You are viewing our website as a(n)

Five ways to create more authentic learning experiences in the classroom

  1. Home
  2. Free Resources
  3. Articles
  4. Current Article
Five ways to create more authentic learning experiences in the classroom

We know how it feels to put hours into planning a lesson only to find your students disengaged, staring at the clock, or, well, a lot worse.

We also know the feeling when students get excited about learning, ask thoughtful questions, and can’t believe how quickly class flies by!  

Students are actively engaged in the learning process when the learning matters to the students.  Authentic learning experiences build higher-order thinking skills, as students must think critically and apply their learning to new contexts. 

Here are five ways you can create more authentic learning experiences in your classroom: 

1. Connect your standards to the real world

Start with your standard or learning target for the lesson.  Brainstorm any and all connections to real-world concepts. Write down everything that comes to mind–there are no bad answers at this point.  You might want to do this with colleagues in order to share and build off each other’s ideas. From your list, choose the most compelling connection and run with it!  Bring this idea/current event/person/etc. into your lesson. 

Here’s an example of a standards brainstorm, generated by teachers at PBL Academy:

2. Create for an authentic audience 

Often students produce work for their teacher and for the purpose of getting a grade.  But what if we changed that? Think about how students can demonstrate their mastery by creating something for an authentic audience.  This could be a younger class of students at school, a community organization, a panel of teachers, an industry expert, etc. Students will be more motivated to produce high-quality work when that work has an authentic purpose for a real audience. 

3.  Bring in experts

If your students are asking, “when am I ever going to use this?”, bring in an expert who can show them!  Outside experts can help launch a unit by creating buy-in, provide specialized feedback on student work, or serve as an authentic audience for student presentations. If you can’t find the right person in your own network, connects educators with industry experts through live scheduled chats and personalized presentations.

4. Build in student choice and ownership 

As adults, we make choices constantly throughout the day.  For the students in our classrooms, they might not often get a voice in what and how they are learning.  Provide opportunities for students to choose how they would like to learn something and how they can demonstrate their understanding.  These don’t have to be completely open-ended choices, but offering a couple of options empowers students to take ownership of their choices and their learning. 

5.  Incorporate essential skills

No matter your content, you should incorporate activities and questioning that build essential, future-ready skills like problem-solving, oral communication, adaptability, and teamwork.  The skills necessary for students to be successful in school, work, and life need to be acknowledged and practiced in the classroom too. Sometimes we hear, “my students can’t work together” or “my students don’t know how to think creatively.”  Rather than excuses, these are the reasons we must teach these skills and provide opportunities for students to practice and grow.  If you need some ideas for how to do this, you’ll find ideas to build critical thinking, communication, and collaboration here, here, and here

Want more?

If you want more ideas for building authentic learning experiences you should join our Project-Based Learning Academy where you learn the what, why, and how of project-based learning and build your own authentic PBL unit.  This experience is open to K-12 teachers and administrators and is available both in-person and online.  Learn more at

Like these ideas? To learn classroom engagement strategies that make the most immediate impact, we recommend checking out our program, "Fostering Student Engagement."

Learn More >

Amy Jimenez

Author Since: May 8, 2018

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping