AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Authentic Learning in the Kitchen and Garden: Synthesising planning, practice and pedagogy

by Heather D Wallace

Institution: Victoria University
Department: College of Education
Year: 2014
Keywords: 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy; 1303 Specialist Studies in Education; College of Education
Record ID: 1066357
Full text PDF: http://vuir.vu.edu.au/25923/


This study identifies and articulates the interrelationships between six key components essential for authentic learning to maximise the student-centred learning opportunities in kitchen and garden-based learning projects. Interpretative case study methodology using multiple qualitative methods for data analysis were used to direct three layers of inquiry around kitchen and garden-based learning: the context, content and characteristics of kitchen and the garden-based learning, the student learning, and the teachers’ work. Review of the literature indicated significant gaps in understanding how teachers can foster children’s interest in nature, and plan for effective authentic learning experiences in the garden. Through analysis of the literature, together with the perspectives of the Grades 4, 5 and 6 children, and their teachers, key components for authentic, contextualised learning were identified. These included: a real-world context, the opportunity for working as professionals, within a collaborative learning community, work requiring higher-order thinking, ownership of learning and authentic integrated assessment. Teachers’ pedagogy and practices are often hidden but were nevertheless significant factors affecting student outcomes. Teachers made the learning experiences more meaningful by ensuring student reflection was embedded in learning tasks. Planning and providing arenas or “safe platforms” for discursive reflection was an essential step in transforming tacit understandings to explicit knowledge enabling children to connect their personal experiences with the experiences of others. From this discourse deeper understanding of ecoliteracy emerged with one cohort, and understandings about the intricacies of collaborative teamwork with another. The focus group discussions about common experiential learning experiences had wider implications for teaching; they were a key step in making the children’s tacit understandings explicit. Examination of the staff and students’ immersive experiences within a kitchen garden learning environment, led to the development of a model of learning that provides educators with a comprehensive approach to scaffold authentic learning opportunities.