540 Discussion Read Moore C. 10-11; Post YOUR thought-provoking and discussion worthy summaries, questions, riveting points from chapter reading to the Dis

540 Discussion

 

Read Moore C. 10-11; Post YOUR thought-provoking and discussion worthy summaries, questions, riveting points from chapter reading to the Discussion Board AND YOUR RESPONSES TO AT LEAST TWO OF YOUR CLASSMATES’ POSTS no later than SUNDAY BY MIDNIGHT AT THE END OF THE WEEK.

Digital Collections @ Dordt Digital Collections @ Dordt

Master of Education Program Theses

5-2018

Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can

Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work

Rhonda Van Donge

Follow this and additional works at: https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/med_theses

Part of the Curriculum and Instruction Commons

Recommended Citation Recommended Citation
Van Donge, Rhonda, “Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their
Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work” (2018). Master of Education Program Theses. 119.
https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/med_theses/119

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Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their
Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work

Abstract Abstract
This action research study investigated how an authentic learning experience impacted the motivation
and engagement of students toward finding intrinsic value in meaningful work in a sophomore English
classroom at a private Christian high school in the Midwest. The participants were 57 sophomores at the
high school taking required English 10. The students participated in an authentic learning experience
(ALE) designed by their teacher in which they were split into 10 teams, each team writing and designing
one issue the sophomore class’s newspaper. The 57 students completed an anonymous survey at the
conclusion of the authentic learning experience. Eight students were randomly chosen to be interviewed
about their experiences in the ALE. The results of the study suggested that authentic learning experiences
do contribute to the overall motivation and engagement of students to find intrinsic value in their work.

Document Type Document Type
Thesis

Degree Name Degree Name
Master of Education (MEd)

Department Department
Graduate Education

First Advisor First Advisor
Patricia C. Kornelis

Keywords Keywords
Master of Education, thesis, authentic learning, motivation, engagement, high school, Christian education

Subject Categories Subject Categories
Curriculum and Instruction | Education

Comments Comments
Action Research Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of
Education

This thesis is available at Digital Collections @ Dordt: https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/med_theses/119

Authentic Learning Experiences:

Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Students to Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful
Work

By

Rhonda Van Donge

B.A. Dordt College, 1999

Action Research Thesis
Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

Of the Requirements for the
Degree of Masters of Education

Department of Education
Dordt College

Sioux Center, Iowa
May 2018

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !ii

Authentic Learning Experiences: Investigating How Teachers Can Lead Their Students to

Intrinsic Motivation in Meaningful Work

By

Rhonda Van Donge

Approved:

___________________________
Faculty Advisor

___________________________
Date

Approved:

___________________________
Director of Graduate Education

___________________________
Date

Pat Kornelis, Ed.D.

04/30/2018

Stephen Holtrop, Ph.D.

04/30/2018

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !iii

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dr. Tim Van Soelen and Dr. Pat Kornelis for their encouragement

and guidance throughout this project. They were instrumental in helping me clarify my purpose,

research, and writing. I also need to thank Mr. Nathan Ryder for his patience in helping me with

my statistical analysis of my data. He has patience beyond measure.

I never would have begun this journey without the support of my husband, Benj. He

helped me stay focused and motivated, even when that meant attention taken from my family and

job as a wife and mother. I also need to thank my four boys, Micah, Jamin, Eli, and Isaac,

because even though they may not have realized, they had to sacrifice summer activities and time

from their mom so that I could pursue this goal.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !iv

Table of Contents

Title Page ………………………………………………………….…………………….………i

Approval ………………………………………………………………….…………………….ii

Acknowledgements …………………………………………………………………………….iii

Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………iv

List of Figures ……..……………………………………………………………………………v

Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………….…..……vi

Introduction …………………………………………………………….………………….…….1

Review of the Literature ………………………………………………………….……………..7

Methods ……………………………………………………………………………….………..19

Results ……………………………………………………………………………….………….22

Discussion ………………………………………………………………………………………30

References ………………………………………………………………………………………35

Appendixes
Appendix A……………………………………………………….…………..………….40

Appendix B ………………………………………………….……………..……………42

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !v

List of Figures

Figures Page

1. Figure of Berger’s Hierarchy of Audience ……………………………………………8

2. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Real World/Audience ……….…………………23

3. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Critical Thinking …….……………..…………24

4. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Community of Learners ………………………24

5. Linear Graph of Regression Line of Student Choice ………….…………………..…25

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !vi

Abstract

This action research study investigated how an authentic learning experience impacted

the motivation and engagement of students toward finding intrinsic value in meaningful work in

a sophomore English classroom at a private Christian high school in the Midwest. The

participants were 57 sophomores at the high school taking required English 10. The students

participated in an authentic learning experience (ALE) designed by their teacher in which they

were split into 10 teams, each team writing and designing one issue the sophomore class’s

newspaper. The 57 students completed an anonymous survey at the conclusion of the authentic

learning experience. Eight students were randomly chosen to be interviewed about their

experiences in the ALE. The results of the study suggested that authentic learning experiences

do contribute to the overall motivation and engagement of students to find intrinsic value in their

work.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !1

The needs of today’s students are changing. “No pupil in the history of education is like

today’s modern learner. This is a complex, energetic, and tech-savvy individual” (The Critical,

2017). Students need skills that will allow them to be successful in an ever changing and

expanding workforce. In the early 1900’s, 95% of jobs in the United States called for low-skilled

workers (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008) to work mainly as production workers and laborers

(Fisk, 2003). In 2008, the workforce called instead for workers with specialized knowledge and

skills (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The growth of service industries in the 20th century

jumped from 31% in 1900 to 78% of all workers in 1999 (Fisk, 2003). Our global economy and

expanding technology “have redefined what it takes . . . to prosper” as working members of our

shrinking world (Hale, 1999, p. 9). Students today have very different needs to prepare them for

the workforce than students did earlier in our nation’s history. It is the responsibility of our

educational system to lead the students to skills that will prepare them for their future as working

members of a constantly evolving society.

When students graduate, they need to be prepared to join a global economy and

workforce. This workforce wants people with analytical skills and initiative to problem-solve.

Workers need creativity to find new solutions by looking from different angles in order to

synthesize information. Collaboration and communication are essential as students will find

themselves working and communicating with people from all over the world. They need to be

able to communicate their values and beliefs effectively with other people. Finally, businesses

want employees with ethical standards who want to be held accountable and responsible for how

they handle situations in their job (The Critical, 2017). In short, our students need to graduate

from our schools prepared to join a work force that calls for skills in communication and

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !2

collaboration, as well as skills in researching, collecting, analyzing, synthesizing and applying

knowledge. Because of this, schools need to equip and enable students to do more than

memorize and regurgitate information. Students need to be able to think critically, to transfer

knowledge to new situations, and to adapt in different environments and with many people

(Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). Students need to take an active and independent role in

their education to be prepared for what lies ahead outside of the school building.

The key to preparing our students in these skills starts with motivation. Teachers need to

motivate students to become engaged in the classroom so that they can participate in their own

learning. Motivation gives students the “direction, intensity, quality, and persistence of [their]

energies” (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Motivation happens by creating learning that

challenges the students, that allows them to show what they have discovered in a product that has

greater purpose then the classroom assignment, thus giving them the confidence to master the

next problem or task set before them. As teachers equip them to grow into responsible

individuals motivated to achieve for the intrinsic value of their learning (Beesley, Clark, Barker,

Germeroth, & Apthorp, 2010), students will feel prepared to join a workforce that demands

communication, collaboration, researching, collecting, analyzing, synthesizing and application of

knowledge (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The challenge of designing curriculum laced

with motivation falls then on the teachers tasked with preparing our students for this future.

