Where we learn

You’re in 8thgrade and you walk into math class. As you sit down, the teacher is handing back graded tests. You’re pretty confident that you did well. When the teacher hands back your test though, you’re shocked to see that you have red marks all over the short answer questions that read “Write answer, but you didn’t do it the right way”. In your head you think, “What is the right way and why does it matter? I figured it out my own way, AND I got the right answer!”


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Authentic learning

Elizabeth brought up a story just like this in our class that led to us wonder:

  1. How can we allow for individual students’ innovation especially when it comes to them figuring out their own processes, ways of knowing, and learning in a class of 20-30 students?
  2. The student described in this story might be discouraged from future innovation and ideas for the sake of doing things the way that they were told. Is this authentic learning?

Our class spent a significant amount of time asking these questions, “how do we learn?” and “what is meant by authentic learning?” and concluded that:

  1. Knowing and doing are hard to be separated in authentic learning
  2. Authentic learning sits at the intersection between activity, context, and culture
  3. School culture is inauthentic and often not well aligned with student culture
  4. Science is often cultural and therefore students may benefit the most from science teaching that is culturally responsive and sustaining

Science STARS

Many of our discussions about learning emphasized factors like place, context, and culture. It was a timely class as the 9 master’s students were preparing for the first day of Science STARS (Students Tackling Authentic & Relevant Science). This class helped us frame the following questions for leading Science STARS.

  1. How can we make Science STARS an authentic place for learning?
  2. What ways does school as it is either hinder or support authentic learning?


We hope to accomplish authentic learning by letting student inquiry drive their science investigations and create their own science stories and films.In the film, “Our Meat. Our World. Our Story”, we see evidence that authentic learning is situated within the context of students’ lived experiences.

Questions to consider:

  1. What fosters an environment for authentic learning?
  2. What ways can we support authentic learning throughout Science STARS?


By Gavin Jenkins


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  1. Pingback: Get Real! Science – What even IS science???

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