What is authentic assessment?
An authentic assessment evaluates if the student can successfully transfer the knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to various contexts, scenarios, and situations beyond the classroom. Authentic assessments can include amyriad of assessment techniquesincluding skill labs, experiments, presentations, simulations, role-plays, class/term projects, debates, discussions, etc. (University at Albany SUNY, n.d.).
The table below from Wiggins (1998) compares traditional assessments (tests and exams) to authentic assessments (tasks).
|Typical tests||Authentic tasks||Indicators of authenticity|
|Require correct responses||Require a high-quality product or performance, and a justification of the solutions to problems encountered||Correctness is not the only criterion; students must be able to justify their answers.|
|Must be unknown to the student in advance to be valid||Should be known in advance to students as much as possible||The tasks and standards for judgment should be know or predictable.|
|Are disconnected from real-world contexts and constraints||Are tied to real-world contexts and constraints; require the student to "do" the subject||The context and constraints or the task are like those encountered by practitioners in the discipline.|
|Contain items that isolate particular skills or facts||Are integrated challenges in which a range of skills and knowledge must be used in coordination||The task is multifaceted and complex, even if there is a right answer.|
|Include easily scored items||Involve complex tasks that for which there may be no right answer, and that may not be easily scored||The validity of the assessment is not sacrificed in favor or reliable scoring.|
|Are "one shot"; students get one chance to show their learning||Are iterative; contain recurring tasks||Students may use particular knowledge or skills in several different ways or contexts.|
|Provide a score||Provide usable diagnostic information about students' skills and knowledge||The assessment is designed to improve future performance, and students are important "consumers" of such information.|
Why use authentic assessments?
Authentic assessments evaluate how students are learning the course material and subject matter over time. Traditional assessments such as quizzes and exams are useful in providing a snapshot of the students' mastery over the subject at a specific interval, but these assessments do not necessarily evaluate how the student can (or will) apply what was learned beyond the classroom.
Consider the way physicians, professional engineers, electricians, teachers, firefighters, and other professionals are assessed. Students of these professions must provide direct evidence they are competently applying learned knowledge/skills before being allowed to perform them in the real world. This is accomplished by way of an authentic assessment and does not solely rely on a written or oral exam (traditional assessment) (Mueller, n.d.).
Moreover, reliance on traditional assessments may prompt students to learn the material simply to pass the exam and then discard the material (or knowledge and skills) after the exam or course has been completed (Thompson, 2016). Authentic assessments provide students a chance to apply what they've learned and allows students to construct meaning about what they've been taught (Mueller, n.d.).
Lastly, authentic assessments do not have to be chosen over traditional assessments. A mix of both types of assessments can be effective, and in some cases (depending on the course objectives and outcomes), required.
Benefits and Challenges
Authentic assessments benefit students in a number of ways, but also present some challenges (adapted fromthis resourcefrom the University of New South Wales Sydney).
Motivates students to deeply engage with the subject matter leading to more constructive and productive learning
Builds a portfolio of academic work, which is helpful for students to:
Reflect on and assess their own work and effort
Seek admission into advanced degree programs and continue their academic career
Pursue career opportunities after earning their degree
Aids students in preparing for the complexities of professional life by equipping them with relevant workplace skills(Video) Authentic Assessment in teaching & learning (Part -4)
Prepares students for lifelong learning
Authentic assessments must be structured well or the application and results could become unpredictable
Unpredictably increases the potential for things going wrong, which may jeopardize students' chance to demonstrate their ability
Creating and applying authentic assessments is time-consuming and resource intensive
Assessment tasks must be carefully articulated at the outset to help students manage course workload
These challenges can be overcome with careful planning and structuring through the use ofrubrics.
Authentic, Formative, and Summative Assessment
There are two types of assessments frequently used in courses: formative and summative.
Formative assessments can be thought of as "spot checks" used throughout the course to assess the student's current grasp of the material and current mastery over the subject matter (e.g. pop quizzes). Formative assessments are focused on evaluating specific knowledge and/or skills at a specific point, the results of which can be used to improve learning as the course progresses (Indiana University Bloomington, n.d.).
