Why Bother With Authentic Assessment
“If learning is not transferred from the place of learning to practical application, there can be no positive return on investment of the time needed to create, implement, and evaluate instruction. Students are smarter than we might think. If the lesson doesn’t apply to something tangible or if it can’t be used in real life, you can expect them to ask, “When are we ever going to use this stuff?”” (BlendKit Week 3)
I think that most of the time when people think about online learning and assessment, they think multiple choice quiz or perhaps the occasional essay. But although both these types of assessment have their place, I’m a much bigger fan of using authentic tasks and projects to give practical application of what I’m teaching.
When Am I Going to Use This?
As a high school English/Literature teacher, I am often faced with the “when are we going to use this stuff?” question. So, when I create assessments, I like to make them as real as possible. Sometimes that’s by having students create something they’d need in real life (like imagining they’re a campaign manager who must create various types of campaign material – integrating media/graphic novel/film techniques in advertising; writing for speeches, commercials, and print; policy research skills, and more.), or by connecting the concepts in literature, like a particular type of literary criticism, to a real life situation. We recently spent a quarter exploring cultural criticism and finished that off by applying that approach to an “invisible” culture (one that is less obvious or well known). In each case, the majority of the work was submitted online.
Other favorite authentic assessment options include a photo essay, blog posts and web pages, even coding! I love trying to match my students’ career aspirations with assessment options. And I do often give options. And I love that our LMS of choice (Canvas by Instructure) is so flexible, allowing me a whole bunch of options for how students submit work – both online and offline.
I Love Rubrics
Regardless of how my students submit work, I grade it online using a rubric that is posted when the assessment is given (or within a day, if I’ve gotten behind – let’s be honest, that happens). Although generic rubrics are easier, I tend to like to customize the rubric so I know exactly what I’m looking for (and my students know, too). In the criteria column, I often include several questions to help the students check their work ahead of time if they choose to. And I try to be fairly descriptive in the descriptor section, without providing so much description that there is no room for creativity.
Overall, I love authentic assessment. I’d rather know why I’m doing something and why it matters, so I assume my students prefer that, too.