This is my 4th time teaching neuroscience, a curriculum I love teaching for a few reasons. First, most students have not taken any form of neuroscience before, so all the information feels “new” and fresh to them. Second, while they may not have a lot of prior knowledge about neuroscience, the content has so much potential for connections to students’ lives – it feels personal and relevant, which opens the door to authenticity. For example, just this week we had a seminar about memory loss (using a chapter from Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”) and what it reveals about the connection between memory and identity.

Seminar Text & Topic Question 

Some Clips from the Memory Loss Seminar 

So I feel pretty confident about the strand of Personal Authenticity – providing opportunities for students to consider their personal beliefs and experiences, and engaging students and their curiosity about the topics we are exploring this semester in neuroscience.

However, I feel that the area of the Framework for Authentic Instruction that I have not yet really explored is Authentic Audience. Although I have always tried to create a real world context for my projects (for example, having students pretend that they are applying for a National Institute of Drug Abuse grant for an experiment on marijuana and cognition), students have always ultimately only created products that are to be presented to their peers and be graded by myself. I have created smaller assessments such as creating fliers about topics that have not felt meaningful because we didn’t spend significant time on it. I think that moving up the hierarchy of audience in assessments would be impactful on students’ motivation and sense of urgency. Furthermore, I am part of a focus group at school that would like to introduce school-wide academic showcases of learning, and I would definitely like for my classes to participate as presenters!

Therefore, my problem of practice this semester is: How might we have students create a product for their school or public community that utilizes and showcases their mastery of neuroscience topics such as drugs?

I know one thing that will be challenging for me in all this is finding the right balance between content and presentation  while adhering to time constraints. With a public audience outside of the classroom, I would want the “product” to be attractive and polished in appearance while containing accurate and high-level information. But can this be accomplished without weeks spent learning computer and video skills, fine-tuning for writing mechanics, and fact-checking? Thoughts and comments are welcome below!