Higher Education

What’s Authentic Assessment & Why Should You Be Using It?

What’s Authentic Assessment & Why Should You Be Using It?

When creating assessments for students, it’s important to evaluate just how much the student is retaining the information they are being taught. Authentic assessments are designed to do this by preparing students for skills needed for career success, providing more meaningful learning, and supporting the student’s growth and competencies. 

What is Authentic Assessment?

What is the definition of authentic assessment anyways? An authentic assessment is when you evaluate students using activities that require them to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world scenarios. who are learning the new material and applying it over an extended period. The goal of these assessments is to show how well a student can apply what they are taught in the classroom to real scenarios, and mirror tasks and skills that they . These tests do this by mirroring real-life tasks that they will use in the workforce. 

Traditional Assessment

When you think of the word “assessment,” you might imagine sheets of multiple-choice quizzes or a questionnaire you need to finish by the end of the day. This type of test is called a traditional assessment, and it’s a staple of our current education system. These tests provide a snapshot of the student’s mastery of the subject at that specific time. The downside is these traditional assessments don’t fully evaluate how well students will be able to apply their knowledge to what they’ll do after graduation. Instead, students can simply memorize the needed facts and forget them after the test is over. Overall, while traditional assessments might be easier to grade, they don’t fully allow a student to demonstrate what they have learned.

Authentic Assessment

When creating an authentic assessment, it’s important to start with the question, “What should my students be able to do?” From there, you can break your assignment into several parts: the standards you are looking for, the tasks they must be able to perform, the criteria, and the rubric scoring, and then end with a plan to adjust your method of instruction if needed. These assignments aren’t limited to a sheet of paper. Instead, they can be debates, group projects, plays, speeches, presentations, experiments, and other activities that allow the student to demonstrate learning. whatever else your creativity allows. The goal is to know if your students can transfer the things they’ve been taught beyond the classroom.  

Why use Authentic Assessment


Authentic assessments have several advantages over traditional assessments. For one, they are likely to be more accurate when assessing a student’s higher-thinking skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem-solving, etc. In traditional assessments, it’s common for a student to cram and study right before the exam, only to forget everything a day later. They also provide a more engaging way for students to learn by incorporating feedback through self, peer and instructor reviews. 

According to the NACE Job Outlook Study, 57% of employers feel that recent graduates are not proficient in these skills; mostly likely due to this kind of learning and evaluating. Authentic assessments, on the other hand, involve using real-life tasks, not just circling A, B, or C on a multiple-choice quiz. This means that what you get is not an information dump from the student, but a realistic view of how they can apply these skills to a real-world situation. Authentic assessments ensure academic integrity and provide actual evidence the student is retaining what is being taught. This is especially important with the widespread accessibility of generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, that offer students a way to bypass true learning. 


Of course, authentic assessments do come with a few hurdles as well. Because these tests are based on knowledge in a messy, real-world situation, they are much harder to grade. Instructors will have to come up with their unique way of deciding how well a student grasps a concept. It can also be tricky to find the right tools for authentic assessments because they are often done with more than pencil and paper. These assessments often rely on technology, such as video, which enables students to demonstrate skills and learning from anywhere, such as a lab or classroom where they may be student teaching. With video, the instructor can then assess the student by watching and providing personalized, time-coded feedback for continued learning and mastery. 

Examples of Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment is all about real-world examples and creating assignments where the students can demonstrate what they know. For example, a business student could give a speech or present a lesson to the class, and through self, peer and instructor review, the assessment can evaluate their communication skills. Another example of an assignment is using video to create slideshows or presentations of the subject the student is learning about, where the student has to present and show their research, and the assessment focuses on their demonstration of skills, not just completing the assignment. Whatever the assessment, it should allow the student to showcase their skills in a relevant way. 


So what is an authentic assessment? It is an evaluation of a student’s ability to apply what they’ve been learning in a way that is relevant to what they will be doing in the workforce. Authentic assessments test more than just the knowledge of a student at a specific, pinpointed time. These assessments give students the skills they will need to enhance their work readiness. 

Interested in learning more about authentic assessments?