Regardless of the fact that authenticity in learning is a highly controversial and debatable issue, many researchers insists that bringing authenticity to the classroom environment is a perfect idea and, at the same time, a winning decision because of numerous convincing arguments, especially its positive effect on learner motivation and interest. In other words, authenticity, authentic materials, genuine learning, and, finally, authentic learning environment positively impact interest, persistence, attention, enthusiasm, enjoyment, and motivation of learners. The given paper aims to shed light on how authenticity, especially materials and tasks, enhance learner motivation, on-task-behavior, and enthusiasm, compared to artificial materials. In addition, much attention will be paid to the definitions of the terms authenticity, authentic learning environments, tasks, and materials. Finally, the term paper with identify and evaluate the significance of authentic tasks and materials in foreign language environments.
It is extremely important to note the fact that the word “authenticity” is directly associated with such synonyms as genuineness, validity, and, finally, undisputed credibility. The significance of authentic learning environments and authentic tasks is tremendous because they contribute to the increased effectiveness of the learning process. In other words, such concepts as “authentic learning”, “authentic materials”, and, finally, “authentic tasks” have received much attention among many theorists who investigate the efficiency of authenticity in the epoch of drastic technological advancements. The given paper aims to shed light on the importance of authentic learning and tasks. Moreover, much attention will be paid to the main principles and qualities of authentic learning environments as well as authentic materials.
Authenticity and Its Significance
Taking into consideration the estimations of the researchers, the term “authenticity” is extremely versatile, ambiguous, complex, and controversial. In other words, the majority of theorists differentiate a wide scope of meanings directly linked to the phenomenon of authenticity (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). To begin with, authenticity is related to interactions and collaborations among teachers and their followers. At the same time, the term “authenticity” encompasses such interrelated notions as assessment, healthy atmosphere or social situation of the classroom, and, finally, the types of tasks chosen for learning (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). Having evaluated the notion of authenticity and its integral components, it is possible to claim that authenticity of the learning environment is a combination of the text itself, the participants of the learning process, social atmosphere, cultural situation, and, finally, the primary purpose of the communicative act (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). Many scholars have come to conclusions that the role of authenticity is tremendous because authenticity is a powerful “motivating force” that contributes to the learning process of students, and fosters university level teaching (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Nowadays, vast proliferation of technological advancements, especially internet, emerging communication technologies as well as visualization, and, finally, innovative simulation technologies offer its learners a wide range of authentic learning experiences, starting from primitive experimentation and ending with real-world problem solving (Zohoorian, 2015). Authentic learning in the sphere of higher education is almost inevitable because it gives the chance to maximize the effectiveness of student’s performance, and enhances communication between teachers and learners (Zohoorian, 2015). The researchers emphasize that the concept of authentic learning in the sphere of education denotes an instructional approach to learning that ensures a chance to learners to explore, discuss, and assess problems that are closely related to real-world situations (Zohoorian, 2015). Therefore, authentic learning in the field of higher education encompasses a variety of professional educational and instructional techniques that are based on various real-world problematic issues and applications (Zohoorian, 2015).
Regardless of the fact that there is no clear definition of the term “authentic learning”, the majority of scholars agree upon the fact that authentic learning is characterized by a wide scope of features and qualities. Firstly, authentic learning in higher education settings is primarily concentrated on credible, truthful, and, finally, real-world tasks (Zohoorian, 2015). Secondly, authentic learning motivates students to participate actively in the processes of inquiry and exploitation. Thirdly, one of the most significant benefits of authentic learning is focused on the fact that it actively engages students in complex tasks and, at the same time, encourages them to develop their critical thinking skills as well as teaches learners how to synthesize, analyze, manipulate, and, finally, evaluate information (Zohoorian, 2015). In general, various sources of literature prove that authentic learning is higher education is an advantageous process because it stimulates collaboration, gives the chance to articulate the process of learning, and ensures a unique opportunity to examine and assess the real-live problem from different perspectives (Zohoorian, 2015).
Authentic Learning Environment
The term “authentic learning environment” is extensively used in the sphere of education is order to describe a specific pedagogical approach to the processes of learning that gives the chance to construct meaningful and valid well-grounded real-life situations (Zohoorian, 2015). In other words, the researchers claim that creation of authentic learning environments is vitally important because, as the researches reveal, in case the process of learning or, in other words, acquiring knowledge, is separated from its effective application in the real-world situations, then knowledge, in the majority of cases, remains inert, unused, and unnecessary beyond the classroom (Zohoorian, 2015).