Students are motivated by real world learning. “The more we focus on students’ ability

to devise effective solutions to real world problems, the more successful those students will

become” (The Critical, 2017). Students feel disengaged when they do not feel that what they are

learning is relevant to their own lives (Certo, Cauley, Moxley, & Chafin, 2008). They need

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !3

opportunities in learning that show them what it means to be a productive member of society

(Cronin, 1993). Beesley et al (2010) stated that research has shown that students involved in

their community are more likely to excel and thrive in all areas of their lives. Community

service opportunities increase students’ future involvement and behavior in their communities.

Introducing service in the curriculum led to better social behavior and future involvement in the

community.

Choice in learning also motivates students to engage in the classroom. When teachers

simply pass on information, students do not have as great of a chance to connect personally with

the knowledge, with each other, with the teacher, and with the real world (Kalantzis & Cope,

2004). Choice allows students to self-regulate, to make goals, to make a plan, to make a

commitment, and then to reflect on what they have done. When given choices, students feel a

sense of control in their own learning.

Self-efficacy allows the students to take on a task and to believe that they can do the task.

Teachers then have the responsibility of giving feedback to their students in order to raise the

students’ self-efficacy, to guide them in their learning process while allowing them to use trial

and error (Beesley et al, 2010). Teachers motivate students by creating student-directed learning

balanced well with the teacher as coach and facilitator in the classroom.

Critical thinking and problem solving also motivate students. If a teacher stands in front

of a classroom of students who are disengaged from what she is teaching, little hope remains that

any deep learning and critical thinking skills are taking place. A teacher needs to create a

classroom in which disengagement is not an option, where learning demands the students’ full

attention, where what happens in the class creates the challenge and rigor most students

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !4

ultimately crave (Kalantzis & Cope, 2004). When students are engaged both cognitively and

behaviorally, students’ effort and concentration are high. Students choose tasks that challenge

and initiate action. Without motivation to engage in critical thinking, students become passive,

defensive, and bored. They give up easily (Beesley et al, 2010).

Further, being a community of learners motivates students. Cooperative learning results

in higher achievement than competitive or individual learning does (Beesley et al, 2010).

Working in community leads to students who are more willing to take on difficult tasks that

involve higher-level reasoning, more creativity, positive attitudes, more time spent on task,

higher motivation and thus higher satisfaction (Beesley et al, 2010). Students feel connected in

caring, supportive classrooms (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012).

According to Kalantzis and Cope (2004), “learning happens by design” (p. 39).

Classroom motivation happens when students are “psychologically engaged, active participants

in school, who also value and enjoy the experiences of learning at school” (Quin, 2016, p. 345).

By designing a classroom setting in which students are involved in real world problems with an

authentic audience, in the need for deeper critical thinking skills, and in defining the problem and

the direction for the solution (Rule, 2006), teachers develop motivated students who recognize

the “intrinsic fulfillment of meaningful work” (Romano, 2009 p. 36). These students become

equipped with the skills and attitudes to be successful after their formal education is completed.

Authentic learning experiences (ALE’s) are the “learning by design” (Kalantzis & Cope,

2004) students need to develop the motivation to engage them in the classroom. When they

understand meaning behind learning, they become engaged. Instead of giving students a math

equation to figure out, the teacher can ask them how much it is going to cost for the school to

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !5

pave the entire parking lot. Instead of having them write a fake letter in order to learn proper

letter formatting, they can write a letter to a family member or friend about the last book they

read. Instead of researching a recent war, they can interview a war veteran for firsthand

information. Instead of studying various websites to understand how they are made, students can

work directly with local businesses to create websites for the business’s actual use (O’Hanlon,

2008). Teachers then give their students meaning in their classroom work and the rigor that

students ultimately want (Romano, 2009). Students want to be challenged with high

expectations for achievement, knowing that their teacher does in fact believe they all can achieve

success (Varuzza, Eschenauer, & Blake, 2014; Vetter, 2010). The teacher needs to help the

students feel they are competent to accomplish real world work (Vetter, 2010). With clear

expectations, time to delve into the work, and freedom to explore, students find motivation to

learn (Lawrence & Harrison, 2009). They find that intrinsic value in what they learn, as well as

the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in a job well done (Romano, 2009). The teacher

becomes the facilitator rather than the director (Vetter, 2010). Teachers no longer stand at the

front of the room lecturing; rather, they coach their students through the learning process.

