Characteristics of Authentic Assessment
Educational assessment has undergone a revolution in the last three decades (Alleman & Brophy, 2001a; Brandt, 1992; Nickell, 1999; Nitko & Brookhart, 2006; Wiggins, 1999). Thirty years ago, almost all judgments about student achievement were based on tests. For the most part, these were tests that were part of the social studies textbook or tests developed by teachers. Assessment was the process of developing, implementing, and interpreting tests. Well-designed, developmentally appropriate tests can provide useful information and should be a part of social studies assessment, but even the best tests do not provide a complete picture of what our students know, are able to do, and value. Tests capture student performance at one point in time, limit ways of expressing knowledge, and require performance in artificial situations divorced from typical social studies activities.
The alternative to tests is generally referred to as authentic assessment or performance assessment, a process with the following characteristics:
- Data are gathered from tasks that require complex, higher-level thinking, often through inquiry and problem solving.
- The ultimate goal is to assess students’ performance on tasks that correspond to the types of things people do in the “real” world rather than to make judgments on the basis of tests that people take only in school.
- Data used for evaluation can come from the everyday assignments students complete, assuming that the teacher plans a wide range of challenging social studies activities.
- The process is ongoing and longitudinal, with data gathered, analyzed, and shared throughout the school year.
- The products that students create (or records of them) are stored in portfolios.
- Students show what they know and can do in a variety of ways—through writing, speaking, art, and drama.
- The process places greater responsibility on the student in gathering and analyzing data (Alleman & Brophy, 1998, 2001a; Darling-Hammond, Ancess, & Falk, 1995; Wiggins, 1993, 1999).
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