Each of us develops our own unique understanding of the world. Many of those understandings are baked in long before we interact and learn from/with each other. Seth Godin points out, we often hear what we want or expect to hear, instead of hearing what was said, and the intent behind it. To truly understand we need to be deeply exposed.
We can begin by committing ourselves to creating authentic learning environments that resonate deeply, and challenge learners. Marilyn M. Lombardi, in Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview, writes that authentic learning environments go beyond content by intentionally bringing in “multiple disciplines, multiple perspectives, ways of working, habits of mind, and community.” An ill-defined problem challenges learners to be open to multiple interpretations.
Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, using a variety of resources, and requires students to distinguish relevant from irrelevant information in the process.
Authentic activities promote critical thinking with diverse interpretations and competing solutions. When learners have an ill-defined problem to solve they have to think critically. If there is no problem to solve there is no point in thinking critically. According to Richard Paul, in Critical Thinking: Basic Questions & Answers,
There is no way to solve problems effectively unless one thinks critically about the nature of the problems and of how to go about solving them. Thinking our way through a problem to a solution, then, is critical thinking, not something else.
Lower-order learning focuses on surface knowledge and rewards thinking that is often seen in multiple choice computer graded assessment. Solving ill-defined problems requires higher-order thinking. Authentic learning, with ill defined problems, focuses on higher order thinking and assesses reason not recall. Authentic learning assesses authentic performances, “students engaged in bona fide intellectual work”, (Paul).
Richard Paul concludes,
One thing is painfully clear. We already have more than enough rote memorization and uninspired didactic teaching; more than enough passivity and indifference, cynicism and defeatism, complacency and ineptness. The ball is in our court. Let’s take up the challenge together and make, with our students, a new and better world.