Teachers can guide students to this kind of learning through ALE’s.

Purpose of the Study

Authentic learning experiences have the power to pull students to that “intrinsic value of

meaningful work.” Students will have work that allows them to interact, to take ownership of

their learning, and to work outside the classroom (Varuzza et al., 2014). This study sought to

answer the question: Do authentic learning experiences in secondary English classrooms lead to

“the intrinsic fulfillment” of secondary students? In other words, do authentic learning

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !6

experiences lead to greater levels of motivation thus leading to greater engagement as students

realize the importance of the work they are doing for their future lives?

Definitions

For the purpose of this study, the following definitions will be used. Unless otherwise

noted, the definitions are those of the author.

Authentic Learning Experiences: classroom activities with a real world/real audience focus that

incorporate critical thinking skills, that center around a community of learners, and that are

student-directed rather than teacher-directed.

Motivation: direction and energy in a student’s behavior that empowers them to take on a

challenge, to do quality work, and to persist until they have accomplished a meaningful goal

(Beesley et al, 2010, Fredricks & McColskey, 2012).

Engagement: cognitive or behavioral action that results from a high level of motivation and

leads to strong effort, concentration, enthusiasm, and curiosity (Beesley et al, 2010).

Real World Experiences: classroom activities that tie directly to situations that happen in the

world outside the classroom that students may encounter in their daily life now or in the future.

Real World Audience: an audience for classroom work other than the teacher, such as parents,

school community, public audience beyond the school, anyone capable of critiquing student

work, and recipients of service done by the students (Wagner, 2017).

Critical thinking skills: ability to think clearly and rationally, to engage in reflection, to

synthesize and analyze, and to think independently, creatively, and with vision.

Community of Learners: multiple students or the class as a whole engaged together in the

learning process, working collaboratively rather than in competition.

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !7

Student-directed learning: students taking responsibility and ownership in their learning while

the teacher becomes more of a facilitator and coach.

Intrinsic value of meaningful work: when students feels personal satisfaction, enjoyment,

curiosity, and focus in the activity itself, not from an outside force.

Summary

Because of our changing work force, our global economy, and the changing skills

required of our graduated students, authentic learning experiences have become essential for our

students. We need students to step out of the classroom ready to problem-solve, to find

solutions, to think critically and analytically, to collaborate, to communicate effectively, and to

be ethical and accountable in the workforce. To be successful in their future, they need authentic

learning experiences now to get them actively involved in their learning so that what they gain

from their education is the “intrinsic fulfillment of meaningful work” which will “develop a

productive, tenacious attitude toward such work” that they can “take . . .with them throughout

their lives” (Romano, 2009, p. 30).

Literature Review

Four Characteristics of an Authentic Learning Experience

When teachers plan for an authentic learning experience, four characteristics encompass

what makes those plans authentic. There must be a real world problem, use of inquiry and

critical thinking skills, a community of learners working together, and student choice in their

learning.

ALE’s use real world problems with impact outside of the classroom to motivate and

teach students (Rule, 2006). For example, an English teacher can connect her students with pen

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !8

pals from another country so that rather than writing letters only for the sake of learning the

format, they can learn the format while writing letters to these pen pals. Part of a real world

problem, as in this example, means a real world audience. Berger (2017) has implemented what

he calls the “hierarchy of audience.” According to Berger (2017), as the authenticity of the

audience increases, so does the motivation and engagement of the students. At the bottom of the

hierarchy is the audience of the teacher, followed by parents, the school community, a public

audience beyond the school, people capable of critiquing the students’ work, and at the top of

Berger’s hierarchy is authentic work done for service to the world (Wagner, 2017).

