. (2017). Retrieved February 13,

2018, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/21st-century-skills-every-student-needs

Varuzza, M., R. S., Eschenauer, R., & Blake, B. E. (2014). The relationship between English

Language Arts teachers’ use of instructional strategies and young adolescents’ reading

motivation, engagement, and preference. Journal of Education and Learning, 3(2),

108-119. doi:10.5539/jel.v3n2p108

Vetter, A. (2010). Positioning students as readers and writers through talk in a high school

English classroom. English Education, 43(1), 33-64. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/

stable/2301708

Wagner, K. (2017). Kindling, campfires, or candles. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://

www.transformschool.com/single-post/2017/09/05/Kindling-Campfires-or-Candles

Whitney, A. E. (2011). In search of the authentic English classroom: Facing the schoolishness of

school. English Education, 44(1), 51-62. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://

www.jstor.org.ezproxy.dordt.edu:8080/stable/pdf/23238722.pdf

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !40

Appendix A

Survey of all Students at Completion of Authentic Learning Experience

The survey is grouped to show which questions correlated to which characteristic of the ALE.

Multiple choice answers were: Strongly Disagree, Mildly Disagree, Neutral, Mildly Agree,

Strongly Agree.

Real World/Audience

1. I am more likely to work hard in class for a project with a real world focus than for a paper

and pen test.

2. I have a hard time connecting classwork with the real world.

3. Being assigned a project that mirrors a real world problem/scenario connected to class

lessons makes me more likely to do the work required for completion.

4. I am more likely to to do more than is required if the audience for my completed work is a

person / people other than the teacher.

5. I am more likely to do work in class that only the teacher will see.

Critical Thinking

6. I am more likely to memorize information for a test than to work hard on a final project.

7. I get a sense of accomplishment from putting a lot of work into a project or solution.

8. I get energized when my teacher gives me a chance to discover for myself rather than giving

me the answer.

9. I dislike when the teacher makes me find an answer myself.

10. I am more likely to remember information if I have to find the answer or solution myself.

Community of Learners

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !41

11. I am more likely to slack off if I’m working in a group.

12. I am more likely to work hard on a project if I feel like my project matters to my community.

13. I am more likely to complete a project if others are depending on me to do my part.

14. I am more likely to strive to find answers if my classmates are working to find answers too.

15. Working with others on a project does not help me learn at all.

Student Choice

16. Having a choice in the topic of my project makes me merely likely to do the work involved

in completing the project.

17. The most important factor in determining if I will complete a project is if it is personally

meaning and relevant to my life.

18. It is part of my teacher’s job as an instructor to provide motivation for me to want to do

assignments for class.

19. I consider doing activities in class a waste of time unless I can make some personal

connection with or learn a lesson from the activity.

20. I am more likely to do my best work on a project if the teacher assigns the topic to me.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !42

Appendix B

Semi-structured Interview Questions of Eight Students at the End of the Authentic

Learning Experience

1. What did you enjoy the most about this project?

Follow Up / Expanding Questions:

a. Do you feel like what you have done in class has personal meaning for you? Explain.

b. Did how you did your work change because of the audience/reason you were doing it

for? Explain.

c. Were you proud of the work you did? Why/Why not?

d. Did you feel like your team worked well together to accomplish the newspaper?

e. Did you feel a sense of responsibility to put out the paper?

2. Looking back at the project, what was your main motivation in completing it?

3. What did you enjoy the least about this project?

  • Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work
    • Recommended Citation
  • Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work
    • Abstract
    • Document Type
    • Degree Name
    • Department
    • First Advisor
    • Keywords
    • Subject Categories
    • Comments
  • Revision 4

Teacher-Centered Instruction
The Rodney Dangerfield

of Social Studies

Mark C. Schug

During the 1970s and 1980s, a line of educational research
developed called “effective teaching.” Effective teachers were
reported to favor research-supported practices that, when properly
implemented in the classroom, produced stronger academic
achievement.

The name given to such instruction has varied. Terms like
“active teaching” and “explicit instruction” were used from time to
time. Such phrases conveyed the image of teachers on their feet in
the front of the room with eyes open, asking questions, making
points, gesturing, writing key ideas on the board, encouraging, cor-
recting, demonstrating, and so forth. The role of the teacher was
obvious and explicit and tied to clearly identified content or skills.

