The results of a differentiated learning activity should, to the greatest extent possible, be shared with a real and appropriate audience. Individuals with expertise in, or closely related to, the subject of the student’s product are authentic audiences.
Regardless of the student’s age, an authentic audience may involve members of the scientific community, the city council, a government agency, the arts community, etc. For example, reports of student research can be submitted for review and publication in scientific journals. Or the audience may be parents of other students in the school, current and retired members of professional communities with expertise in the content area.
Involving assessors from professional communities “raises the bar” and indicates to students that their efforts are taken seriously and have value beyond the classroom. To achieve this, they should be given opportunities to learn the conventions of expression and communication relevant in a variety of disciplines. These experiences can begin in the primary grades. They need not be reserved for secondary students. Remember the story of Simon Jackson & his statement, “The Power of One” (an example in the section on ” Real Life Topics “).
- Regular activity: Name and describe the major parts of the circulatory system and their functions. Label the parts of the diagram you’ve been given. Attach a sheet of paper on which you have explained the function of each part.
- Activity for an authentic audience: Create an amusement park ride that will teach riders the circulatory system. Describe what they will see, hear and feel. Explain what the different parts of the system do for the human body. This is to be shared with the Director of Medical Education at the City Hospital. She will be asked to evaluate it using this question: In what ways and to what extent do the structure and function of each part of the ride accurately represent the structure and function of the parts of the circulatory system?
Table 1. Examples of potential audiences for products of authentic learning in different domains
|Arts||Language Arts||Mathematics||Social Studies||Sciences|
Financial analysts and planners
Museum archivists & docents
Many schools send a packet of materials describing school procedures, programs and events home with students early in the academic year. A form can be included to recruit parents who are experts and are willing to offer professional feedback on student work. Volunteers’ and their areas of expertise can be stored in a school-wide database that is accessible to all teachers.
A wide range of publications accept submissions from young authors and artists. The review process may provide students with valuable feedback on strengths and weaknesses in their work.
Competitions can provide authentic audiences for student products when the student’s strengths lie outside the teacher’s expertise. Some competitions will provide contestants with feedback.