Traditional assessments, such as tests, assignments, and exams, enable teachers to evaluate how well students understand a concept. Authentic assessment’s goal, on the other hand, is to simulate real-world problems so that students can acquire relevant professional knowledge and skills.
Educators use authentic assessment to evaluate students’ mastery of a course by giving them relevant and complex real-life problems to solve.
Authentic assessments are typically given to students ahead of time, along with expectations of the skills they should demonstrate in the assessment.
An authentic assessment measures the level of students’ comprehension of a concept by asking them to answer realistic complex questions. They are intended to assess students’ ability to apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems rather than their memorization skills.
The principle of authentic assessment is that most problems in the real world can be solved in more than one way. There is rarely a right or wrong answer in authentic assessment; the answer is determined by how the students interpret the task.
So, the goal of authentic assessment is to explore the different approaches students take to solve problems and see the process behind the solution.
The goal of both conventional and authentic education is to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to function effectively as a professional. However, most traditional assessments assess how much students can recall.
Authentic assessments evaluate if the students can apply what was taught in class to solve real-life problems. Students’ memories are still called into question with authentic assessment; they have to remember what they learned in class to apply it to real-world problems.
Unlike traditional assessments where there’s a standard answer and method, authentic assessments allow students to solve problems using their approach.
In authentic assessment, how one student solves a problem will differ from the next. Students are encouraged to solve problems based on their perceptions of the situation.
For example, there is a pricing question about which product provides the most value between A and B, and why. What students consider valuable will be the main difference in their responses.
A student may consider product A valuable because it is functional and the price is reasonable. While another will see Product B as providing more value because of its quality even though it’s more expensive than Product A.
Authentic assessments enable educators to merge teaching, assessment, and how students learn.
It assesses students’ ability to assimilate information, process it, recall it, and apply it to solve real-world problems. It also highlights their problem-solving abilities, critical thinking abilities, logical reasoning, and creativity to provide unique and innovative solutions.
Authentic assessments also allow students to learn at their own pace; instead of creating assessments based on the entire syllabus, authentic assessments assess students based on the information they need.
When they are studying a specific subject, they are not always asked random questions to see how much information they remember. Instead, authentic assessments are given based on their relevance to the real world.
The framework for authentic assessments is to determine students’ ability to apply what they’ve learned to solve real-world problems. The assessment has to simulate real-world problems related to the acquired knowledge.
Real-life challenges are complex, unpredictable, and often ambiguous; students have to be the ones to determine what the actual problem is and how to effectively solve it.
For example, if the authentic assessment is about conflict resolution, the questions should focus on eliciting responses that demonstrate how students would resolve conflict in the real world.
Traditional assessment, on the other hand, would most likely ask students to list the steps to resolving a conflict. It focuses on how the student would resolve the conflict with the information they’ve gained.
Unlike traditional tests, where students come prepared for the assessment but have no idea what the actual question will be, authentic assessments provide students with the questions ahead of time. This is done to give students enough time to thoroughly consider their responses before submitting them.
The goal of authentic assessment is to teach students how to deal with real-life problems. Most Real-life problems require time to evaluate and deliberate before deciding on how to proceed.
It also helps students connect their responses to what they see around them. They have time to rehearse their solutions, look for material, and review their answers before submitting them.
Another reason for this is that when we solve problems in real life, particularly when they have a real-world impact, we take quality assurance measures to ensure that the solution is effective for the problem. The same principle is used for authentic assessment, students look at different solutions and submit the optimal one.
One of the primary goals of authentic assessments is to help students hone their critical thinking skills and creativity. The goal of authentic assessment is to evaluate how students use information, resources, and critical thinking skills to solve problems rather than discovering what they don’t know.
Most real-life problems are much more complex than what traditional tests take into account, and they may not come as separate problems, but as one. Authentic assessments help students see how real-life problems look and how they can solve them.
