There has been a shift in the role of assessment in higher education. That is, assessment needs to provide an objective, holistic reflection of students' performance; and address varied students’ learning needs, while closely aligning with the learning outcomes. With the rise of AI tools, it has become more urgent that assessments embrace this technology and helps students to utilize AI.
Authentic assessment is an effective approach to address this goal, by focusing on measuring students' success in skill-relevant and real-life situations. This article presents a comprehensive guide to authentic assessment by elaborating on the definition, its impact, its design, and how to integrate AI tools to support the implementation of this approach.
In the paper – Defining and measuring authentic assessment: a case study in the context of tertiary science, Tiffany Gunning, Madeleine Schultz, Karen Young, and Michelle Harvey of Deakin University proposed a concrete definition of authentic assessment:
“Authentic assessment requires students to engage with a problem or task that is contextualized within a realistic environment and assesses the knowledge skills and attitudes required in the workplace community and for lifelong learning.”
Prof. Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology at North Central College, the author of the Authentic Assessment toolbox provides another comprehensive definition of authentic assessment, referring to the approach as:
“A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.”
An assessment considered to be authentic will need to ensure the 5 following characteristics
We have written an article detailing these 5 components and how to optimize them in online classrooms.
There are several reasons why authentic assessment has become more and more popular in
In authentic assessment, students are encouraged to engage in authentic tasks (group projects, video making, portfolio, case study, etc.), which require them to utilize and develop several skill sets such as problem-solving, teamwork, negotiations, and more. These competencies are absolutely critical for students when working in real life.
Authentic assessment embraces the core values of the UDL framework, specifically encouraging multiple means of representation. Students vary in abilities, preferences, and backgrounds, which leads to differences in how they learn and how they demonstrate what they have learned. Authentic assessment allows for utmost flexibility and variability in knowledge and skills representation. Students are presented with plenty of options, from creating a video, making a presentation, and writing a research paper, to compiling a portfolio. While learners have control over what they can do as a demonstration of their knowledge, instructors can better understand their students, their strengths, and their weaknesses.
In fact, the benefits of authentic assessment extend beyond these two bullet points. You can check out this article to learn more about its positive impact in teaching and learning.
According to Grant Wiggins – Founder and President of Authentic Education, an authentic assessment task always involves:
“…engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field."
In short, there are two main components of an authentic assessment activity: a real-life task for students to perform and a rubric by which their performance is evaluated. In order to design and implement a successful authentic assessment, instructors need to consider both of these elements, as well as several factors such as the learning outcomes and inclusivity.
How exactly can instructors curate a successful authentic assessment that promotes lifelong learning and transfer of skills? Below you can find the 4 main steps to design and implement this approach proposed by Dr. Mueller.
For any type of assessment, we should start with defining the end goal. This entails deciding on the desirable knowledge, skills, and product that students should be able to demonstrate upon finishing the assessment activity. Clear and transparent activity outcomes would be the north star for instructors in designing a suitable authentic task, and for students to fully understand the rationale behind the assessment activity.
To come up with effective activity outcomes, instructors should consider the following steps:
It is always good to consult how others have curated their activity goals to help you draft your own. Below you can find several examples shared by different institutions:
Once you have come up with a neat set of learning outcomes, it is time to develop an authentic task that addresses these goals. A task is considered to be authentic when:
To address these elements, instructors should employ different innovative teaching methods like flipped classrooms, team-based learning, problem-based learning, and more.
Below you can find plenty of examples of authentic tasks:
To implement effective authentic assessment, the use of rubrics is absolutely critical since they help promote fairness and consistency across faculties, and increase student engagement, retention, and success while saving teacher time on grading, and teaching. Most importantly, well-crafted assessment rubrics allow instructors to measure how well students are performing in accordance with the learning outcomes.
