All News

Paul Herring is a Senior IT Teacher at St Peters. As a member of QCAA Technologies Learning Area Reference Group, he has been involved in the formulation of a new Design and Digital Solutions subjects for the QCAA ATAR curriculum being implemented in Year 11 from 2019. Paul is passionate about promoting digital technologies and he has been a Keynote Speaker for Queensland Society for Information Technology in Education (QSITE); Edutech Australia and Edutech Asia. Paul is a guest writer for this edition of Plus Ultra and in his article, he shares his insights into Authentic Learning and how St Peters students are reaping the benefits of real-world learning opportunities.

The latest report in the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) ‘New Work Order’ series titled, ‘The New Work Smarts – Thriving in the New Work Order’, was released in July 2017.

The FYA annual reports provide information about the changing face of work and careers in Australia, which is largely brought about by the increasing centrality and impact of digital technology.

A significant conclusion in the latest report states: ‘Around the world, the most progressive education systems are focusing on developing the ‘new work smart’ workforce of the future. They offer – immersive, project-based and real-world learning experiences – that go beyond the classroom environment, such as working with local businesses or facilitating art and film projects in local communities.’

This approach is now more commonly known by the term, ‘Authentic Learning’.

Some of the key characteristics of Authentic Learning (AL) are:

  • learning is centred on authentic tasks that are of interest to the learners;
  • students are engaged in exploration and inquiry;
  • learning, most often, is interdisciplinary;
  • learning is more closely connected to the world beyond the walls of the classroom;
  • students become engaged in complex tasks and higher-order thinking skills, such as analysing, synthesising, designing, manipulating and evaluating information; and
  • students produce a product that should be shared with an audience outside the classroom.

Learning is also generally more student driven than with most other approaches. It offers students good opportunities for social discourse, where students receive feedback (and potentially even assessment) from external experts, clients and other interested parties.

Authentic tasks also have real-world relevance. Activities match as nearly as possible the real-world tasks of professionals in practice, rather than the more usual and typical de-contextualised classroom-based tasks.

Authentic tasks require students to define tasks and sub-tasks which are open to multiple interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of existing learned procedures or algorithms. Students examine the task from different perspectives over a sustained period of time using a variety of intellectual resources, an under-practised skill in most areas of the curriculum.

Authentic tasks provide the opportunity to collaborate and the opportunity to reflect on their learning – both individually and within their project groups, which can contribute to the development of highly motivated learners.

At St Peters, we have been using and developing this approach with our Senior IT classes for many years and found that the students continue to exceed our expectations when given such open-ended opportunities to excel. We have had many examples where student projects have been readily adopted and used in the world outside of the classroom.

As teachers and facilitators, it also brings us great pleasure and pride to see the outstanding and impressive manner in which our students develop their skills and breadth of vision through this approach.

You can download ‘The New Work Smarts – Thriving in the New Work Order’ Report at: