Authentic Assessment

In 1935, the distinguished educator Ralph Tyler proposed an "enlarged concept of student evaluation," encompassing other approaches besides tests and quizzes. He urged teachers to sample learning by collecting products of their efforts throughout the year. That practice has evolved into what is today termed "authentic assessment," which encompasses a range of approaches including portfolio assessment, journals and logs, products, videotapes of performances, and projects.

Authentic assessments have many potential benefits. Diane Hart, in her excellent introduction to Authentic Assessment: A Handbook for Educators, suggested the following benefits:

  1. Students assume an active role in the assessment process. This shift in emphasis may result in reduced test anxiety and enhanced self-esteem.
  2. Authentic assessment can be successfully used with students of varying cultural backgrounds, learning styles, and academic ability.
  3. Tasks used in authentic assessment are more interesting and reflective of students' daily lives.
  4. Ultimately, a more positive attitude toward school and learning may evolve.
  5. Authentic assessment promotes a more student-centered approach to teaching.
  6. Teachers assume a larger role in the assessment process than through traditional testing programs. This involvement is more likely to assure the evaluation process reflects course goals and objectives.
  7. Authentic assessment provides valuable information to the teacher on student progress as well as the success of instruction.
  8. Parents will more readily understand authentic assessments than the abstract percentiles, grade equivalents, and other measures of standardized tests.
Authentic assessments are new to most students. They may be suspicious at first; years of conditioning with paper-pencil tests, searching for the single right answer, are not easily undone. Authentic assessments require a new way of perceiving learning and evaluation. The role of the teacher also changes. Specific assignments or tasks to be evaluated and the assessment criteria need to be clearly identified at the start. It may be best to begin on a small scale. Introduce authentic assessments in one area (for example, on homework assignments) and progress in small steps as students adapt.

Develop a record-keeping system that works for you. Try to keep it simple, allowing students to do as much of the work as feasible.

Types of Authentic Assessment
Performance Assessment
Portfolio Assessment

Excerpted from Classroom Teacher's Survival Guide.

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