As a service in the outside world

People who can critique

Public Audience beyond the school Motivation and

School Community Engagement

Parents Increase

Teacher

Figure 1. Figure that shows the hierarchy of audience for whom students can present their work

in order to increase student motivation and engagement (Wagner, 2017).

By incorporating both real world and real need elements, students’ view of the world

broadens as the world is brought into the scope of their learning environment (Kalantzis &

Copel, 2004).

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !9

Use of inquiry and critical thinking skills is another characteristic of authentic learning

experiences. The teacher creates problems that the students can use to discover, inquire, and

deduce (Rule, 2006). Teachers push students to think outside of the box as they connect the

learning to the real world. This critical thinking may happen through hands-on activities,

through debate, or through problem solving (Certo et al, 2003). For example, at Silverton School,

in Silverton, Colorado, students used critical thinking skills as they discovered what it means to

be “rich” or “poor”. The students looked at personal finances, national economic problems, and

then global issues of wealth and poverty to come to an understanding that being rich or poor is

not measured only by money (Expeditions, n.d.).

ALE’s also share the characteristic of being formed within a community of learners.

Even if students are working individually to find a solution to a real world problem, they are all

in a community of inquiry, striving for answers within an environment created by the need for

discovery. Students may collaborate in problem solving, creating, or presenting. They talk,

argue, and discuss with their peers while searching for solutions. They become actively involved

in making meaning (Kukral & Spector, 2012). For examples, they may collaborate with their

fellow students by writing a website together (Mac & Coniam, 2008), with the community by

working hand in hand on a community project or by offering valuable services to businesses

(O’Hanlon, 2008), or with a real audience through a newspaper or bulletin (Mac & Coniam,

2008).

Finally, ALE’s allow students to direct their own learning. They have ownership and

responsibility in the problem at hand. Teachers give choice to allow the students to both define

the problem and design how to find the solution (Rule, 2006). Teachers may use mini-lessons to

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !10

guide students through the decision-making process and to lead them to real life skills, but as

students are equipped, they become the primary directors of their learning (Huntley-Johnston,

Merritt, & Huffman, 1997). Teachers may have created the opportunity, the equity, and the

participation, but the students must engage with the learning to make it their own (Kalantzis &

Cope, 2004). At High Tech High in San Diego, California, through a collaborative project

between the humanities and Spanish classes, teachers tasked the students with doing a project

that related to the U.S./Mexico border. That was the only parameter given. Students decided for

themselves what topic or area they wanted to research, and then they decided how they wanted to

display their research for an audience of the school community as well as for Mexican students

they had been conversing with since the start of the unit. Their work, though given an

overarching theme, was completely student-driven, and much learning took place (Schwartz,

2018).

No teacher wants to hear, “How much does this count for?” or “How long does this have

to be?” or “Does this have to be typed?” These questions show that learning is a task for the

teacher, not for the student to learn life skills needed in the real world or for an authentic

audience. Teachers need to deliberately connect students to the real world to help them

understand the why behind what they do in the classroom. When teachers have created authentic

learning experiences well, learning becomes meaningful to the student (Barron & Darling-

Hammond, 2008). Students are committed with a sense of belonging within the learning

environment. The opportunity to step out of the classroom either physically or through their

mental attitude toward the task gives the students a sense of control over their own learning.

This sense of control in turn creates positivity (Shernoff, Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, &

AUTHENTIC LEARNING EXPERIENCES !11

Shernoff, 2014). Students gain factual information in the process of problem-solving and can

transfer that knowledge to different situations and contexts. They are able to explore and apply

their learning as they discover solutions. In the discovery, they learn to define problems and find

solutions without being teacher directed (Barron & Darling-Hammond, 2008). The teacher gives

appropriate help as needed, but students rise to the challenge by increasing the skills they need to

reach a solution (Shernoff et al, 2014) Not only can the students find solutions, they are able to

give reasons and support for those solutions. In doing this, the students increase their motivation

and form work-habits to use beyond the classroom. They learn to collaborate and become

experts with

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