Authentic Assessment Overview

This article provides an overview of the use of authentic assessment to measure student abilities and progress. Through authentic assessment, your students will demonstrate the skills and concepts they have learned in a 'real-world' context, rather than asking them to use rote memory.
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Teaching Strategies:
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How can I use authentic assessment in my classroom?

Authentic assessment utilizes performance samples – learning activities that encourage students to use higher-order thinking skills. There are five major types of performance samples:

1. Performance Assessment

Performance assessments test students' ability to use skills in a variety of authentic contexts. They frequently require students to work collaboratively and to apply skills and concepts to solve complex problems. Short- and long-term tasks include such activities as:

  • writing, revising, and presenting a report to the class
  • conducting a week-long science experiment and analyzing the results
  • working with a team to prepare a position in a classroom debate
2. Short Investigations

Many teachers use short investigations to assess how well students have mastered basic concepts and skills. Most short investigations begin with a stimulus, like a math problem, political cartoon, map, or excerpt from a primary source. The teacher may ask students to interpret, describe, calculate, explain, or predict. These investigations may use enhanced multiple-choice questions. Or they may use concept mapping, a technique that assesses how well students understand relationships among concepts.

3. Open-Response Questions

Open-response questions, like short investigations, present students with a stimulus and ask them to respond. Responses include:

  • a brief written or oral answer
  • a mathematical solution
  • a drawing
  • a diagram, chart, or graph
4. Portfolios

A portfolio documents learning over time. This long-term perspective accounts for student improvement and teaches students the value of self-assessment, editing, and revision. A student portfolio can include:

  • journal entries and reflective writing
  • peer reviews
  • artwork, diagrams, charts, and graphs
  • group reports
  • student notes and outlines
  • rough drafts and polished writing
5. Self-Assessment

Self-assessment requires students to evaluate their own participation, process, and products. Evaluative questions are the basic tools of self-assessment. Students give written or oral responses to questions like:

  • What was the most difficult part of this project for you?
  • What do you think you should do next?
  • If you could do this task again, what would you do differently?
  • What did you learn from this project?
Many teachers find that authentic assessment is most successful when students know what teachers expect. For this reason, teachers should always clearly define standards and expectations. Educators often use rubrics, or established sets of criteria, to assess student work.

Because authentic assessment emphasizes process and performance, it encourages students to practice critical-thinking skills and to get excited about the things they are learning. Try it in your classroom!

Creating Meaningful Performance Assessments
Portfolio Assessment
Rubrics: An Overview
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TeacherVision Staff

TeacherVision Editorial Staff

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