For the purposes of this paper, I use the term “teacher-centered
instruction” to refer to this approach. It implies a high degree of
teacher direction and a focus of students on academic tasks. And it
vividly contrasts with student-centered or constructivist approach-
es in establishing a leadership role for the teacher. Teacher presen-
tation, demonstration, drill and practice, posing of numerous fac-
tual questions, and immediate feedback and correction are all key
elements.

Teacher-centered instruction has again and again proven its
value in studies that show it to be an especially effective instruc-
tional method. Yet, when self-appointed education leaders meet to
share best practices or write about effective teaching, teacher-cen-
tered instruction, as the comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say,
gets no respect.

94

5

STUDENT-CENTERED INSTRUCTION
In fact, for most of the last century social studies leaders have

fought hard against the idea of teacher-centered instruction. At
nearly every opportunity—in journal articles, education textbooks,
and speeches at professional meetings—slogans were voiced about
teaching the child, not the subject, according to developmentally
appropriate practices. Those who favor student-centered approach-
es suggest that:

• “Hands-on” activities are superior to teacher-led
instruction. Projects, group work, field trips, almost any
other approach is to be preferred.

• Integrated content is superior to discipline-specific
content. The barriers between the disciplines such as
history and geography are the artificial creations of self-
serving academics. Integrated themes are regarded as
having greater integrity.

• Cooperative, group-learning approaches are superior to
whole group, teacher-led instruction. Students learn
best by interacting with each other rather than by
learning from adults.

• Academic content is inherently dull. Topics such as
social issues have more relevance and appeal to
students than subjects such as economics or geography.

Is there an alternative to student-centered instruction? If so,
what research supports it and how does it look in practice? Let’s
examine the often-overlooked case for teacher-centered instruc-
tion.

RESEARCH ON TEACHER-CENTERED INSTRUCTION:
DIRECT INSTRUCTION IN READING

Teacher-centered instruction derives from two lines of scholar-
ship and curriculum development (Schug, Tarver, and Western,
2001). One is associated primarily with the work of Siegfried
Engelmann and his colleagues, whose approach is widely referred
to as “Direct Instruction” and whose research focused predomi-

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 95

nantly on reading. The other line of scholarship is associated pri-
marily with the work of Barak Rosenshine and his colleagues,
whose “process-outcome” research identified the teacher practices
that were associated with improving student learning.

Engelmann’s work derives from close analysis of the compre-
hension and reasoning skills needed for successful student per-
formance in reading or mathematics, skills that provide the intel-
lectual substance of the Direct Instruction programs he developed.
In the case of reading, its substance is found in the sound system of
spoken English and the ways in which English sounds are repre-
sented in writing—a major reason why Direct Instruction in read-
ing is associated with phonemic awareness or phonics. But it is not
equivalent to phonics. Direct Instruction can be used to teach
things other than phonics—mathematics and social studies, for
example—and phonics can be taught by means other than Direct
Instruction.

The detailed character of the Direct Instruction approach
developed by Englemann derives from a learning theory and a set
of teaching practices linked to that theory. The learning theory
focuses on how children generalize from present understanding to
understanding new examples. This theory informs the sequencing
of classroom tasks for children and the means by which teachers
lead children through those tasks. The means include a complex
system of scripted remarks, questions, and signals to which chil-
dren provide individual and choral responses in extended, highly
interactive sessions. Children in Direct Instruction classrooms also
do written work in workbooks or on activity sheets.

An impressive body of research over 25 years attests to the effi-
cacy of Engelmann’s model. In the most comprehensive review,
Adams and Engelmann (1996) identified 34 well-designed studies
in which Direct Instruction interventions were compared to other
teaching strategies. These studies reported 173 comparisons, span-
ning the years from 1972 to 1996. The comparison yielded two
major results. First, 87 percent of posttreatment test score aver-
ages favored Direct Instruction, compared to 12 percent favoring
other approaches. Second, 64 percent of the statistically significant
outcomes favored Direct Instruction compared to only one percent

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 96

favoring other approaches, and 35 percent favoring neither.
A meta-analysis of data from the 34 studies also yielded large

effect sizes for Direct Instruction. Large gains were reported for
both regular and special education students, for elementary and
secondary students, and for achievement in a variety of subjects
including reading, mathematics, spelling, health, and science. The
average effect size for the 34 studies was .87; the average effect size
calculated for the 173 comparisons was .97. This means that gain
scores for students in Direct Instruction groups averaged nearly a
full standard deviation above those of students in comparison
groups. Effect sizes of this magnitude are rare in education
research.

