Let’s get real
As we employ techniques, tools and educational technologies to get students active and engaged we must also consider how our assessment of their learning may impact their levels of motivation and engagement. How can we spark their curiosity and thirst to know and learn? Authentic assessment could be a good way to give students opportunities to apply what they have learnt through connecting with others and the ‘real world’ by providing a product or service to the wider community. This may help students see the greater purpose to their study and gain increased motivation and satisfaction.
What do think about this, and do you think there are other benefits to authentic assessment?
Elements and principles
As proposed on Day 1, authentic real life assessment tasks should contain the challenges of a real life work context. It’s worthwhile reiterating that the design and nature of an authentic assessment will vary depending on various factors including the field of study. So how do you know if it’s authentic?
Let’s take a look at some of the defining elements as set out by Ashford-Rowe et al (2014):
- The assessment should be challenging (beyond reproducing or regurgitating rote facts and knowledge)
- The assessment should culminate with a performance or product
- The design of the assessment should ensure transfer of learning and application of skill and knowledge (in the workplace or across different content areas)
- Metacognition is demonstrated, by means of critical reflection, self-assessment or evaluation
- The assessment should be a product or performance that could be recognised as authentic by a client or stakeholder
- The assessment environment is true to the actual professional or work environment including the tools, and language used
- The assessment is formally designed to provide discussion and feedback
- The assessment places value in collaboration including communication and team work (often critical in the work place)
According to Collins (2013), authentic assessment requires authentic learning experiences, so we can’t look at assessment design in isolation:
“The learning needs of today’s students no longer fit the traditional model. Rather than simply learning facts and basic skills, they need to acquire more complex skills in conceptualisation and problem solving. They need affective and metacognitive skills, and the capacity to work collaboratively and to work across disciplines. They need the dispositions required to pursue such learning. They also need learning experiences of the kind of tasks that they may expect to meet in adult life. Such learning requires authentic assessment, designed to demonstrate their grasp of the skills and competencies needed to address real-life problems, and formative assessment, or assessment for learning, designed to provide learners with feedback on their progress to inform their development.”
In an article by Claxton (2018) he advocates for supporting students to develop attitudes and habits such as curiosity, resilience, adventurousness, resourcefulness and independence which not only influence learning and grades, but long term success in broader life. Although Claxton’s article is written with younger students in mind, these attitudes and habits are applicable to higher education and have implications for our course and assessment design.
Our assessments fit in as part of a larger picture made up of course design which sits within the context of your particular field, the vision of the college, school or centre and the broader policies informing them. Collins (2013) discusses the need to consider not only the content of the course we are teaching but how learning and thinking can be applied and transferred. An underlying principle of authentic assessment then, is to go beyond the core content of our course and foster dispositions for learning and skills for life such as problem solving, collaboration, communication, reflection and evaluation in order to provide authentic learning experiences and authentic assessment.
Reflect and share your thoughts on any of the following:
- Are there any elements of authentic assessment or dispositions for learning discussed in today’s post that you feel do or don’t suit your particular discipline, teaching philosophy or pedagogical approach? (Click here to read about different pedagogical approaches, although it’s not framed within a higher education context it might be a helpful refresher to get you thinking about your approach)
- Tell us about an “authentic” activity in your profession or discipline e.g. law students conduct a mock courtroom role play. Is the activity a general learning experience or an assessment item? What sort of skills or dispositions are necessary for students to succeed in this “authentic” activity?
Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., Brown, C., 2014 “Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment,” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39:2, 205-222, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.819566
Claxton, G., 2018 “Deep rivers of learning” in Phi Delta Kappan, 99 (6)
Collins, R., 2013, “Authentic assessment: assessment for learning” in Curriculum and Leadership Journal, 11 (7), May 2013. http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/authentic_assessment_assessment_for_learning,36251.html?issueID=12745 Accessed 15/03/2019.
UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (2018) “Effective and appropriate pedagogy” Brief 3, 29 March 2018