It’s safe to say that we’d all be interested in any strategy that promises to increase the quality of student work while also increasing student effort. Well, that’s Authentic Audience – when students complete work for someone other than their teacher.
In Dan Pink’s seminal book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the case is made that purpose – when it’s clear why the work being done is important – is a major motivator for all of us. When a teacher intentionally connects the work being asked of students with an audience that cares about the work, students feel that sense of purpose, and their motivation to work goes up.
And when students are more motivated to work with a crystal clear reason for why the work is important, the quality of their work goes up, too. Just imagine, less apathy from students, fewer hours spent grading, an overall increase for the joy of teaching and learning. It’s a beautiful thing.
But, really, who has extra time to set up an authentic audience? The logistics here can certainly be time-intensive, but they don’t have to be. When it comes to authentic audiences, you can be aggressive or passive.
This is the kind of audience that we typically think of – a person or group of people that we know or meet who are interested in our students’ work because of their experience or occupation. Digital pen pals for Spanish class, the local Chamber of Commerce for Social Studies, a business owner for math class. These are all great audiences – if you can set these up easily, go for it! They are powerful and effective.
But, if you’re like most of us, you only have so many connections and only so much free time.
That’s where a passive audience comes in. What if, instead of my students’ writing ending up on my desk, it became a novel with an Amazon link shared with family and friends? Or, instead of a written lab report, my students recorded their scientific processes and posted to YouTube? Better yet, what if instead of learning from a 15-year old textbook, my students created their own digital textbook on Google Sites? True, with the passive audience, you can’t be sure if anyone will look at your student work. But that’s kind of the point, your students can’t be sure, either. Could be no one, but could be lots of people, too. So, you still get the increased motivation and quality of work. Most importantly, these kinds of audiences take almost no extra time to set up.
So remember, when it comes to authentic audiences, passive can be just as fruitful as aggressive.