TEACHER-CENTERED INSTRUCTION IN
READING AND OTHER SUBJECTS

The second line of research in teacher-centered instruction is
based on a synthesis of findings from experimental studies con-
ducted by many different scholars working independently, mostly in
the 1980s. In these studies, teachers were trained to use specific
instructional practices. The effects of these practices on student
learning were determined by comparing similar students’ learning
in classes where the practices were not used. The synthesis growing
out of these studies identified common “teaching functions” that
proved effective in improving student learning.

This research reached its zenith in 1986 when Rosenshine and
Robert Stevens co-authored a chapter in the Handbook of Research on
Teaching. The chapter reviewed several empirical studies that
focused on key instructional behaviors of teachers. In several of the
experiments, they found that effective teachers attended to inap-
propriate student behavior, maintained the attention of all stu-
dents, provided immediate feedback and evaluation, set clear
expectations, and engaged students as a group in learning.
Rosenshine and Stevens (1986) distilled the research down to a set
of behaviors that characterize well-structured lessons. Effective
teachers, they said:

• Open lessons by reviewing prerequisite learning.

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 97

• Provide a short statement of goals.
• Present new material in small steps, with student

practice after each step.
• Give clear and detailed instructions and explanations.
• Provide a high level of active practice for all students.
• Ask a large number of questions, check for

understanding, and obtain responses from all students.
• Guide students during initial practice.
• Provide systematic feedback and corrections.
• Provide explicit instruction and practice for seatwork

exercises and, where necessary, monitor students
during seatwork.

The major components of this sort of teacher-centered instruc-
tion are not all that unexpected. All teachers use some of these
behaviors some of the time, but the most effective teachers use
most of them nearly all the time.

Interest in Rosenshine’s second line of research was given an
important boost from E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s book, The Schools We Need &
Why We Don’t Have Them (1996). He summarized findings from sev-
eral studies which contributed to the conclusion that teacher-cen-
tered instruction works well in classrooms.

The first was a series of “process-outcome” studies conducted
from 1970 until 1973 at the University of Canterbury in New
Zealand. They showed that time spent focused on content and the
amounts of content taught were important factors in achievement.
Whether a lecture or questioning format was used, careful struc-
turing of content by the teacher followed by summary reviews was
the most effective method.

In a later series of studies, Jere Brophy and his colleagues
(1973-1979) found that some teachers got consistently good results
while others did not. They observed the teachers associated with
good and poor academic outcomes and reached at least two star-
tling conclusions—first, that teachers who produced the least
achievement used approaches that were more concerned with the
students’ self-esteem, and second, that learning progressed best
when the materials were not only new and challenging but could

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 98

also be easily grasped by students. Brophy and his colleagues also
found that the most effective teachers were likely to:

• Maintain a sustained focus on content.
• Involve all students.
• Maintain a brisk pace.
• Teach skills to the point of overlearning.
• Provide immediate feedback.

Finally, in a separate series of process-outcome studies that
spanned the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, Gage and his col-
leagues at Stanford University found that effective teachers:

• Introduce materials with an overview or analogy.
• Use review and repetition.
• Praise and repeat student answers.
• Give assignments that offer practice and variety.
• Ensure questions and assignments are new and

challenging yet easy enough to allow success with
reasonable effort.

TEACHER-CENTERED INSTRUCTION IN SOCIAL STUDIES
Though research on teacher-centered instruction focuses on

the day-to-day work of teachers who favor this approach, the rheto-
ric of leaders in social studies education fails to take note of these
highly successful teachers. A review of recent articles in Theory and
Research in Social Education, the flagship research journal of the
National Council for the Social Studies and the College and
University Assembly, makes this point abundantly clear. The
authors and editor emphasize issues of social justice, race, gender,
and class, while failing to address what are the most effective teacher
practices. Teachers who favor teacher-centered instruction are
rarely the subjects of interviews or observation, and their teaching
style and techniques are rarely mentioned. When such teachers are
noticed at all by the leaders of the field, it is to use them as exam-
ples of what not to do in the classroom. After all, these teachers
have rejected most of the hip, student-centered approaches. They

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 99

are ignored or dismissed by the self-appointed leadership crowd—
the folks who speak at professional meetings, write the textbooks
for teachers, and dominate professional discussion. Again, Rodney
Dangerfield’s line might best describe such teachers. They get no
respect!

There is some evidence that, despite the heavy emphasis placed
on student-centered techniques, many social studies teachers
might be successfully using teacher-centered instruction in the
classroom. It is hard to be certain, however, because as Cuban
(1991) observes, studies of classroom observations are rare in social
studies. In his summary of the studies that are available, he con-
cludes that the most common pattern of social studies teaching
includes heavy emphasis on the teacher and the textbook as the
sources of information for assignments and discussion, followed by
tests and seatwork—in other words, teacher-centered instruction.
Whole group instruction dominates. Cuban comments that this
state of affairs seems nearly impervious to serious change. This
observation is congruent with observations made by others of social
studies classrooms (Goodlad, 1984). But, if this is so, is it as bad as
Cuban implies?

Educators who use teacher-centered approaches are generally
reluctant to use esoteric forms of instruction, and many effective
teachers have not found success using student-centered teaching
approaches. Consider cooperative learning as an example. Its
research base is impressive in terms of its potential to achieve aca-
demic and social outcomes (Slavin, 1990). But in practice, this
potential is rarely achieved, primarily because in order for cooper-
ative learning to be successful, teachers must follow specific steps,
carefully organizing the content and skills that students are to
“teach” each other. (After all, the students do not know this mate-
rial as well as the teacher does.) They must group students care-
fully with regard to academic ability, race, and gender; place stu-
dents in groups of four or five students with a high, a low, and two
or three medium-achieving students in each group; and compute
student “improvement scores,” an essential component in Slavin’s
work. In computing improvement scores, the teacher must first
compute base scores for each student and for each group of stu-

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 100

dents from past quizzes and tests. They then need to administer
the test or quiz again to the class and convert the scores to improve-
ment points.

Failing at any one step could jeopardize the results that had
been achieved when the approach was studied. Yet, few teachers
follow all these steps. While some choose occasional group work,
most do not do anything resembling the cooperative learning
described in the literature—mostly because these well-intentioned
techniques have been tried and have failed in practice. Instead,
most social studies teachers discover on their own that teacher-cen-
tered techniques are among the best ways to improve student
learning. This happens despite the fact that cooperative learning
and similar student-centered approaches are stressed repeatedly in
initial teacher training programs and at numerous professional
conferences and workshops. Teachers reject these approaches
because they conduct a common sense, cost benefit analysis. The
costs of student-centered approaches are high, immediate, and cer-
tain. The most obvious costs are additional time to prepare such
lessons and additional class time. To many teachers, the benefits of
student-centered approaches—eventually improving student
achievement—appear to be highly uncertain and distant. As a
result, many place their faith in teacher-centered approaches.

Of course, either knowing that a classroom is student-centered
or knowing that it is teacher-centered reveals little about the qual-
ity of instruction in the classroom. It tells nothing about the facts
and concepts being presented, examples being used, or interaction
between teacher and students. Teachers who favor teacher-cen-
tered approaches, however, tend to focus on what content to teach,
the sequence of ideas, the examples used, the demonstrations per-
formed, the questions asked, and the students’ responses, and they
tend to be more interested in the details of instruction—all central
components of effective teaching.

In any case, regardless of one’s personal preference for student-
or teacher-centered instruction, the ultimate questions should be:
What are the results of instruction? Do students achieve more?
Under what conditions is learning enhanced? Research consistent-
ly shows that, while student-centered instruction may work in some

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 101

cases, teacher-centered instruction works better with most stu-
dents and with most teachers. Unfortunately, this is precisely what
the leaders of the field who are focused on promoting student-cen-
tered methods ignore.

WHAT DO SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHING
METHODS BOOKS TEACH?