As you start designing the assessment rubrics, ask yourself "What does good performance on this task look like?" or "How will I know they have done a good job on this task?". By answering these questions, you will be able to identify the criteria for good performance on that task. In fact, designing quality rubrics requires a certain understanding and effort from the instructors. That’s why we have curated a detailed guide to help you save time designing inclusive, holistic rubrics:
Since an authentic assessment usually takes place over a long period of time, it is important that students receive support and feedback throughout the assessment activity to help them overcome challenges and improve their performance. To achieve this, instructors can rely on:
A big challenge when designing and implementing authentic assessment is to ensure authenticity and scalability to different class sizes, subject domains, and modalities (online, hybrid, blended, or hyflex). Plenty of manual tasks like designing rubrics, forming groups, giving feedback to students, and more take up a lot of time and effort for instructors and learning designers. This is where technology comes in, offering endless potential that allows faculties to relieve the workload and scale up the authentic assessment process.
The next section will be dedicated to how institutions can utilize available teaching tools and especially AI technology to enhance the authentic assessment process.
As AI will be here to stay and continue to play a crucial role in every aspect of our lives, thorough understanding and proper skills to utilize this technology are of great importance. Instead of considering AI as a threat, faculties need to explore the potential of AI and help students navigate through this technology. Especially when it comes to authentic assessment, there are plenty of ways that faculties can leverage AI to optimize this approach. Here are some suggestions to do so:
Implementing a complete authentic assessment activity can take up plenty of time and effort due to many manual tasks: data entry, group and reviewer allocation, feedback rubric design, grading, and more. This is where pedagogical technology comes in, allowing instructors to streamline and scale up the authentic assessment across different class sizes and course modalities. Here is how faculties can utilize teaching tools to optimize the evaluation approach:
In authentic tasks, students are often required to study certain materials before class and then apply the learned knowledge to solve a problem or come up with a product. However, students often end up not engaging in asynchronous comprehension activity, thus coming to class unprepared and instructors have to go over the materials again. With teaching technology like FeedbackFruits Interactive Study Materials, you can turn passive content activities into interactive learning experiences, where the study materials are enriched with questions and discussion points for students to respond to.
An asynchronous discussion forum is another strategy to enhance interactivity throughout the course. By integrating this component at different stages of the assessment, instructors encourage students to engage in deeper conversations with peers and teachers to better understand the lessons. This approach helps students to develop the ability to effectively collaborate and discuss on an online platform, which is critical in professional work life. FeedbackFruits Discussion on Work and Discussion on Topic can be effective tools to help educators organize this discussion platform.
Authentic assessment calls for the use of multilayer assessment: self, peer, and group. Combining these three evaluation approaches would generate rich information that empowers students to actively develop skills needed for learning outside of the classroom and throughout life. However, three major concerns when facilitating multi-layer assessment in any course modality are 1) students’ lack of skills and experience to self-reflect and provide peer feedback; 2) the time-sink of facilitating the 3 assessment types; 3) a lack of motivation and engagement among students.
Pedagogical technologies (when utilized correctly) can be a wonderful sidekick to help instructors overcome these barriers.
Instructors can rely on different teaching tools to design assessment tasks (portfolios, presentations, videos, etc.) where students can submit assignments and then review their peers’ work, evaluate group members’ performance, as well as reflect on their own performance. Finally, instructors provide comments on students’ submitted work on the digital platform, identifying misconceptions and providing explanations to help students.
For example, using Group Member Evaluation, Linda Lee – Director of Instructional Design, and her team at the Wharton School enabled group configuration, group feedback and evaluation, self-assessment, and student analytics for their hybrid course of nearly 1000 students.
Here you can find several examples of entire authentic assessment activities with the aid of teaching tools and AI technology
For a full overview of how this activity design works, you can take a look at our Authentic Assessment journey, which outlines step by step how to incorporate peer and self-assessment to support the writing process with the aid of teaching tools.
Again, a detailed description of this activity flow along with relevant tools to use can be found in the Authentic group project journey.
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