Authentic Learning – A Teaching Strategy

Authentic Learning - A Vacation Planning Activity

Authentic learning provides tasks that allow students to learn through real-life situations. Students solve real problems. Projects are relevant to the learner. Students use applications that are real. They apply what they have learned in class to realistic circumstances. Often students go outside the classroom. This could include field trips. The idea is that learners become more engaged when they can apply what they are learning. Students are also better prepared to succeed when they reach adulthood.

Grab this free vacation planner to give authentic learning a try.

Characteristics of Authentic Learning

Authentic learning takes projects a step further. Learning takes place beyond the classroom. Activities students engage in are mirrors of real-world events.

For example, students studying finance may visit a business to see how it operates. Students then evaluate the practices the business uses. This aids in a simulation where students create a mock business.

Another example is great for a science class. Students conduct studies in the marshland to help save an endangered species. Some experiments include ones actual scientists would do. Students collect data. They create charts and analyze findings. The data is sent to real scientists.

These types of activities contrast traditional teaching methods. Students don’t memorize facts for a standardized test. Students show their knowledge through open-ended type questions. This might include an essay. Students create projects. They give presentations. This mimics activities they would do as adults.

Using the authentic learning strategy, students collaborate with their peers. Teachers take on the role of coaches supporting student learning. 

Examples of Projects

    • Simulations

      • Students go through the procedures of running a lemonade stand.
      • Students conduct mock trials.
    • Engagement

      • Learners conduct fund-raisers for specific causes. An example of this is ‘Schools for Africa.’
      • Teachers write grants all the time. Turn the tables. Have students write grants to receive school supplies.
      • Students create and conduct a survey.
      • Environmentalists solve a local issue. This could be to organize a town clean-up day. Students could also figure out creative ways to get the town to recycle.
      • Chart out field day activities.
      • Follow recipes.
      • Make board games.
    • Creating Media

      • Pupils go through all the steps of creating an ad campaign.
      • Students create a video about their hometown. Videos can include interviews, narratives, and skits.
      • Create posters for a school event.
      • Artists create the next Google doodle. This may sound like a simple project, but it requires research. Students must research the event connected with the special event. ‘This Day in History.’ The logos usually go to a write-up about the special day.
      • Create a film to promote a school event.
      • Learners develop a new game.
      • Students compose letters. This could be a letter to an author asking questions about his or her book. A letter could be written to a city official detailing a change that should be done.
      • Create brochures for promoting a place or event.
      • Writers publish a class book. Class books could include poetry or short stories. Illustrations would also need to be included.
      • Have them write reviews for Amazon. Goodreads is also a website that accepts book reviews.
      • Readers create book trailers for Youtube.
      • Artists design movie sets.
    • Performance

      • Learners reenact real-world situations through skits and plays.
      • Students dress in costumes and act out characters from novels.
      • Students share history through a real-life wax museum.
      • Learners take on the role of historical figures being interviewed.
      • Singers write jingles.


      • Authentic learning actively engages students.
      • Activities are relevant to students’ lives.
      • It enhances creativity.
      • Completing projects prepares students for careers.
      • Projects expose students to different perspectives.
      • Teamwork promoted.
      • This approach uses an interdisciplinary approach.
      • Activities require higher-order thinking skills.
      • Collaborative projects are encouraged.
      • Students create products that are being used.
      • Technology is easily implemented.
      • Understanding of topics increases.
      • Retention is boosted.


      • Some argue that these activities don’t get students ready to pass the ‘test.’
      • Activities help students become career-ready and not college-ready.
      • Critics argue that too much time is spent away from the core subject areas.

Give this Strategy a Try

Notice the list of the advantages far outweighs the disadvantages list. Authentic learning is a step in the right direction. Give this strategy a try.

One great end-of-the-year project is to have students plan a vacation. You can find a sample vacation planning lesson here. This free handout includes charts for students to plan all expenses. 


You are to plan a week-long vacation for four people to either:

  • Disney World in Orlando, Florida
  • Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Washington, D. C.

You will be given $3000.00  for expenses. The tasks below will help you plan the trip. Plan meals, travel, hotels, and entertainment. Have fun!!!


Free Printables to Guide Students Through an Authentic Task - Planning a Vacation


Gay Miller

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