Summative assessments are used to measure how well students have mastered the entirety of the material and subject matter sometimes by the mid-point of the course (mid-term) and/or at the end of the course (final).
|Formative assessment||Summative Assessment|
|Grading||Usually not graded||Usually graded|
|Purpose||Improvement: to give feedback to instructors and students about how well students understand specific material||Judgment: to derive a grade, and to allow students to work intensively with course material|
|Focus||Very focused on whether students have acquired specific skills or information||Less focused on specific skills or information; instead, allows students to demonstrate a range of skills and knowledge|
|Effort||Requires little time from instructors or students; simple; done in class||Requires more time from instructors and students; complex; done outside of class|
Well-designed summative assessments can be authentic assessments requiring students to think like a practitioner of the field/discipline (Wiggins, 1998). Authentic (summative) assessments require a significant investment of time from both the student and the instructor. The student will be required to think critically and apply a myriad of skills (merging those learned within the course with those learned outside the course) to approach, evaluate, and solve a problem which may take weeks to solve (e.g. a final project). The instructor will need to take more time to evaluate and grade the students' work than they would if applying a traditional assessment technique such as a multiple choice exam.
How do you design authentic assessments?
The following infographic taken from theAuthentic Assessment Toolboxcreated by Mueller (n.d.) provides a design map for creating authentic assessments:
Source: Jon Mueller's Authentic Assessment Toolbox
The first step (STANDARDS) involves reflecting on, writing down, and determining what the goals are for your students (re:course outcomes). Standards can be one-sentence statements or phrases of what students should know and/or be able to do at some point (e.g. "students must define single integrals by week 3").Course outcomesand standards should be written usingBloom's Action Verbs, which will help with designing the assessment and to measure how much of the material students have learned.
ReadStep 1 in the Authentic Assessment Toolboxto learn more about standards.
The second step (AUTHENTIC TASKS) determines how you will know students have met the standards written in Step 1. At this step, selection of the appropriateauthentic task(s)is performed.
There are three types of authentic tasks:
- Constructed-Response: students construct responses out of previously learned and newly learned knowledge
- Production: students create a deliverable that demonstrates their ability to apply, analyze, and synthesize what they've learned
- Performance: students perform a task that demonstrates their ability to apply, analyze, and synthesize what they've learned
ReadStep 2 in the Authentic Assessment Toolboxto learn more about authentic tasks.
The third step (CRITERIA) establishes indicators of "good performance" on the authentic task(s) selected in Step 2. Students must achieve these criteria when completing authentic tasks to not only demonstrate what they've learned, but that they are also capable of effectively applying what they've learned.
ReadStep 3 in the Authentic Assessment Toolboxto learn more about criteria.
The fourth step (RUBRIC) measures the student's performance on the authentic task(s). Rubrics are essential for structuring the authentic assessment. To start building the rubric, use the criteria established in Step 3 and then decide whether to create an analytic rubric or holistic rubric.
An analytic rubric is used when performance will be evaluated for each criterion. A holistic rubric is used when all of the criteria are evaluated together (holistically).
ReadStep 4 in the Authentic Assessment Toolboxto learn more about rubrics.
- Assessing Authentically. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/authentic-assessment
- Authentic Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://citl.indiana.edu/teaching-resources/assessing-student-learning/authentic-assessment/
- Bloom's Taxonomy Action Verbs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fresnostate.edu/academics/oie/documents/assesments/Blooms%20Level.pdf
- Mueller, Jon. (n.d.). "How Do You Create Authentic Assessments?" Retrieved from http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/howdoyoudoit.htm
- Mueller, Jon. (n.d.). "Why Use Authentic Assessment?" Retrieved from http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whydoit.htm
- Summative and Formative Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://citl.indiana.edu/teaching-resources/assessing-student-learning/authentic-assessment/
- Thompson, Steven. “The Differences Between Traditional and Authentic Assessment.” YouTube, YouTube, 2 July 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOupbmSx27A
- Unit 2: Types of Authentic Assessment. (2008, May 14). Retrieved from https://tccl.arcc.albany.edu/knilt/index.php/Unit_2:_Types_of_Authentic_Assessment
- Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.