PBLs and Authentic Audience

Ed Tech 542 Week 5 Learning Log Task 

You’ve written a driving question and sub questions to serve as a road map for your students exploration into their project based learning.  You’ve stood back and let them explore, you’ve invited their input and inquiry into the project, and even revised sections of the project so that the students have more ownership of their learning and the process.  The only thing you’re currently missing is an authentic audience for your students to share the results of their project at the completion of the unit.  Is this still PBL?

No.

At least, in my opinion, no. Without an authentic audience the purpose of the project, the “why”, the connection to the real world outside the four walls surrounding students while in your classroom, is missing.  The project outlined above is a great attempt at inquiry and features student choice, both methods which are well known to increase student motivation and usually overall quality of product.  However, they do not have the final completion piece that allows students to move forward in their inquiry with a purpose.  Without an authentic audience, an expert group for the students to present their learning, the students lack the culminating activity that will hold them accountable for their learning.

Our students are learning in a world in which the skills they will need to be successful in their futures differs by the minute.  With the influx of technological advances our world is bigger and more diverse than ever before yet our students will always need some basic 21st century skills such as that of critical thinking, collaborating, and communicating.  Through the initial steps of a successful PBL such as those outlined above students will be developing their critical thinking skills.  However, if students lack the authentic audience in which they can attach their learning goals to they will not have the opportunity to collaborate with these experts and receive real world feed back nor will they be able to craft their communication skills in which they learn to interact with professionals face to face.

In designing a PBL I believe that just as the driving question is a large focus for overall success of a project, the authentic audience is equally important.  If students or an instructor are finding difficult to identify an authentic audience for their project an initial step to aide them in this quest could be to evaluate who might best be able to answer their driving question, what experts may hold information that could help them in their quest.  The resources and professionals that are generated as having the answer or knowledge regarding the driving question would be a great initial step to take in finding that key element to any PBL, the authentic audience.

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