Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Traditional Assessment vs Authentic Assessment

The heart of teaching is AfLBased on an article by John Mueller.

Authentic Assessment is defined as
"a form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills"

Traditional Assessment (TA) includes things such as multiple-choice tests, true-false, matching and so forth. The idea behind this is that students must possess a certain body of knowledge and skills, courses must teach this body of knowledge and skills, students must then be tested to see if the course is successful. So, the curriculum drives assessment - the body of knowledge comes first, that becomes the curriculum, and the tests see if students acquired the curriculum.

Authentic Assessment (AA) is built on the assumption that students should be able to perform tasks in the real world, courses must help students become proficient in those tasks. So, to determine the success of the course students perform meaningful tasks that replicate real world challenges. In this case assessment drives the curriculum - first determine what the tasks are that need to be performed, then develop a curriculum that enables students to perform the task well including the acquisition of essential skills and knowledge.

How does this work in subjects that are not practical, or do not require performance? For example how do we use AA in History, or Sociology for example? We ask students to perform tasks that replicate the challenges faced by people doing history, or conducting social research. In sociology the rubric may make reference to, for example, Sociological knowledge, Sociological thinking, and Sociological research skills.

It seems that TA is more useful for formative assessment, while AA is used for summative assessment. Students should be able to perform well in both types of test - TA provides a good complement to authentic assessment.

What are the attributes of TA and AA?

Traditional --------------------------------------------- Authentic

Selecting a Response ------------------------------------Performing a Task

Contrived -------------------------------------------------Real-life

Recall/Recognition ------------------------------- ------Construction/Application

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

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

AA will use verbs that are towards the top of Bloom's taxonomy - students will be asked to 'analyse', 'synthesise' and apply their learning. AA allows students more choice in what to focus on and what to present as evidence of their learning. TA is more prescriptive. There are often multiple routes to a good answer.

I'm not sure I like the term 'Authentic Assessment'. It suggests that TA is not authentic, which is wrong. TA has its uses in formative assessment. I'd prefer to use one of the alternative titles suggested at the bottom of the article - Alternative Assessment, or Performance Assessment.

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