Though there is evidence that many teachers, parents, and
administrators prefer teacher-centered instruction, leaders of the
field still work overtime to push student-centered learning. In fact,
today’s teaching methods textbooks in social studies are nearly
silent on how to develop teacher-led, teacher-centered instruction.
Instead, the authors of these books are deeply influenced by the
progressive legacy of student-centered instruction.

Some early methods books do provide a more balanced
approach. Lee Ehman, Howard Mehlinger and John Patrick’s
(1974) book Toward Effective Instruction in Secondary Social Studies, for
example, has some positive things to say about teacher presenta-
tions. The index shows nine references to expository instruction.
The book devotes 10 full pages to expository instruction, giving
advice on how to plan and deliver a good lecture. Prospective
teachers are advised to begin a lesson by explaining what students
are expected to learn. Then they define unfamiliar ideas or facts,
proceed in a well-organized manner, provide immediate correc-
tions to students, and close by reviewing the ideas that were
taught.

Most methods books from the latter half of the last century,
however, give short shrift to teacher-centered methods. Edgar B.
Wesley’s 1950 book, Teaching Social Studies in High Schools, includes
just seven references to lecture. And, though he discusses what
lectures are and explains how many social studies teachers use
“informal” lectures, the discussion is couched in his distaste for
such teacher-centered methods: “the teacher who lectures in the
public schools is likely to be charged with . . . cruelty to pupils.” In
another example, Maurice P. Hunt and Lawrence E. Metcalf ’s
1968 book, Teaching High School Social Studies, includes neither the
phrase “direct instruction” nor the word “lecture” in the index.

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 102

The book is, however, filled with references to “reflective thought”
and issues related to power, class, and race.

Additional evidence of the disproportionate emphasis on stu-
dent-centered instruction can be found in the Handbook of Research
on Social Studies Teaching and Learning. This is regarded as a highly
authoritative, landmark work in the field. Edited by James P.
Shaver (1931), it includes 53 chapters. These carefully selected
and meticulously edited chapters address numerous concerns in
social studies education. Yet, the index has a single reference to
direct instruction—Peter Martorella mentions it in his chapter on
teaching concepts, devoting four paragraphs (in a book of over 600
pages) to this form of teaching. Even here, though, there is no
respect for teacher-centered instruction. Martorella summarizes
the work of Barak Rosenshine but then dismisses it. He explains
that teacher-centered instruction is only useful for low-level cog-
nitive objectives and probably not worth employing in social stud-
ies classrooms.

Perhaps most disturbing is that these are not isolated instances
of neglect. In fact, a brief review of the most widely used social stud-
ies methods textbooks exposes a widespread disregard for direct
instruction.

• In Jack Zevin’s (2000) Social Studies for the Twenty-First Century:
Methods and Materials for Teaching in Middle and Secondary Schools, nei-
ther the phrase “direct instruction” nor the word “lecture” appears
in the index. Didactic roles of teachers are described but such roles
receive short shrift and little enthusiasm when compared to
descriptions of “reflective” and “affective” roles. Didactic
approaches are described in order to be contrasted with other, bet-
ter approaches. Zevin never suggests how to plan and deliver any
sort of teacher-led presentation.

• Peter H. Martorella’s (2001) Teaching Social Studies in Middle
and Secondary Schools follows a similar pattern. Neither the phrase
“direct instruction” nor the word “lecture” appears in the index.
Little attention is given to how such teacher-centered instruction
might work or what research might support such an approach.
Even a short section on expository approaches turns out to supply
scant advice on what such instruction might entail.

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 103

• In Thomas L. Dynneson and Richard E. Gross’s (1999)
Designing Effective Instruction for Secondary Social Studies, neither the
phrase “direct instruction” nor the word “lecture” appears in the
index. Nearly every sort of instruction is described, including sug-
gestions for using technology, motivating students, and teaching
about values. A single paragraph is devoted to giving a lecture.

• In Walter C. Parker’s (2001) Social Studies in Elementary
Education, neither the phrase “direct instruction” nor the word “lec-
ture” appears in the index. By contrast, cooperative learning, cur-
riculum integration, and literacy have whole chapters of their own.

• George W. Maxim’s (2003) Dynamic Social Studies for Elementary
Classrooms is the exception. He includes a chapter called “direct
instruction.” While constructivism and other incongruencies are
also included in this chapter, Maxim is clear about the important
role of instruction wherein the teacher presents lessons to the
whole class, provides immediate feedback, and monitors student
performance. He is also clear that teachers need a deep under-
standing of factual information if they are to be successful direct
instruction teachers.

