Assessment: You have options beyond multiple choice and lit review

flying penguinsIn backward design, you start any course or lesson with the goal in mind (=the outcome, hence “backward”), and then design an assessment (or a series of assessments) to allow students to demonstrate that they have mastered a certain concept or a skill – as determined by the outcome (or competency). Then, you scaffold the assignments (activities) and put together course materials necessary to help students do their best in achieving the desired result. When the competency reads, “Learn to ride a bike”, the assessment required to evaluate the student’s success is fairly obvious. When competencies are more of the academic, graduate program nature, it’s not always as straightforward to arrive at a best task to confirm that the students are walking away with the outcome we claim.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about authentic assessment, “Authentic assessment is the measurement of “intellectual accomplishments that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful,” as contrasted to multiple choice standardized tests. Authentic assessment can be devised by the teacher, or in collaboration with the student by engaging student voice.”

Among purists, authentic assessments are sacred and are worth striving for. At the same time, they are not always possible given the constraints of resources in online education. While we often compromise, it’s definitely productive and rewarding to approximate authentic assessments whenever possible since it assesses true academic performance and achievement.

Having repeated the word “authentic” enough times in this post already, does this imply hands-on or real-world assessment only? We would like to think that in every graduate level subject, this really has a connection to the sort of things one would be doing in their professional capacity, but also this necessarily implies developing certain other skills which relate to working with the whole vision of the program, profession and where one would like to see it go, or interconnect with other professions and aspects of life in order to improve or innovate.

Grant Wiggins, who is the co-author of Understanding by Design and the author of Educative Assessment and numerous articles on education, lays out his perspective in this post:

Authenticity in assessment, (re-)defined and explained

Visually, this can presented this way, (from Authentic Assessment Toolbox – this has lots of examples of projects, mostly for secondary education)

Traditional ——————————————- Authentic

Selecting a Response ———————————– Performing a Task

Contrived ————————————————————– Real-life*

Recall/Recognition —————————— Construction/Application

Teacher-structured ———————————— Student-structured

Indirect Evidence ——————————————- Direct Evidence

Some other relevant examples:

  1. analyze existing memes (may have to provide students with a starter sample of theses); research the relevant sources if cited in a particular article, or provide additional ones and either confirm or refute the message in the original writing;
  2. rewrite fairy tales/stories/movies or write an alternative ending, to include a psychological disorder you are studying, to adapt a character to demonstrate certain traits or community organizing techniques; diagnose possible disorders and lacking skills in characters in a particular complex fictional setting using a manual;
  3. write a letter to your representative, join a community-organizing effort, and so on.

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