Five Ways Pioneer Academics Fosters Authentic Learning

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Five Ways Pioneer Academics Fosters Authentic Learning

Authentic Learning

Students often doubt the relevance of a classroom education––as any teacher knows, “When will I use this in real life?” is a perennial question. Authentic learning is a methodology that educators can use to bridge the disconnect between education and “real life.” In an authentic learning experience, students address real-world problems that are personally and culturally relevant. They engage with these problems for a long period of time, working through challenges and complexities as they arise and producing a final product as evidence of their hard work. Pioneer Academics incorporates all of these elements into its cutting-edge student research program. 


Students address complex, real-world problems 

In an authentic learning experience, students are not given artificial problems with clear-cut answers. Instead, they tackle real-world issues in all their complexity. When Harshika, a Pioneer scholar from India (Environmental Science, 2019), read an article about coral bleaching, the problem felt tangible. She remembered a snorkeling trip she took with her family in the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s such a beautiful region, and it was such a fun experience, and it just made me feel so sad and disheartened that such a beautiful and vibrant region is on the verge of destruction,” she said. This motivated her to research the fate of coral reefs and to search for a solution to a real-world problem that matters. Her paper evaluates possible methods for saving coral reefs, including using genetic engineering to speed up the evolutionary process. In the future, Harshika hopes to use computer science to help the environment. 


Topics have personal and cultural relevance

In addition to addressing real-world issues, Pioneer scholars are also encouraged to choose topics that are personally relevant. Lal, a Pioneer scholar from Turkey (Economics, 2019), had often heard friends and family talk about the effect of refugees on the economy but was unsatisfied with the evidence they gave to support their views. “Everyone either said it was a good thing or a bad thing, but nobody actually gave me a good answer about why it was good or why it was bad,” she explains. After volunteering with Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Lal knew that she wanted to engage with the problem through research. In conversations with family and friends, Lal often heard that the influx of Syrian refugees to Turkey increased prices on consumer goods. As such, she expected to find a positive correlation between refugee distribution and prices. The reality was just the opposite–prices were actually lower in areas with a high density of Syrian refugees. 


Students engage in sustained investigation through the research process

While many traditional curriculums try to cover the basics of a wide range of topics, the focus of the Pioneer research program is on depth, not breadth. Research is a long and demanding process. Students work on one research paper for months, becoming experts in their topic. 


Students must overcome obstacles in the research process just like professional researchers

Because Pioneer scholars engage in authentic research, they often face the same obstacles and challenges as any other researcher. Adam Song, a Pioneer scholar from China (Physics, 2019), had to use creative problem-solving to meet these challenges. Adam’s research concentration was Computational Fluid Dynamics, a field that uses computers to model and solve problems that involve fluid flows. His research topic was creating a 3D model of the renal arteries, small arteries that carry blood from the heart to the kidneys. In order to create this model, he had to compile images from CT scans and MRIs. However, he soon realized that there was a limited amount of images that showed kidneys from the angle required to create his 3D model. Adam had to use creative problem solving to make up for this gap in previous research. For instance, he looked for images of lungs that also showed kidneys and even referenced scans of dog kidneys. This kind of creative problem solving can only take place in an authentic learning experience. 


Students create a finished product in the form of a highly polished research paper

An important piece of authentic learning is the creation of a final product at the end of the experience. Pioneer scholars produce a highly polished and professional research paper through sustained time and effort. For most Pioneer scholars, this is the longest and most involved piece of writing they have ever produced in their academic careers up to that point. Paper topics are refined with the mentorship of a professor and must be both original and feasible. Furthermore, with the support of tutors at the Writing Center, students are expected to produce a paper with impeccable language and style. 

When Pioneer provides the opportunity for students to engage in authentic learning through the research process, its students rise to the challenge. Wrestling with real-world problems and creating a final product to be proud of, Pioneer scholars emerge with confidence in their abilities and increased passion for their academic interests.

Dear educator friend,

In the critical process of preparing students to transition to college, you are key. The
ramifications of your guidance are far-reaching.

The Pioneer Research Program believes that it, too, has a role to play in preparing students of special potential and passion for learning. This is a role we trust you will appreciate knowing about. Our mission is to offer a deep and otherwise unavailable opportunity to exceptionally motivated young scholars who want to learn and research at the college level and to explore their potential for innovation.

What makes Pioneer a unique deep-dive learning experience is not just the mentorship of distinguished professors. It is the rigorous quality controls developed conjointly by Pioneer and Oberlin College. Professors (must) adhere to rubrics for

1) setting learning goals;

2) syllabus development;

3) oversight, feedback and evaluation, and

4) grading standardization.

This rigorous academic system is supported by thorough admission process and a high-minded ethics code. The combination gives students an exceptional learning experience that is brought to fruition in a college-level research paper documenting their findings.

You can follow this link Pioneer’s concrete academic system to learn more about the academic system. Academic quality control and academic oversight assure Pioneer’s focus is on learning and learners, and therefore all of our practices were built upon the following principles:

No conflict of interests Pioneer’s academic ethical standards
Because of its high academic and ethical standards, the Pioneer program has earned the trust of college admissions departments and formed the basis for the ground-breaking collaboration with Oberlin College. Pioneer scholars get two college credits upon completing their Pioneer research.

Click to learn about Pioneer and Oberlin College's groundbreaking academic collaboration.

Pioneer has a rigorous admission process. Students who have genuine academic interests and are highly motivated are a good fit with Pioneer’s values. Pioneer’s founding board insisted that Pioneer commit to a professor-blind policy during the application process, ensuring that applicants have authentic field interest and correct priorities. Consequently, no information about professors is released before admission to the program. This policy is much appreciated and respected by universities. Professor-blind admission policy
On this page is the critical information needed to meet your needs.

If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know how we can help you by emailing or calling 855-572-8863.


Matthew Jaskol

Founder & Program Director