Teaching for Authenticity is not the same thing as Teaching for Transfer
by Brad Sever
After 12 years, I still had PBL wrong. I still continue to grow in my understanding of this comprehensive instructional framework that I have seen empower students in urban, rural, and suburban schools. Reflecting upon my own practice, one must ask, what is the ultimate goal of learning? In my mind, the ultimate goal of learning is that students can learn at such a high level that they are able to transfer their learning. Transfer, what a fun buzz word to say, it makes you sound smart, and probably plays well in a job interview, but what does it really mean and how does project-based learning prove to be a vehicle to allow students to transfer their learning?
Transfer to me simply means that the learner is able to apply their knowledge and understanding into multiple contexts. When it comes to PBL, I mistook the concept of authenticity as being synonymous with transfer. Authenticity refers to the extent of the real-world context the project involves and the connection the project has to a real world problem. In other words, it is ONE context, not multiple. One of my all time favorite projects that I implemented in my classroom could have been more impactful for my students, if I had clearly distinguished the difference between transfer and authenticity in my project design.