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Authentic task

The authentic task is a type of educational exercise. It is one of the forms of exercise preferred by the teaching of skills that has experienced a moment of great notoriety in recent years.

THE AUTHENTIC TASK: DEFINITION AND CHARACTERISTICS

The authentic task, or task of reality (even if this definition is used only in Italy) is a “complex and open problem, posed to the students to demonstrate their mastery of something” (Glatthorn, 1999). The authentic tasks are characterized by some features:

  • They are carried out by small work groups
  • They are realistic and simulate real problems, such as those facing a worker or individual within the social context
  • They require to work not by “list by heart” but by developing a research and / or project
  • They ascertain mastery over a number of knowledge, skills and competences
  • They are not obvious: they require innovation, imagination and potentially can be solved by following several different paths
  • It is therefore a precise subset of the activities defined as “laboratory teaching”.

According to his supporters, the authentic task presents these strengths:

  • Motivate students to work
  • Stimulates collaborative learning
  • It allows to develop skills and competences in the field, immediately usable

The main critical points of the authentic task, however, are related to:

  • Difficulty in evaluating the acquired and fielded skills in an objective and individual way
  • Difficulty applying it to all teaching objects

AUTHENTIC TASK: EXAMPLES

Designing an authentic task is not difficult; in general, it is sufficient to ask: “How is this knowledge / skill / competence useful in real life?” Starting from the answer, it will not be difficult to identify a task to propose to your class.

EDITING OF A GEOGRAPHIC-SCIENTIFIC MAGAZINE (for the third class of primary school)

Imagine we are in country X, which stands on the banks of the Y river. An authentic task could be to have students in the third grade of the primary school get a magazine that contains information on the animal and plant species that populate the river and the surrounding area .

This task would require scientific and geographical knowledge, but also a process of gathering, selecting and editing information, as well as a clear stylistic imprint and an editing process. In other words, it is a task that: a) simulates the work of any journalistic editor, b) requires different knowledge, skills and competences, c) leaves room for the imagination and the ability to innovate of each group of work.

CULTIVATION OF ONE OR MORE VEGETABLE SPECIES IN THE HOUSE OR IN CLASS (for the third class of primary school)

The students are asked to cultivate a plant species, creating a brief cultivation form, with the main information useful for cultivation. Groups of 4-5 children could be formed who cultivate the same species and, by combining the sheets of the whole class, make a small manual of the garden.

SCENOGRAPHY OF A FAIRY TALE TO REPRESENT WITH PUPPETS (for the fourth grade of primary school)

Students are asked to design a set for a short story, which they will then have to write and stage through a puppet show.

MEASUREMENT OF THE SURFACE OF A CLASSROOM AND THE COST OF FLOORING (for the fourth and fifth grade of primary school)

The students are asked to develop a strategy that allows them to measure the surface of their classroom, then calculating how many tiles they will have to buy to cover it and the consequent expense.