Designing Authentic Assessments

Activity: My Favorite Assignment

Think about your favorite assignment from when you were a student. What was it about that particular assignment that made it so engaging and memorable for you? How did it support your learning on that particular project? How did it support your learning in the course as a whole? What kinds of transferable skills did you learn through it?

What are Authentic Assessments?

In this section of the module, you will learn about authentic assessments and how you can use them in your course. Authentic assessments are assignments that ask students to answer essential questions in your discipline and use concepts as professionals in the field would. Higher education scholar Dr. Marilla Svinicki suggests that authentic assignments should be based on “student activities that replicate real world performances as closely as possible” (2004, p. 23).

Goals of authentic assignments would be to involve written and performative measures, to develop meaningful and applicable skills, and to advance the knowledge of the “how” over that of the “what.”

“As is often pointed out, few students end up with jobs where they get paid to fill out multiple-choice test bubble sheets.”

Frye, Schmitt, and Allen (2012, p. 12)

Unlike traditional assessments, authentic assessments foster disciplinary behaviours and ways of thinking and problem solving used by professionals in the field. For example, authentic assessments in engineering would demonstrate students’ increasing ability to think and problem-solve in ways that resembles how experts in the engineering field think and act.

Assignments are and can only be authentic when they meaningfully connect with students beyond the assigned grade at the end of their obligatory participation in the project (Frey, Schmitt & Allen, 2012). Finding and celebrating that value for students, past the grade appearing on their transcripts, is vital to authentic education.