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Make It Authentic

Make It Authentic

Do you spend time thinking up questions for quizzes and tests? That’s one way to approach assessment. But consider a different route: design assessment tasks by using the competencies in your course as a starting point. This approach is the basis of authentic assessment.

In conventional assessment, learners are assessed by choosing a response to questions on quizzes and tests. In authentic assessment, you ask learners to generate a response.  You assess learners based on their demonstration of the competencies. Competencies are the measurable and observable learner outcomes. 

Authentic v. Conventional Assessment

For example, if you are teaching Customer Relations 101 one of the course competetaking a multiple choice testncies might be “Determine how to handle customer complaints.”  The conventional way to assess would be a quiz asking learners to list the steps for dealing with complaints.  By contrast, an authentic assessment would ask learners to resolve a series of customer complaint scenarios.  From there, you can go on to describe the performance criteria which specify how you’ll evaluate the learners. In this case, the criteria might include the list of steps for dealing with complaints. You’d use the performance criteria to grade learners on applying the steps in the customer complaint scenarios. You’d also want to specify performance conditions –  the situation or format you’ll use to assess the task.  For example, you might assess your learners skill in a role-play exercise or in a short-answer written product.

Valid, Reliable, and Fair

Once you’ve developed your performance assessment task, you want to check for validity, reliability and fairness. Use the free Course PAT Checklist to help you focus on the three key criteria of authentic assessment. 

Validity answers two questions:

  • Are the outcomes based on an accurate analysis of what your learners need? Are you teaching the right things?
  • Do your performance assessments measure the intended outcomes?

Validity matches the competency in six areas: content, process/product, domain/level, criteria, conditions and transferability.  

Reliability ensures that your assessments are consistent. If two different instructors evaluate the same assessment task, both should score the task the same way.  You accomplish reliability by using uniform criteria for all learners. Regardless of the class or who assesses the task, all learners are graded on a level playing field. There is no grading curve or pre-conceived ideas about how many learners will excel (e.g., “I only give three A’s”).  If your criteria for a role play assessment task does not include speaking in complete sentences and using a calm tone of voice, then you cannot give a lower score to learners to fail to demonstrate those verbal skills.

Fairness in assessments includes validity and reliability. Fair assessments also include clear descriptions of the task requirements and basis for evaluation. Over the span of a course, the elements of fairness include variety in conditions/format, artifacts documenting learner competence and a positive assessment climate.  For example, if you only have learners write essays in your Customer Relations 101 course you could be biasing assessment toward good writers.  Establishing a positive assessment climate means your learners are not guessing what you want in the assessment and you are not pitting learners against each other.

Authentic performance assessments help your learners move their learning from the classroom to real life situations.  To learn more about authentic assessments, download a WIDS-generated Sample Course Performance Assessment Task.

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