Authentic Assessment

An authentic assessment is one that requires application of what students have learned to a new situation, and that demands judgment to determine what information and skills are relevant and how they should be used. Authentic assignments often focus on messy, complex real-world situations and their accompanying constraints; they can involve a real-world audience of stakeholders or “clients” as well. According to Grant Wiggins (1998), an assignment is authentic if it

  • is realistic.
  • requires judgment and innovation.
  • asks the student to “do” the subject.
  • replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are “tested” in the workplace or in civic or personal life.
  • assesses the student’s ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skills to negotiate a complex task.
  • allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.
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 known 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 of 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 of 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.

Traditional vs Authentic Assessment

Examples of Authentic Assessments

Education Provide a case study of a university and ask students to assess and create a plan of a redesign of a 21st-century school/university/campus.
Business Develop a business/marketing/sales plan for an imaginary (or real) company in a student’s area of interest.
Technology Troubleshoot a problematic piece of AI code; Develop a website/app to solve a particular problem and/or meet a set of criteria
Psychology Examine/critique a case study from multiple theoretical positions
Public Affairs or Service Learning Courses Consider how a community agency might be impacted by a particular challenge (budget cuts, infrastructure outage, public health crisis, etc.)
Management, Physics Draw a diagram of how a process works, indicating what happens if X occurs
History Engage in a role play of a particular event in history; Describe what might have happened if one element of a historical event had changed.

Aligning Outcomes, Assessments, and Instruction with Bloom’s Taxonomy

Cognitive Hierarchy Sample Learning Outcomes Sample Assessment or Activity Sample Instructional Strategy
Remember Name the central characters in Shakespeare’s second tetralogy of history plays Fill in a concept map/diagram connecting the following characters to the following plays: Richard IIHenry IV, Part 1Henry IV, Part 2Henry V Instructor has students participate in a Think-Pair-Share activity where students list as many of the central characters in the assigned plays as possible on their own, and then compare and debrief their answers with a partner
Understand Classify common treatments for mental illnesses Working in groups, students create a short presentation on a specific mental illness and describe effective treatments used in modern clinical settings Instructor provides case studies of different patients with mental illnesses. Then, different treatment methods are presented. Working in groups, the class discusses which treatment methods best match with the case studies and then debrief with the instructor
Apply Apply basic sociological theories to current controversies in society Students work in groups to create a poster board presentation and present their topic of choice, explaining how it relates to a sociological theory Instructor asks students to form groups. Then, each group is assigned a different sociological theory and answers questions relating to their respective theories. Students form new groups with people from other topics and teach each other the theories
Analyze Contrast two different art media within the same historical context Students work in small groups to compare and contrast 2 art media, followed by leading a discussion with the class.The results of the discussion are then presented. Instructor presents two media forms of art, and then asks students to work in groups to analyze each media form and contrast them in as many ways as possible. The instructor will then debrief with the class as a whole, and provide additional knowledge to the discussion
Evaluate Justify why “virtuous” people can disagree on what is the most moral thing to do Students create a blog post describing their opinion on why virtuous people disagree on what is most moral, and what affects their decision-making and their actions Create a classroom discussion among small groups of students to compare and contrast ideas of why virtuous people disagree. Provide readings from Aristotle and lectures on the challenges of virtue ethics
Create Creatively model understanding of German grammar concept to peers Create and film a video in small groups on one grammar topic studied, providing visual aids to assist fellow students in better understanding your topic Make students responsible for a grammatical concept and have them write questions for other students to answer

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