Jan Herrington (2006) who investigates the efficiency of e-learning in higher education settings emphasizes that modern online technologies give the chance to people to design, develop, and create truly authentic environments in higher education (Herrington, 2006). Therefore, the researchers claims that situational learning environment encompasses a well-developed authentic context that expresses the ways and strategies the knowledge may be applied in real-life situations (Herrington, 2006). In other words, Jan Herrington (2006) is the proponent of the idea that in designing and developing online learning environments with authentic and valid contexts, it is not enough to simply use appropriate examples from real-world situations in order to manifest and describe the concepts or issues being taught. In addition, authentic learning environments should encompass numerous authentic activities which are characterized by the real-world relevance (Herrington, 2006). Furthermore, the role of collaborative construction of knowledge as well as authentic assessment is crucially important because of numerous convincing arguments (Herrington, 2006). The author of the study about authentic e-learning supports the idea that the opportunity of users to collaborate is considered to be a significant design element especially for those students who usually learn at a distance (Herrington, 2006). The researcher stresses that well-developed tasks and technological advancements, especially discussion boards and email, can foster the creation of authentic learning environments. Finally, authentic assessment is no less important as it gives the chance to learners to become professional performers with abundant experience and knowledge (Herrington, 2006).
Having determined and evaluated the definitions of authenticity, authentic learning, and, finally, authentic learning environment, the concept and main characteristics of authentic tasks should be reviewed because authentic tasks are recognized as integral components of the learning environments that influence their effectiveness (Herrington, 2006). The available literature proves that task genuineness or, in other words, authenticity is the nucleus of authentic learning that gives the unique opportunity to learners to interact and collaborate. Generally speaking, the authentic tasks are engaging as well as purposeful (Herrington, 2006). The researchers who investigate the contribution of authenticity to higher education assure that authentic tasks are, in the majority of cases, real-world tasks that foster educational achievements, and promote meaningful intellectual development, growth, and accomplishments (Herrington, 2006). Authentic tasks not only create opportunities for meaningful learning and effective methods of acquiring knowledge, but increase cognitive thinking, and put theory into practice (Herrington, 2006). In general, developing authentic tasks it a long and complicated process that involves researching a particular problem, discussing the ideas, documenting as well as implementing the tasks, and, finally, refining and modifying them (Herrington, 2006).
Jan Herrington (2006) distinguishes a set of characteristics that describe authentic tasks and their significance in higher education (Herrington, 2006). To begin with, the researcher claims that is it crucially important to authentic tasks to be characterized by real-world relevance (Herrington, 2006). Secondly, authentic tasks are usually classified as ill-defined because they motivate students to identify and assess the complexity of tasks needed to complete the activity. In other words, authentic tasks encompass multiple interpretations that inspire learners solve the algorithms with the purpose to complete successfully the major task (Herrington, 2006). Thirdly, authentic tasks are primarily focused on complex tasks that learners should explore and investigate for a relatively long period of time. In simple words, the majority of scholars agree upon the fact that authentic tasks are usually completed in weeks and even months rather than minutes and hours (Herrington, 2006). The main purpose of authentic tasks in to encourage learners to invest significant intellectual resources and time (Herrington, 2006). Fourthly, Jan Herrington is the proponent of the idea that authentic tasks motivate learners willing to grow and develop to examine and evaluate the problematic issues from different perspectives in order to take into consideration theoretical and practical peculiarities of the problem and apply extensive amount of available resources (Herrington, 2006). Authentic tasks are designed and developed in a specific way in order to ensure an opportunity to learners to have enough knowledge and professional skills to differ relevant data from the irrelevant. Moreover, the researcher provides convincing evidence that authentic tasks not only promote collaboration between teachers and learners, but give the opportunity to learners to reflect (Herrington, 2006). Although collaboration among learners is crucially important for learners because individual learners usually learn slower, authentic tasks give the chance to learners to make right choices and reflect on the process of their learning not only individually, but socially as well. The researcher who investigates the main peculiarities of authentic learning environments and tasks insist on the fact that authentic tasks may be easily integrated across various disciplines and subject areas (Herrington, 2006).
Significance of Authentic Materials in Foreign Language Learning
It is extremely important to emphasize the fact that the idea of using authentic materials in the processes of teaching and learning is extensively negotiated in literature among many experts in the sphere of pedagogy. It is believed that the role of authentic task-based materials is enormous because these materials bring the “real experiences” into the classroom. Generally speaking, authentic materials ensure significant benefits lo learners and, besides, “energize” the majority of them with the increased interest and motivation in language learning. Taking into consideration the definitions of “authentic materials”, it should be stressed that this concept is very complex and ambiguous because the majority of the researchers differentiate it in different ways. To begin with, Omid and Azam (2015) are the proponents of the idea that authentic texts mainly texts that are developed by non-native speakers for various non-pedagogical purposes (Omid & Azam, 2015).
