Friday, 27 April 2012 08:00

Assessing Authentically

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Assessing Authentically MP900309040 © 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Before deciding on your assessments, you should have already established the learning outcomes at the program, course and module levels. If you haven’t, the Lesson/Module Planning of this website can help get you started.

Once you’ve established the outcomes, you are ready to design assessments that allow the students to demonstrate that they have mastered the outcomes you have laid out for them. To get started, it is a good idea to make sure you understand the importance of evaluation and assessment and how to create effective assessment strategies for online learning. Wrapping your head around some key practices and definitions can help.

Assessment and Evaluation
Authentic assessment requires that students actually prove their points of view, show their work, demonstrate their skill(s), and reflect upon their thinking. Authentic work involves the original application of knowledge and skills rather than routine use of facts and procedures. Proof of authentic learning is in its relationship to real-world problems and issues, in the ability of students to understand them, to engage them, and to offer defensible solutions (Sergiovanni, 2001). Watch the video AHSI Authentic Learning, Teaching and Performace Assess to see examples of authentic learning experiences.

Two aspects of the assessment process are of particular importance: inclusion and transparency. Inclusion brings students into the assessment process, and includes the learners’ ideas in the in the initial conversations about the criteria and standards on which to focus. Though students may not be included in every aspect of assessment and evaluation, transparency promotes that they should still know exactly how they are being assessed and how they can perform effectively.

As part of the planning process, you might consider use of the following three types of assessment and evaluation:

  1. Diagnostic assessment: When a new skill or concept is being introduced, you can employ diagnostic assessment to check for understanding. Its purpose is to become informed about future follow-up instruction. Is reinforcement of the ideas/concepts required? What difficulties are students having? What are students’ strengths and how can instruction be planned to build upon and extend these strengths? Diagnostic assessment is not intended to be included in summative evaluation.
  2. Formative assessment: Throughout the course of study, you will likely want to assess the extent to which student learning outcomes have been attained. This goal can be attained through the instructor assessing student performance, students assessing themselves, and students assessing the performances of their peers. Formative assessment techniques may identify the need to adjust the pace of instruction, the readiness of students to continue to the next level, or the opportunity to use a summative evaluation strategy for reporting purposes.
  3. Summative evaluation: What proficiencies should all students take away from a module or series of modules? What are the essential concepts, understandings, and outcomes specific to the students’ course of study? You will want to evaluate students’ processes and products in relation to both general and specific learning outcomes. You may choose to assign numerical grades to tasks, assignments, projects, and activities. Each member of the classroom has an important perspective to contribute to assessment.

Over the course of instruction, there should be a range of opportunities for self, instructor, and peer assessment. The criteria for assessment, and often the actual tools, can be the same for all three. Instructor assessment provides information about learning taking place and a measure of the effectiveness of activities and strategies used in the course. Self-assessment encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning. Peer assessment provides students with various points of view on their work and strengthens social awareness. To learn more about how to use rubrics to assess student performance see the article Rubrics.


Sergiovanni, T. (2001). The principalship: A reflective practice perspective, 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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EET Staff

Over the years we have compiled articles from different members of the EET team. Sometimes they were written collaboratively and other times the staff author wasn’t written down. These articles were too good not to share, so we’ve labeled them as EET Staff.