These examples clearly illustrate that teaching methods text-
books in social studies are nearly silent on how to develop teacher
led, teacher-centered instruction. The authors of these books are
deeply influenced by the progressive legacy of student-centered
instruction and they allow this influence to misrepresent social
studies classrooms as student-centered, when in reality classroom
observation suggests otherwise.

IS THE FAILURE TO PROMOTE TEACHER-CENTERED
INSTRUCTION A PROBLEM?

Does the social studies establishment’s attachment to student-
centered approaches and the rejection of teacher-centered instruc-
tion cause problems? Yes, especially for beginning teachers. First-
year teachers arrive each year in their classrooms ill prepared to
teach. They know a few tricks. They know how to write an objective.
If they are lucky, they know some of the state’s social studies stan-
dards. They might understand Piaget’s stages of cognitive develop-
ment and Bloom’s Taxonomy.

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 104

But it soon dawns on the fledging teachers that their students
come to class every day, five days a week. High school teachers often
see over 100 students each day. New teachers are often assigned the
most difficult students. And deportment varies greatly. Some stu-
dents won’t stay in their seats. Others won’t participate in groups—
especially when the teacher assigns the group members. Some stu-
dents become unruly. Fights break out. Other students sit quietly,
using social studies time to finish their math assignments. Many
won’t work at all. Yet all look to the teacher for classroom leader-
ship, subject knowledge, and classroom order—precisely the things
for which most social studies teachers are not well trained. The
methods they have been taught at the university—the vast majori-
ty of which are the student-centered approaches stressed in the col-
lege textbooks—are simply not equal to the task of real world
teaching.

Where should first-year teachers turn for help? The culture of
many high schools is like the TV show “Survivor.” Experienced
teachers, the very teachers who could help out the beginners, often
resent sharing their experiences. After all, they learned how to
teach the hard way. They struggled at first. It took them several
years to discover what works. Why shouldn’t today’s newcomers do
the same? The rookies should be “first off the island.”

What are first-year teachers to do when the approaches taught
by their professors of education fail them? For those who want to
survive, the answer is simple. The new teachers have to train them-
selves—often by relying on trial and error—to find methods that
truly work. Many will discover the benefits of teacher-centered
instruction on their own. This perhaps is the best that we could
hope for, despite the fact that they will do many students little good
in the first years of teaching.

Unfortunately, when the student-centered methods these
teachers were taught fail, if teachers are not prepared to use the
more rigorous and reliable teacher-centered methods, many begin-
ning teachers will discover that they can manage a classroom bet-
ter with “noninstruction.” To be sure, these teachers will monitor
students, assign seatwork and homework, but ultimately they will
not impart much substantive knowledge and they will not challenge

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 105

students to learn the content found in the readings, worksheets,
and homework they assign. These teachers essentially give up on
either teacher or student-centered instruction and merely “keep
school.” Noninstruction, after all, often leads to an orderly and
tranquil classroom. It is a low-challenge environment to which
many students and administrators would not object. If this hap-
pens, noninstruction may go unchallenged for years. Few incentives
exist for principals to weed out poor teachers who actually manage
their classrooms relatively well. Either way—whether beginning
teachers discover teacher-centered instruction or noninstruction—
the training these teachers received at colleges and universities
failed them. They are left to train themselves.

THE COVER-UP: REMEDIAL TEACHER EDUCATION
Up until now, we have somehow managed to avoid the worst

consequences of failing to train teachers to use direct instruction.
We have done so in part by expensive, stopgap measures: reducing
class size to allow ill-trained teachers to more easily organize their
classrooms so that more learning can eventually take place; assign-
ing peer mentors to new teachers to pick up the slack for the edu-
cation schools and train them in more effective teacher-centered
instruction techniques. (Many large urban school districts have
launched large-scale peer mentoring programs as a way to com-
pensate for failures in teacher education.)

How long can the cover-up continue? Not forever. Most states
are facing huge budget deficits and their ability to fully fund such
policies as reduced class size and peer-mentoring programs may be
severely limited. Moreover, by focusing on results rather than the-
ories, the new accountability requirements of the No Child Left
Behind Act make it difficult for colleges and universities as well as
the public schools to cling to the failed approaches of the past. The
widespread failure of teacher education is being exposed.

