Authentic Learning Services

What is Authentic Learning?

We sometimes use programs like Iowa BIG or Waukee APEX as a crutch to describe this, but the truth is that authentic learning does not require a special program.  It can be delivered within any classroom at any grade level. Its main features are a) student-directed work, be it project-based, inquiry-based, or a similar pedagogical model, resulting in b) an authentic outcome/artifact that is something people do in the “real world”, to be c) shared with an authentic audience, i.e. people within the community.

How does it fit with Work-Based Learning?  With College/Career Readiness?

You can clearly see the fit, but we think there is some nuance to this relationship.  For years, we have treated career planning as a two-phase process, where students explore careers in 8th grade creating a high school plan, which then leads to informed career decisions.




This didn’t prove to help anyone other than 4-year college-bound students, who are the primary beneficiaries of the traditional system anyways.  A better solution is to create learning opportunities along career pathways, and to do so in a way that builds a student’s competency in that career:




Authentic learning as a concept is critical throughout this sequence.  What we might consider authentic learning experiences--those student-led, project-based learning mentioned above--are especially critical at enhancing career exploration.  How would a student know their skills and interests are a good fit for meteorology (or nursing or law or plumbing) to know to start that pathway? Through quality, rigorous authentic learning opportunities which help individuals think like and do the work of someone in that field.


What services do we provide?


We are building several services to offer statewide.  For Authentic Learning Projects:


  • Formal professional learning (2-day, F2F) for year 1.  Includes a) an immersive authentic learning experience to overview authentic learning, b) designing a project, c) managing a project, including Scrum/Agile training and other facilitation strategies, and d) evidence of student learning.  Completed April 1, Roll-out TBD. Year 2 and 3 coming in subsequent years.

  • Half-day technical workshops in using the Clearinghouse, and using the Personalized Learning System.

  • Support materials for implementation, including the Authentic Learning Blueprint for school leaders and instructional coaches, self-paced professional development modules for teachers, and technical tutorials for the Clearinghouse.  Coming April 1.

  • Supports for business/community partners, including the Partner Toolkit (a support material for partners to help them through understanding, participating in, and seeking out authentic learning opportunities, coming April 1), as well as hands-on learning opportunities:  Bootcamps, Think Tanks, and Observations of Expos.

  • Informal coaching and consultation, which is better delivered by local AEA consultant partners who know their districts more intimately.  This includes program design, community partner outreach, and community Think Tank development.

  • Statewide project support, such as expos, contests, and other events where students can participate.  An example of this is the Why Our Town project, which will be ready to go with the initial launch of the Clearinghouse in July.

  • Student e-curriculum that teachers can assign or students can self-select.  This can include content-specific lessons to help scaffold for student learning, as well as soft-skill development (e.g. “Facilitating a meeting with a client”, “Organizing your work into manageable chunks”).

  • Statewide networking for educators implementing authentic learning, including a webinar series highlighting promising practices, innovative partnerships, and student activity.  Will launch in spring of 2019.

Call Us: 1-800-000-0000   /   /  500 Terry Francois Street San Francisco, CA  94158

About AEAs

Iowa's Area Education Agencies (AEAs) were created in 1974 by the Iowa legislature to ensure equal educational opportunities for all children from birth through age 21. As regional service agencies, AEAs provide special education and school improvement services for students, families, teachers, administrators, and their communities.


Iowa's Area Education Agencies

Connie Johnson
Iowa's AEAs Communications Director
(712) 335-3588 ext. 2015 



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