What are the characteristics of an authentic assessment?
In the past, student assessment and hence achievement was based solely on tests and exams. However, I feel these types of tests do not provide an accurate picture of what students know.
Instead, these types of traditional assessments only provided a snapshot of what students know at one particular time. It was more of a matter of teaching to the test than anything else and not allowing students to demonstrate what they truly know or even relating it to skills and knowledge that students would be applying the “real world”.
The advent of authentic assessment changed all that. Authentic assessment are tasks given to students that are designed to assess their ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world challenges.
Some characteristics of authentic assessment are:
1) Performance Tasks: students are asked to perform more complex tasks that are more meaningful. These tasks require complex, higher order thinking skills.
2) Time: the process of authentic assessment is ongoing so it is gathered, analyzed and shared with the student, parents, teachers, and support staff. This would be collected in the form of portfolios.
3) Construction of Knowledge: authentic tasks require students to synthesize and apply what they have learned instead of recall of facts and learning by rote. In this way, students construct new meaning along the way, as they learn while performing these authentic tasks.
4) Student-Centered: authentic tasks tend to be student centered. By this I mean that the teacher is not the one constructing the test or exam. In authentic assessments, students are given a choice or more of a “leeway” into demonstrating their knowledge. Teachers give students more flexibility in HOW they show WHAT they know.
5) Proof of Knowledge: Authentic assessments, offer more direct evidence of the construction and application of what students know.
For example, I remember having many multiple choice exams when I took Psychology courses in university. I don’t believe this really demonstrated what I knew. Instead, I relied on my memory which really didn’t show that I could apply my knowledge to real life situations.
To make my Psychology exam more authentic, I believe my professor should have given us “real life” scenarios of patients, so more clinical examples and see if we could apply the theories of Psychology in helping the patients.
Here’s a quote I found which I can really relate to:
“Fairness” does not exist when assessment is uniform, standardized, impersonal, and absolute. Rather, it exists when assessment is appropriate.
I truly believe in this statement because I have often said to colleagues: “Equality is not treating everyone equally. Rather it is treating students differently according to their needs”.
Having the exact same assessment for all students is not fair. Just like every teacher has their own teaching style, every student has their own unique skills, strengths, and weaknesses. As teachers, we need to design assessments which will showcase their strengths and knowledge at the same time challenging their weaknesses.
Authentic assessment helps us do just that; allows students to demonstrate what they know in various ways 🙂