RESULTS SHOULD MATTER
By holding schools and districts accountable for results, the fed-

eral No Child Left Behind Act shifts the education debate from an
argument over which theory is better to an argument over what

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 106

works. Unfortunately, this law currently only holds schools account-
able for results in reading, math, and eventually science. Education
leaders should extend these principles to social studies and should
consider:

• Specifying academic levels of success for individual schools.
Levels should include reference to student performance on state
content tests and should take into account the value-added
approaches used in some states. So, for example, high schools
where 80 percent of the students are proficient or advanced in
social studies at grade 8 might be classified as successful.

• Defining schools that have failed social studies programs in
terms of specific student test results. So, for example, high schools
where less than 80 percent of the students are proficient or
advanced might be classified as failing.

• Offering financial incentives to assist failing schools that are
willing to make changes. Principals and teachers in failing schools
should be invited to study the programs at successful schools to see
what these schools are doing right. They should imitate the schools
that have been successful rather than set out in some new, experi-
mental direction. If these formerly failing schools become success-
ful, then they too should be eligible for additional funding to
expand their programs. The cost of failure should be high. If
schools fail after some specified period of time (e.g., two years?),
they should be closed, reconstituted, or turned over to a charter
school operator.

CONCLUSION
Teacher-centered instruction is supported by a strong set of

empirical results conducted over several decades. And yet, these
approaches are ignored by the leaders of the profession, as evi-
denced by the content in textbooks used to train teachers and in
authoritative reviews of research. To discuss teacher-centered
instruction is not even considered polite conversation.
Nevertheless, now is the time for social studies leaders as well as
legislators and parents to acknowledge the obvious weaknesses of
student-centered approaches and begin to correct the excesses. We
should acknowledge that poor teaching and learning do indeed

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 107

exist in this field and, just as important, that it is not because of
teacher-led, content-focused instruction. Results from the National
Assessment of Educational Progress have shown repeatedly that
U.S. students have scant understanding of history, geography, and
civics. It is likely that this dismal state of affairs is the result of a
century of ignoring content and promoting instructional practices
with little chance of classroom success. The failure to improve aca-
demic achievement should be placed at the doorstep of the pro-
gressive theorists who brought us here and, just as important, are
almost certainly incapable of leading us in a new direction. Perhaps
an emphasis on results-oriented reforms can create a new energy in
social studies to help us focus our attention on academic achieve-
ment rather than prolonging the endless debate between the advo-
cates of teacher-centered and student-centered approaches in
social studies.

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 108

REFERENCES

Adams, G. and Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on direct instruction: 20
years beyond DISTAR. Seattle, WA: Educational Achievement
Systems.

Cuban, L. (1991). History of Teaching in Social Studies. In Shaver,
James P. (Ed.). Handbook of research on social studies teaching and

learning (pp. 197-209). New York: MacMillan Publishing
Company.

Dynneson, T.L. and Gross, R.E. (1999). Designing effective instruction
for secondary social studies. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Merrill Prentice Hall.

Ehman, L., Mehlinger, H., and Patrick, J. (1974). Toward effective
instruction in secondary social studies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Company.

Goodlad, J.I. (1984). A place called school. New York: McGraw Hill
Book Company.

Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (1996). The schools we need and why we don’t have them.
New York: Doubleday.

Hunt, M.P. and Metcalf, L.E. (1968). Teaching high school social studies:
Problems in reflective thinking and social understanding. New York:
Harper and Row.

Martorella, P.H. (1991). Knowledge and concept development in
social studies. In Shaver, James P. (Ed.). Handbook of research on
social studies teaching and learning (pp. 370-384). New York:
MacMillan Publishing Company.

Martorella, P.H. (2001). Teaching social studies in middle and secondary
schools: Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Maxim, G.W. (2003). Dynamic social studies for elementary classrooms
(7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Parker, W.C. (2001). Social studies in elementary education (11th ed).
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Rosenshine, B. and Stevens, R. (1986). Teaching functions. In

TEACHER-CENTERED INTRUCTION 109

Wittrock, M. C. (Ed.). Handbook of Research on Teaching (pp. 376-
391). New York: MacMillan Publishing Company.

