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Authentic Assessment


Authentic assessments evaluate student learning by engaging students in realistic, complex tasks that replicate challenges encountered in real-world workplace or civic contexts. Authentic assessments are designed to evaluate the transfer of knowledge and skills beyond the classroom. Contextualized tasks require students to demonstrate an array of knowledge and skills and typically result in an observable product that provides clear evidence of student learning over time. The term, authentic assessment, was coined by Grant Wiggins, author of Educative Assessment, Assessing Student Performance, and coauthor of Understanding by Design.

Traditional assessments typically occur after teaching and learning is complete, whereas authentic assessments are a part of the learning process and provide students with opportunities to practice, consult resources, and refine their performance as they rehearse for the complex challenges of professional life. Students create responses that are unique and require independent thinking and creativity rather than selecting from pre-existing options. Grading expectations are transparent, and performance criteria like checklists and rubrics help students self-assess their own work. This eliminates the need for secrecy that surrounds traditional tests, and students will not be graded on a curve.

Authentic Assessments can include complex challenges that are difficult to represent in traditional assessments because responses are not simply graded as correct or incorrect. For example, nursing students may be given a realistically complex case study and asked to provide a treatment plan with justification for their decisions. Traditional Assessments use indirect or proxy items that are often oversimplified in order to ensure that answer choices fit the correct/incorrect binary grading schema.

During authentic assessments, students act as practitioners in the field or discipline. They demonstrate what they have learned over time, and the observable performance or product that results from an authentic assessment is direct evidence of learning that can be easily interpreted by faculty, the students themselves, as well as potential employers. Products of authentic assessment are often included in student portfolios.