Alex Gilmore (2007) claims that the primary purpose of authentic materials is to imitate real-world experiences and situations (Gilmore, 2007). Many researchers associate authentic materials with texts that are usually used in classroom settings in the same way these materials would be applied to real-world situations (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). In general, the majority of theorists agrees that authentic materials are actual and attested texts that focus on authentic instances and language teaching purposes (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Nowadays, the researchers differentiate three main types of authentic materials, including authentic listening materials, printed texts, and visual materials that foster motivation, and positively impact foreign language learning (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). However, selection of appropriate authentic materials is a long and complicated process because it bases on numerous criteria, including correspondence of authentic materials to the needs of language learners, relevance to cultural peculiarities, a wide scope of cognitive demands, high quality of authentic materials, linguistic demands, and, finally, exploitability (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). However, some experts in the sphere of pedagogy assure that two more additional criteria, especially variety and presentation, should be taken into consideration in the process of selection of authentic materials. Presentation of learning materials in an original or authentic context makes the process of learning more interesting, and gives the chance to neglect non-authentic tasks presented in the book (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Abundant experiences serve as a proof that the use of authentic materials and tasks in FL learning and teaching offers a vast array of advantages. For instance, although the use of authentic materials is a widely criticized and controversial topic, authentic materials are characterized by numerous linguistic and non-linguistic beneficial features (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). To begin with, empirical studies concerning the efficiency of authentic materials provide evidence that genuinely authentic materials are directly linked to learner’s encouragement and achievements (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). The researchers who investigate the outcomes of authentic texts on development of listening and communicative abilities of language learners prove that the use of these materials accelerate the development of comprehension skills, and promotes critical thinking (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). In other words, the researchers investigated and confirmed that authentic texts help foreign language learners to improve their reading, listening, and writing skills. Therefore, authentic texts give the chance to persistent language learners to expand their lexicon and learn new vocabulary (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Gilmore (2007) states that authenticity of materials in foreign language learning is crucially important because authentic texts help learners to acquire language faster, and gives the unique chance to learners to cope with real-life situations and challenges without severe challenges and complications (Gilmore, 2007). Azri & Al-Rashdi (2014) emphasize that the application of authentic materials in the learning process is crucial because authenticity adapts texts to the needs of learners. Moreover, authentic materials not only brings important cultural information to the learner’s attention, but inspires teachers to use creative approaches in the leaching processes, and, finally, exposes students to real language. As a result, having shed light on the main linguistic benefits of authentic materials in language learning, is it possible to infer that authenticity of materials is a crucial factor because it supports language learners by giving them a unique opportunity to deal with various situations similar to real world experiences outside the classroom (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Taking into consideration non-linguistic advantages of authentic materials, it is possible to estimate that non-linguistic benefits outweigh linguistic advantages of authentic materials (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). For instance, the researcher Gilmore (2007) who explores the effectiveness of authenticity and, especially, authentic materials in foreign language learning claims that these materials and tasks have justified their effective impact on motivation (Gilmore, 2007). The author of the research study about authenticity and language learning estimates that motivation is recognized as a crucial factor that positively impacts the success of the learning process (Gilmore, 2007).
Moreover, many empirical studies provide convincing evidence that authentic materials increase learners’ motivation, and inspire them to take efforts to improve their foreign language skills (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). Some researchers compare the authentic materials with the window into a new culture that predetermines further growth and development of language learners (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). In other words, authentic materials are usually compared to the window into new cultures because these genuine materials increase drastically cultural awareness of foreign language students (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). Moreover, many experts in the field of pedagogy insist on the fact that the use of authentic materials in the teaching process should be one of the main goals and priorities of teachers, because this effective strategy enhances the teaching process, and motivates learners to acquire new skills (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Although some researchers are convinced that the use of authentic materials may be disadvantageous in some cases, because authentic materials are often classified as culturally biased, the majority of professionals in pedagogy assure that authentic materials have definitely made incredible contribution in foreign language teaching and learning (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). In addition, although it is often said that one of the major disadvantages of authentic materials is based on their ineffectiveness at all levels of language learning, many theorists refute these statements, and claim that authentic materials are recommended to teachers and learners at all levels without exception (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). Even in case the complexity of authentic materials does not correspond to the learners’ level, the researchers claim that these authentic materials may be used either with intermediate or advanced learners (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014). Having reviewed and assessed the key benefits of the use of authentic materials, it is possible to sum up that many teachers and learners have acknowledged the incredible consequences of authentic materials in lerning (Azri & Al-Rashdi, 2014).
