Remixing Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver’s 10-Point Criteria for Authentic Activities

I decided to remix the Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver criteria1 to better represent the phases and subphases in the overall process of developing authentic learning activities. This shrinks the list from ten to seven items, with the “extras” embedded in other items. The result, I think, is a more familiar and systematic problem-solving process.

I. Planning

A. Simulation of real world roles: “Authentic activities have real-world relevance.”

B. Problem definition: “Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity.”

II. Development

A. Open approach: Authentic activities (1) “provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources”; (2) “can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain-specific outcomes”; (3) “allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome.”

B. Networking: “Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate.”

C. Sustained effort: “Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time.”

III. Implementation

A. Standalone outcome: “Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else.”

IV. Evaluation

A. Review: Authentic activities (1) “provide the opportunity to reflect” and (2) “are seamlessly integrated with assessment.”

Comment

The wild card that runs through this entire process and makes it manageable for teachers in a wide range of instructional environments is scalability. The process has to be viewed as downwardly scalable, based on factors such as grade level, subject matter or field of study, ability/achievement levels, teacher-student ratio, instructional resources, time frame, etc.

Two other characteristics of this process is that the phases aren’t discrete and the progression is recursive rather than linear. The phases overlap in many interesting and dynamic ways, and students will return to and revise earlier phases based on formative evaluations.

Online technology can be an integral part of all phases, but its greatest advantage is probably in IIB, networking. With the web, opportunities for collaboration are expanded beyond space and time limitations, and this advantage can be applied to all four phases.
__________
1 Thomas C. Reeves, Jan Herrington, and Ron Oliver, “Authentic Activities and Online Learning,” HERDSA 2002 conference.

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5 Responses to Remixing Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver’s 10-Point Criteria for Authentic Activities

  1. This is an awesome distillation! Thank you.

    • JimS says:

      Denise, thank you for your kind words. I’m basically lazy so I naturally gravitate toward simplifying things — primarily for my own purposes and, hopefully, for others’ use. Strunk & White’s “Simplify, simplify, simplify” grows on me like the rings of a tree, and I can’t think of any better advice for life as well as for writing and teaching.

  2. Jim after reading your remix I took the time to read the article. I found it interesting that the principles seem practical and realistic however there is no discussion on how this translates into the online world. For instance, you are to grapple with a problem over time and create a standalone product. In the model of education I work with the standards are set for what is considered typical assessment pieces – midterm, final paper etc. In the online world getting a group of people to work all term on one project so that they would have the collaboration element – most people I know a) hate group work in person never mind online b) are doing online because of personal schedules. I would love to see how this would work perhaps the next MOOC might offer the chance to do a collaborative authentic online activity since I am sure we would all learn alot.

    • JimS says:

      Pat, thanks for your insightful comment. I felt the same, so I added a note in my comments: “Online technology can be an integral part of all phases, but its greatest advantage is probably in IIB, networking. With the web, opportunities for collaboration are expanded beyond space and time limitations, and this advantage can be applied to all four phases.”

      The authors seem to have based their analysis largely on F2F and blended approaches, and in that environment, as you point out, small groups is still the most practical way to get the most students actively involved in an hour-long class.

      For online classes, the notion of personal learning networks (PLNs) and personal learning environments (PLEs) kicks in and collaboration takes on a quantum new look. Limiting collaboration to three classmates simply doesn’t make sense when each student can easily network with, theoretically, the entire class and the world.

      I, too, would like to see how we can match message to medium in terms of best practice for authentic online teaching. I’m not sure how far along Greg and his team are in planning their next MOOC, but your suggestion — “the chance to do a collaborative authentic online activity” — would sure make it interesting.

  3. Pingback: Reflections on My Current Instructional Approaches in Completely Online Courses, 10/23/13 | Jim's CV

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