With authentic assessments, students practice merging information and skills from various sources to solve complex problems. An excellent authentic assessment fosters students’ creativity and allows them to develop original and effective solutions to complex problems.
Unlike traditional assessments, which grade students based on their accuracy, authentic assessments examine students’ performance over time and the reasons for that performance. This allows you to monitor the students’ progress and see when their strengths are declining or improving.
Authentic assessments use students’ performance reliability, or how consistent their results are, to access students’ progress and why.
Identifying what is impeding or contributing to students’ progress aids in providing constructive feedback and allows students to know what to focus on to perform better in future assessments.
One of the key issues with authentic assessment is the grading system since there are no outright right or wrong answers.
For example, the success criteria for an authentic task could be originality. Students are made aware of this fact when they are given the assessment to guide them.
Authentic assessments also promote student self-assessment and encourage students to set goals for what they want to achieve per assessment. This will allow them to assess their performance at the end of the task.
Most authentic assessments are objective, with multiple educators establishing the bar for students’ success in the ask. Of course, the other educators must teach the same subject to make valid decisions about what should determine what success looks like in the course.
Like every assessment, authentic assessments help evaluate students’ progress over time. However, it focuses on students’ depth of understanding of the course while also developing their critical and creative thinking skills.
Authentic assessments, prepare students to tackle difficult problems as professionals in the future. Knowing what to do is important, but practicing how to solve difficult problems regularly is what makes students exceptional in their field.
They motivate students to acquire knowledge for relevance not just to pass the exam. Students are also given authentic assessments ahead of time, which reduces the anxiety associated with tests and exams of unknown questions.
Conventional assessments still evaluate students by the course curriculum, but students do not know what the test or exam will be about until the day of the assessment. Whereas authentic assessments give students ample time to think through their answers, and presentations, before submission.
Here are examples of what typical authentic assessments look like:
According to the University of Florida’s Center for Instructional Technology and Training (2018), the following are steps to create an authentic assessment:
Learning objectives are important takeaways that you want your students to measure using authentic assessment. They are the knowledge and skills that your students should have gained while enrolled in the course.
As a result, when developing an authentic assessment, as much as it should reflect real-world challenges, the question should also be based on how to measure the course’s learning objectives. The course’s relevance to real-world problems and the skills you want students to gain from it.
When creating authentic assessments that mirror learning objectives, focus on the main takeaway from the course. Your learning objectives should be relevant and measurable; this will help you determine how well students understood the course.
It also helps you create an authentic assessment that aligns with the knowledge and skills students gained from the course.
After identifying the learning objectives, the next step is to look at how students can demonstrate that they have acquired the skills and knowledge from the learning objectives.
Looking at what professionals in the field of the course do and the problems they solve is a good way to gain insights into selecting a task. The main goal is to create relevant assessments that would demonstrate students’ skills and knowledge to solve complex real-life problems.
You can also state the assessment’s relevance to students so they know what the goal of the assessment is and how to achieve it.
For example, if the course is about global warming, the assessment could be to develop adsorbents for CO2, one of the most common gases responsible for ozone layer depletion.
Authentic assessment does not have a single correct answer; rather than scores, students’ performance is measured by meeting certain criteria. The performance criteria demonstrate how well students executed their tasks.
The criteria should reflect how well students understood the course and their ability to apply their knowledge to effectively solve realistic problems.
Rubrics are advanced performance criteria, that enable both students and educators in measuring performance on authentic tasks. They are the standards that educators expect students to meet for their work to be considered good quality.
After creating the rubric, distribute it to your students so they have a guideline to follow, e.g the skills they should demonstrate while solving the authentic task.
Authentic assessment assists students in developing relevant skills and knowledge about their courses to solve real-world problems. This prepares students to perform well in similar situations outside of the classroom.
Authentic assessments also help students consistently hone their problem-solving skills to find innovative solutions to problems and become industry experts.
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