Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology

pp 401-412


Authentic Learning Environments

  • Jan HerringtonAffiliated withSchool of Education, Murdoch University Email author 
  • , Thomas C. ReevesAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, The University of Georgia
  • , Ron OliverAffiliated withEdith Cowan University

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Authentic learning is a pedagogical approach that situates learning tasks in the context of future use. Over the last two decades, authentic learning designs have captured the imaginations of innovative educators who see the approach as a means to enable students to develop robust knowledge that transfers to real-world practice. Authentic learning has its foundations in the theory of situated cognition, together with other pedagogical approaches developed over the last two decades, such as anchored instruction. It offers an alternative instructional model based upon sound principles for the design and implementation of complex and realistic learning tasks. The technologies associated with technology-based learning provide ideal conditions for the implementation of the approach, both in blended and fully online courses. New Web-based technologies and mobile devices provide affordances—as both cognitive tools and delivery platforms—for dissemination of polished and professional authentic learning experiences. As educational institutions increasingly embrace the internet and Web-supported learning, the potential exists for authentic learning environments to be used widely to improve student learning. This chapter reviews the seminal and recent literature in the field, and provides a model of authentic learning for the design of learning environments across educational sectors.


Authentic learning environments Authentic assessment Cognitive tools Situated cognition