This post is co-authored by Sylvia Singh and Amara Atif.

Designing assessments that capture the best understanding of students is a complex process. Assessments should be part of the overall learning process and not a standalone activity. Academics often need to design assessments that are meaningful, engaging, and can effectively gauge student learning. One way of doing this is using authentic assessments.

What is authentic assessment?

A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.

Jon Mueller Professor of Psychology, North Central College. Naperville, IL

Student feedback has suggested that some traditional assessments can be boring and repetitive. It is important to ask when designing an assessment, ‘What are we trying to assess or measure through our assessments’?. As suggested in Authentic Assessments: The Ultimate Guide, ‘Authentic assessments measure the student’s actual ability of what he or she learns. Exhibiting knowledge of a subject is one thing. But learning how to apply it is another. We want students to use the knowledge they learn in the classroom well beyond graduation.’ 

This Jamboard, posted by a LinkedIn user depicts a variety of attributes of what incorporates authentic assessments. 

a Jamboard with sticky notes posted by a variety of users to describe what authentic assessments are. Most common terms are 'applies to real life/workplace'.

A blog post from Dimity Wehr (IML) and Leslie McInnes on Authentic, practical alternatives to face-to-face presentations describes the experiences of five academics who have implemented practical alternatives to face-to-face oral assessments.  ‘What does good assessment look like online’, gives further insights on creating authentic assessments for remote learning and teaching. 

An example with digital storytelling

Amara Atif from the FEIT faculty uses a variety of authentic assessments for her subjects to enhance the learning and assessment journey of the students. Here she describes and shares an example of how she has used authentic assessment of digital storytelling as an artefact in the Experience Mapping and Prototyping phase of Design Thinking project in her studio subject 41192: IS Value Creation Studio

Prototypes and storytelling are intertwined. Digital storytelling is an important tool for feedback on the iterative process of prototyping that lead to solutions. Once students have developed an innovative solution, they have to go through that whole process of communicating that solution to their audience (people for whom the product/service is created for). Digital storytelling is a medium that shows how an idea or solution can bring positive change by connecting the message at an emotional, human-level as well as influence and inspires other to act. However, there are lot of times when solutions are very difficult to explain or show because it might be really complex or might be even too abstract. Digital storytelling helps the students to give voice to the persona’s story which is developed in the Analysis and Synthesis phase of their Design Thinking project. 

Educat – the app developed by the students

This digital storytelling is part of the group work done by our BIS – UG students Tate Fairhurst, Bri-anne Lake, and Aisha Waqar in the Design Thinking project from 41192 in Autumn 2021. The group chose to develop an app called “EduCat” that can be used for educational purposes allowing the students to remotely access all study content without feeling ‘left behind’ along with the features to socially engage with their peers. According to the students: 

EduCat – We feel cats give the comfort one needs when times get tough, so this is represented in our app name and logo.

A screenshot of the Educat login screen, featuring a logo of a cat wearing a graduation cap.
The Educat login screen.

The images below show the story of their persona ‘Todd’, how they have addressed his pains in their problem statement and they have introduced EduCat into Todd’s personal journey. The hypothetical persona of Todd is described in the following:

Todd Dickinson is a male, 17 year old high school student who lives in Sydney and is an explorer and creator by nature. He is an independent learner and works casually on the weekend. The disruptions and abnormalities in his HSC studies because of COVID-19 have significantly affected his educational and social life. The detrimental learning environment is making it hard for him to learn. The ambiguity of the university admissions process as well as the lack of confidence in his knowledge leading up to the HSC is making him anxious. He is looking for applications that can assist in time-management, easier scheduling, help with easier explanation of course content, more relevant supply of resources and help with retention of course content.

You can view a screenshot of Todd’s persona profile here.

Todd’s journey

For more resources on authentic assessments: 

Feature image by Anna Zhu.

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