Regardless of the fact that the opponents of application of authentic materials in language learning do not trust the efficiency of authentic material, and insist that many so-called “lower-language’ learners may feel anxiety, frustration, uncertainty, and, finally, de-motivation when confronted with various authentic materials, many research studies on this topic prove that even in case the “linguistic competence” of many language learners is comparatively limited, authentic materials will never threaten the process of language learning because these materials provide learners with the chance to overcome various cultural and social barriers (Omid & Azam, 2015). Finally, despite many authors support the idea that there is no significant distinction among learners who use authentic materials and learners that rely on traditional sources, the majority of research studies prove that authentic materials simplify the process of language acquisition and make the process of learning more interesting , fascinating, and, at the same time, more practical (Omid & Azam, 2015).
Authenticity and Motivation
While authenticity is recognized as a positive phenomenon that promotes foreign language learning, the question remains how authenticity impacts motivation levels of the majority of learners (Gilmore, 2007). The quantitative data provides evidence that authentic materials, texts, and, finally, authentic learning environments foster learner motivation (Gilmore, 2007). Despite the fact that the motivation of foreign language learners vary from person to person, the results of questionnaires prove that authentic materials positively influence three main phases of motivation, especially preactional, actional, and, finally, postactional. Like authenticity, the concept of motivation is very complicated and, at the same time, difficult to define (Gilmore, 2007). The majority of learners directly associate motivation with precondition of success of learners in achievement of their missions and objectives. The researchers estimate that the role of motivation is incredibly important because it helps language learners to focus their attention on the process of knowledge acquisition. Moreover, it is assumed that motivation promotes the willingness to learners to develop, and sustains their goal-oriented behavior and attitudes towards learning (Gilmore, 2007).
Gilmore emphasizes that authenticity is a major motivating force that inspires learners to grow and develop (Gilmore, 2007). In addition, the researcher insists that showing and convincing learners that they can cope with complex authentic materials serves as an intrinsic motivation (Gilmore, 2007). The results of the recent experiment with participation of 29 college students in the USA provide convincing empirical results that approximately 90% of students were motivated by the use of various types of authentic materials (Gilmore, 2007). Therefore, many researchers managed to estimate that authenticity and motivation are connected on various levels of the learning process (Gilmore, 2007). For instance, several researchers asked a certain number of Korean students who speak English fluently to participate in the experiment that lasted 20 days (Gilmore, 2007). According to the final results of the experiment, on-task behavior of students who used authentic materials as well as their overall motivation increased drastically (Gilmore, 2007). At the same time, despite the majority of students found authentic materials and tasks more inspiring, challenging, and motivating, they found authentic tasks less interesting and motivating (Gilmore, 2007).
Many scholars are proponents of the idea that authenticity, especially, authentic materials and tasks inspire language learners, and increase their motivation considerably (Zohoorian, 2015). On the contrary, non-authentic materials or, in other words, artificial materials do not bring the language learners very close to the cultural peculiarities of the target language (Zohoorian, 2015). In general, the results of statistical data provide convincing evidence that far fewer authors of the research studies maintain that authenticity of materials decreases the motivation of students because of complexity of these materials (Zohoorian, 2015). For instance, one of the experiments that investigated the tight interconnection among authenticity, language achievements, motivation, and finally, target culture proves that authenticity favorably influences motivation of students (Zohoorian, 2015). According to one of the experiments that lasted 30 days, and involved 29 college students who studied German as well as French as their foreign language, authenticity of texts, tapes, and, finally, visual materials was incredibly interesting and stimulating (Zohoorian, 2015). Thus, abundant qualitative data collected over the period of the experiment with American learners gives the opportunity to the researchers to conclude that authenticity is favorable in foreign language classes (Zohoorian, 2015).
Thus, having shed light on the connection between authenticity and motivation, and assessed the validity of experiments, it is possible to infer that authenticity has a positive impact on learner motivation in the classroom. In other worlds, the researchers who investigate the positive effect of authenticity estimate that authenticity increases motivation, adds enthusiasm of language learners, enhances motivation, increases enjoyment, and, finally, contributes to concentration.
As a result, having defined the terms authenticity, authentic learning environments, and authentic tasks, analyzed the significance of authentic materials and tasks in the processes of language learning, reviewed the impacts of authentic materials on learners, and evaluated the connection of authenticity to motivation as well as its positive effect on on-task behavior, enthusiasm, and motivation of learners, it is possible to infer that the role of authenticity, especially authentic materials and tasks, is tremendous because it increases concentration of students, and stimulates their active participation in target activities. On the contrary, artificial or, in other words, non-authentic materials may threaten intrinsic motivation and on-task behavior of learners. Having evaluated these convincing arguments in favor of authenticity, authentic tasks, and materials, it is possible to come to conclusions that teachers should be recommended to use authentic materials and tasks in classrooms in order to increase motivational levels, enthusiasm, active involvement, interest, and on-task behavior of learners.