What is the role of authentic assessment in education?
When students feel like they are doing meaningful work, they are more likely to remain engaged in learning.
This applies from the youngest students to those in high school, but is especially important during middle and high school when many students – but not all — do not seem as intrinsically motivated to do well in school.
When it comes to seeing what students have learned, authentic assessment in education provides teachers with a valuable tool for checking knowledge and/or skills, as well as giving students a reason why they should learn. This can be tremendously motivating.
Most teachers use authentic assessments in their classrooms in the form of portfolios, rubrics, student self-assessment, group tasks, and more. To be effective and work optimally, it involves a basic shift in planning. Rather than planning your assignments and activities and then creating an assessment based on them, teachers develop assessments based on standards and then create instructional activities that will help students meet the goal or target performance. Authentic assessment in education is often called backward or reverse planning.
Authentic assessment in education creates the need to identify a learning goal or objective. What do you want your students to be able to know/do? And how will they be able to show you? Authentic assessment differs from traditional assessment in a variety of ways – though traditional assessment can and does have its place.
For instance, rather than selecting a response, or choosing the right answer, students are asked to perform a task. This is more challenging and has more potential for creating meaningful real-world applications. Again, if students know they can apply what they are learning to their lives outside of school, they may gain a boost in motivation. It is also more “real-world” in that in the job world, they will be asked to perform tasks that demonstrate their ability and knowledge. Authentic assessment in education can help prepare them for this.
Instead of focusing on recall, authentic assessment in education focuses on the ability to analyze, synthesize, and apply knowledge or skills to a variety of different situations. Authentic assessment is invaluable at every state of education. For instance, in kindergarten, students may be given a variety of pre-cut shapes in different sizes and colors. They must then use the shapes to create a larger picture by gluing them on a piece of paper. After completing the task, they are asked to identify all the shapes used, describe the attributes of each shape, compare the sizes, name the colors, and compare the positions of each shape in relation to each other (such as below, behind, etc.). The teacher then uses a scoring rubric to determine how well the child did and what level of mastery he achieved.
Middle school math students may be given a task in which they select a stock to track for a week. They record the price for one share and do that for five days, recording their data on a chart. This can be used to help facilitate graph-making skills, in talking about trends over time, or in discussing the stock market. There are infinite choices for authentic assessment tasks. The key is to make them relevant for both the students’ learning and/ or their lives outside of school. Authentic assessment in education is the difference between explaining the proper form for free throws and letting the student go to the line himself.
Additional Resource – What is Authentic Assessment?