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Authentic Learning in “The Guardian”

In the film “The Guardian” with Kevin Costner, there is a nice example of Authentic Learning which highlights the Minimum Effective Dose principle I wrote about in my initial blog post on the subject.


Costner’s character Randall is due to teach the effects of hypothermia to students of the US Coast Guard “A” school. At class time, his colleagues eventually track him down not in the classroom, but in the swimming pool. Randall is seen shovelling ice into an extremely cold small pool. Everyone is shivering away; to the side, one student is doing CPR on a test-dummy.


Randall’s commanding officer calls him out of the pool and asks: “Why wasn’t I informed of this? You know, we have classrooms.”   … adding “Your assignment is to simply teach the stages of hypothermia”


Randall replies (with a shiver): “Sir …. in about 2 and a half minutes, they’ll understand”


Understanding is not knowing, or being able to recite the facts. Understanding is understanding. Teaching Coast Guard swimmers the facts in a classroom does not deliver the Minimum Effective Dose for understanding hypothermia. This Authentic Learning approach does.


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