Authentic Learning Tasks

Cover Image for Authentic Learning Tasks
Lauro Silva

The book outlines four components that design should have if they want to increase the levels of transfer:

  1. Learning Tasks
  2. Supportive Information
  3. Procedural Information
  4. Part-Task Practice

Learning tasks are the backbone of an educational design, and the other components are connected to this backbone.


Each vertebrate is a learning task, while the individual ribs consist of supportive Information. procedural Information, part-task practice.

Learning tasks can be anything that aims to increase the transfer of learning: they can be problems, projects, tasks, assignments, etc.

Authentic Learning Tasks

Before you start designing learning tasks, your first step is to capture the “authentic tasks”.

Well-designed learning tasks are based on authentic real-life tasks.

The only way to capture authentic tasks is by capturing the expertise of a professional actually doing the work in their professional environment. The learning tasks should reflect the complexity of the work that’s done at the job.

There is a spectrum between real-life tasks and fake tasks. There is nothing worst than hypothetical, made-up tasks that don’t represent the real work!

Real-life tasks are almost always integrative. They make an appeal to both knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the learner. They force students to integrate the elements that are relevant to solving problems in a particular domain.

An example of capturing authentic learning tasks is having someone record how they implement authentication from scratch. From the first step all the way to deployment. You want to capture everything. Once the expertise is captured end-to-end, then that’s when you can start designing the learning experience.

It’s important to note that learning tasks are best designed when considering your learners' prior knowledge and experience.

  • Who are you designing these learning tasks for?
  • What experience or prior knowledge do you expect them to have?
  • What problems is your ideal learner solving right now?
  • What positions are they considering next in their careers?

Inductive Learning

The most important learning process is inductive learning.

The theory is that students learn from concrete experiences by generalizing and abstracting away from those experiences.

Inductive learning is where the teacher presents the rule through situations and does guided practice, and then the learner does the free-form practice on their own.

Variation in Learning Tasks

Learning tasks should have variations.

The most important factor predicting the transfer of learning is if there is no variation in practice, there will be no transfer.

Learning tasks should be different from each other, but they must also be different from each other on surface features.

They must be different from each other on surface features: the example of butterflies. Learning tasks should differ in structural features: for example, butterflies to other flying things.

We need a variation on both to support this inductive learning process. The goal is to yield cognitive schemas that make it possible for students to apply the things they have learned to new situations.

As long as this requirement is not met, we cannot expect to transfer learning from our educational environments to the real world.