Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2024

Document Type

Dissertation (799 registration)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Ximena Suarez-Sousa


: authentic learning, English/ language arts, situated learning theory, higher order thinking skills


To prepare students for the challenges of the future that cannot even be imagined, a paradigm shift is needed to change the focus of classroom to a more organic, learner-centered approach. The purpose of this study was to understand the heightened level of engagement with an authentic learning experience that goes beyond the walls of the classroom. It answers one question: Why does authentic learning affect students’ engagement and motivation to learn in English/ language arts (ELA) classes? This qualitative, instrumental case study used an interpretivist paradigm with a combination of emic and etic lenses. The participants were mostly White high school seniors in a small town in Northern Minnesota. They interviewed military veterans for the Veterans History Project, to preserve their stories. They turned those interviews into biographical essays that were revised into polished drafts, given to the veterans, and archived on the Library of Congress website. Triangulation was achieved by collecting three types of qualitative data: student journals, field notes, including photographs and videos, and exit interviews of three students. The results of the study proved that authentic learning works in ELA classrooms. It also answered the question of “why?” When students can see that their work matters to someone else, that it has a purpose outside of the classroom, and that it makes a difference in the world, then they will be more engaged and more motivated to learn. The implications of this study indicate that it is imperative for stakeholders to provide teachers with support to provide authentic learning projects in their classrooms.



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