Schug, M.C. Tarver, S., and Western, R.D. (2001). Direct instruction
and the teaching of early reading: Wisconsin’s teacher led insurgency.

Mequon, WI: Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

Shaver, J.P. (1931). The handbook of research on social studies teaching and
learning. New York: McMillan Publishing Company.

Slavin, R. (1990). Cooperative learning: Theory, research and practice.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wesley, E.B. (1950). Teaching social studies in high schools. Boston:
D.C. Heath.

Zevin, J. (2000). Social studies for the twenty-first century: Methods and
materials for teaching. Mahwah: NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, Inc.

WHERE DID SOCIAL STUDIES GO WRONG? 110

Fantasia RESPONSE1

Chapter ten was all about the direct instruction for the students. I was able to sit and think of aspects I would use if I was to teach a new class of different learners. In this case what would you do in the case of being sure that the students are successful? In this case I will have differentiated instruction and be sure that I am able to target each student. Before I can start with my differentiated lessons, I will have to first get to know the students and see what the needs of the children are. As a teacher you must learn the strategies and methods would be best to use with this class. Be sure to make sure you plan effective enough to keep students’ engagements at the forefront of the lesson. I also pulled thoughts about the lecture method and when it would be appropriate to use the lecture method. As a child growing up, I hated a teacher that would stand and make us listen to a lecture all day every day, so now as a teacher I know what I am expected of from my students, and I let them do as many hands on and other activities so that I will not bore the students out as quick as I was bored out in the past.

Chapter eleven focused on the authentic teaching method. The main points associated with the real teaching method is primary roles with various discussion techniques. As for teachers you should always keep the children engaged in everything. Having class discussions will also help you better understand as a teacher what the students are gaining from the lesson that was taught. Therefore, it is very important to have different class discussions with the students in every lesson that is presented. Another area I was able to strengthen from this chapter was the three levels of problem solving. As for in the classroom just always be sure to keep the students involved and engaged so that they will be successful in all.

RSEPONSE 2 Deloris

Chapter 10: Using Teacher-Centered Teaching Methods emphasis was on direct teaching and exposition approaches to teaching integrated bodies of knowledge that provide teachers with direct instructional alternatives. We as teachers need to be responsible for implementing instructions to our students.  Planning and preparation in the classroom allow students to stay focused and learn. In the classroom, teachers engage in the following types of teaching methods and the following objectives: 1- Identifies factors that should be considered in selecting teaching techniques and strategies such as students’ ages, physical and mental characteristics, the purpose of the lesson and content taught. 2 -Define /discuss strengths and weakness of direct teaching and exposition teaching approaches. 3- Describe ways to improve teachers’ lectures and presentations with effective questioning. 4-Differentiate between different categories of questions. 5- Compare and contrast focusing, prompting, and inquiring of questions. 6-As we all have to do in the classroom, use redirection and reinforcement as a strategy to encourage appropriate behaviors.

Chapter 11: Using Authentic Teaching Methods- Authentic instructional methods promote the development of students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills and give students a voice in the learning process. Also, authentic approaches to instruction require a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to active student participation and a close working relationship between teachers and students. Active self-directed inquiring learning requires that students want to learn. Being a Head Start teacher, I am always using a variety of techniques to get my students to master skills by demonstrations, individual one-on-one lessons and hands-on activities. Through these lessons, the students are engaged in everyday learning.  As you know, authentic teaching focuses on real-world issues and problems, young children loved for their teachers to read books aloud and the use of technology can make authentic learning activities exciting and fun. 

 

Moore. K.D. (2015). Effective Instructive Strategies From Theory to Practice (4th ed.). Sage Publication. Inc.

Edited by 
Deloris B Carpenter
 on Mar 14 at 3:30pm

Writerbay.net

Do you need help with this or a different assignment? We offer CONFIDENTIAL, ORIGINAL (Turnitin/LopesWrite/SafeAssign checks), and PRIVATE services using latest (within 5 years) peer-reviewed articles. Kindly click on ORDER NOW to receive an A++ paper from our masters- and PhD writers.

Get a 15% discount on your order using the following coupon code SAVE15


Order a Similar Paper Order a Different Paper