Most of us really want to make our schools more connected to the “real-world” but it can be difficult to achieve. This is another point of the five-stage framework — to give us a progression of making learning more and more authentic and relevant.

Stages of the Framework

Classroom Activities

Real-World Progression

Stage 1: Adults as Learners Questioning the status quo should make us reconsider the effectiveness of workbooks and worksheets. Risk-taking and growing will have us trying new things. Experiment with making units relevant for students. Enhance workbooks and worksheets with hands-on materials.
Stage 2: Joyful, Efficient, Active Processing Goodbye to spoon-feeding and mindless exercises. Hello to more intellectually engaging activities that have students sorting, comparing, predicting, explaining. Real world connection at this stage can be superficial or used only for connection to something students already know to help them understand. It usually means a word problem, comparing cell phone plans, or reading articles from newspapers. Continue to experiment with hands-on materials, graphic organizers, and illustrations.
Stage 3: Concept-Based and Critical Thinking Goodbye to “coverage” of information. Hello to a messy process of students using facts or problem-solving to uncover conceptual relationships in the discipline and improving the quality of their thinking. Units begin by asking students to discover the relationship between two or more concepts. Assessments measure students’ ability to transfer conceptual understandings to a complex situation they have not seen before. This usually means analyzing a real-world scenario. Students typically do not do much with the scenario outside the four walls of the school but they start transferring their learning to new, often real-world situations. Look for authentic situations that require conceptual understanding to unlock.
Stage 4: Disciplinary Thinking Units now begin with a problem or scenario that students approach in a more disciplined way. We introduce problems so students can learn to behave as a disciplinarian in the field would behave. Students use real-world problems to practice disciplined ways of thinking.  They should be able to compare the ways of thinking of each discipline. The goal here is to discover things as scientists, artists, etc. discover them – which usually means discovering phenomena that already exist. Purchase and make daily use of tools that disciplinarians use.
Stage 5: World Changers Students now take on the role of an innovator and advocate. Units begin with students in a specific role to help a real world partner achieve a real goal. Learning takes place beyond the four walls of the school with students manipulating ideas and materials to solve problems that have yet to be solved. Make partnerships with organizations that will make time to work with young people on complex problems.

The progression also happens from Kindergarten to 12th grade with students increasing the sphere of their influence from their family to the global community. As they get older, we also increase the amount of planning done by the students in Stage 5, with high school seniors finding their own partnerships and defining the parameters of their own problems.
What do you do to make learning more authentic? Post below.