Authentic assessment is a form of assessment in which students demonstrate meaningful application of knowledge and skills by performing real-world tasks. These tasks involve effectively and creatively addressing problems faced by professionals, consumers, and citizens in that field. Student performance is evaluated utilizing a rubric.
Authentic assessment is a form of direct assessment because it provides direct evidence of application of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. It is often referred to as performance assessment or alternative assessment.
With traditional assessments, instructors often discuss and are discouraged against “teaching to the test.” With authentic assessment, instructors are encouraged to “teach to the test” because students need to learn how to perform the meaningful tasks associated with their real-world experience. To develop student knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to perform well, the instructor should show the students models of good and inadequate or inaccurate performance. Sharing the scoring rubric with the students is also encouraged. By sharing the rubric, the instructor is not providing the answers to the assessment, but assisting students in understanding the key focus areas and what is considered a strong performance.
Examples of authentic assessments
- Oral interviews
- Writing samples
- Producing a commercial
- Composing a song
- Creating a flyer
Authentic versus traditional
Authentic and traditional assessments differ from each other in key ways:
|Authentic assessment||Traditional assessment|
|Perform a task||Select a response|
|Real-life experience/scenario||Contrived by the instructor|
|Focuses on inquiry (higher-level Bloom’s)||Focuses on bits of information (lower-level Bloom’s)|
|Assumes knowledge has multiple meaning||Assumes knowledge has a single meaning|
|Treats learning as active (student-structured)||Believes learning is passive (teacher-structured)|
|Direct evidence of learning||Indirect evidence of learning|
Combining traditional and authentic assessments
Traditional and authentic assessments complement each other when utilized in combination. Instructors do not need to limit themselves to only traditional assessments or authentic assessments in their course. The combination of both traditional and authentic assessments may prove a stronger approach than either alone. Student knowledge can be evaluated through the use of a traditional assessment, such as multiple choice questions or essays, but their ability to apply that knowledge in real-life scenarios that require skill demonstration can additionally be evaluated with an authentic assessment. For example, a medical student’s knowledge of a medical condition can be tested with a traditional assessment, followed by the student’s ability to appropriately treat a patient with that same condition by going on medical rounds.
- Design backwards. As with all teaching, instructors should start with intended learning objectives. By knowing what the student should be able to do when learning is complete, the instructor can easily plan the assessment and the learning experience.
- Break the real-world experience down into small steps. To avoid overwhelming students, instructors can break the steps necessary to complete the experience into smaller chunks.
- Don’t get frustrated. Developing a strong authentic assessment can be challenging but very rewarding. Rubric develop, in particular, can be challenging to instructors. Expect challenges and work through them. Repeated experience by the instructor and the student with authentic assessments will improve the experience, the rubric itself, and the comfort of instructors and students with the process and tools.
- Never underestimate the power of student reflection. By reflecting on the experience and assessment, students will further evaluate and recognize what they have learned. The reflections will also assist the instructor in identifying challenges experienced by the students.
- Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.
- Meyer, C. A. (1992). What's the difference between authentic and performance assessment? Educational Leadership, 49, 39-40.
- Newmann, F. M. & Wehlage, G. G. (1993). Five standards of authentic instruction. Educational Leadership, 50, 8-12.
- Rolheiser, C., Bower, B. & Stevahn, L. (2000). The portfolio organizer: Succeeding with portfolios in your classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Steffe, L. P., & Gale, J. (Eds.). (1995). Constructivism in education. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Stiggins, R. J. (1987). The design and development of performance assessments. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 6, 33-42.
- Wiggins, G. P. (1993). Assessing student performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
- Wiggins, G. P. (1998). Educative assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
- Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Worthen, B. R., White, K. R., Fan, X., & Sudweeks, R. R. (1999). Measurement and assessment in schools. New York: Longman.
Summary of Indirect Assessment Techniques
(Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004)
|Technique||Potential Strength||Potential Limitations|
Summary of Direct Assessment Techniques
Choosing The Right Assessment Tool