Approaches to Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment is any type of assessment that requires students to demonstrate skills and competencies that realistically represent problems and situations likely to be encountered in daily life. Students are required to produce ideas, to integrate knowledge, and to complete tasks that have real-world applications. Such approaches require the person making the assessment to use human judgment in the application of criterion-referenced standards (Archbald, 1991). Authentic assessment is a contrast to traditional educational testing and evaluation, which focuses on reproducing information such as memorized dates, terms, or formulas.

In authentic assessment, students use remembered information in order to produce an original product, participate in a performance, or complete a process. Students are assessed according to specific criteria that are known to them in advance. These criteria are called rubrics. Rubrics give students a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their work than do letter grades alone. For a sample student assessment that utilizes rubrics, refer to the Student Information Sheet.

The essential nature of the school-to-work curriculum calls for authentic assessment. Rogers, Hubbard, Charner, Fraser, and Horne (1996) note:

"The measurement of learning that occurs in settings so unlike the traditional classroom requires assessment practices that are correspondingly different. Many school-to-work programs have drawn up comprehensive sets of competencies, often in consultation with business partners, which students in that program are expected to acquire, at certain minimum levels. Others have established comprehensive standards toward which all the programs within a school or district are expected to strive. Others have experimented with portfolio assessment as the most accurate way to document a student's education."

Besides portfolios and demonstrations of competencies and achievement standards, authentic assessments can include exhibitions, oral presentations, and other projects. For further information about these assessments, refer to the Critical Issue "Ensuring Equity with Alternative Assessments."

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