Authentic Assessment

Incorporating Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment is a measurement approach in which learning objectives are assessed in the most direct, relevant means possible.  As such, authentic assessments are criterion-referenced measures designed to promote the integration of factual knowledge, higher-order understanding and relevant skills.  Authentic assessments are often based on performance, requiring students to utilize their knowledge in a meaningful context.  In authentic assessment, performance expectations guide learning activities and are made clear to students prior to instruction.  Generally, authentic assessment is an ongoing process involving both self and external evaluation as well as the gradual compilation of material into a holistic product.  While there are many differences between traditional and authentic assessment, it is important to remember that traditional and authentic assessments are complementary models; both types of assessment are important to producing well-rounded, informed students.

23 Authentic Assessment Image 1

Goals of Authentic Assessment:

  • Enhance the development of real-world skills

  • Encourage higher order cognitive skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)

  • Promote active construction of creative, novel ideas and responses

  • Encourage emphasis on both the process and product of learning

  • Promote the integration of a variety of related skills into a holistic project

  • Enhance students' ability to self-assess their own work and performance

23 Authentic Assessment Image 2

Ideas for Implementing Authentic Assessment:

When integrating authentic assessment into the course mix, the most important consideration is measurement of the target learning objectives.  For some objectives, a written measurement may be the most authentic assessment; for other objectives, alternate assessments may be required.  There are no set rules concerning the design and implementation of authentic assessment; instructors are encouraged to approach assessment via creative, unique means.  The following ideas are designed to stimulate novel approaches to authentically assess course-specific learning objectives.

Performance Assessment — Performance assessments measure students' ability to demonstrate relevant skills in an authentic context.  Performance assessments are particularly useful when learning objectives target a behavioral outcome or the development of a content-specific skill.

Portfolios — A portfolio is a collection of student work documenting learning over time.  Portfolios highlight student improvement and document a student's ability to self-assess, revise, and assemble a final product.  In addition to showcasing a student's ability, portfolios also provide insight into student motivation and effort.

Group Tasks — In real-world contexts, individuals rarely work in isolation; rather, groups work together toward related objectives and outcomes.  As such, authentic group tasks may provide a more realistic assessment of the ability to work collaboratively to apply skills and concepts to solve complex problems.

Brief Investigations — Brief investigations are designed to promote active exploration of various ideas and theories.  These types of investigations typically measure mastery of basic concepts via the ability to interpret, describe, hypothesize, explain, or predict future relationships.  Brief investigations go beyond the recall of knowledge to emphasize the ability to manipulate basic information in novel settings.

Self-Assessment — Self-assessments encourage active review of personal performance via structured evaluation criteria.  The goal of self-assessments is to develop skills for reflection, evaluation, and revision of individual processes and products.

Guidelines for Creating an Authentic Assessment:

Authentic assessments are backward or reverse planning models of instruction.  Rather than create assessments based on instructional activities, assessments are developed to meet standards then instructional activities are used to guide students toward the target performance.  Ideally, authentic assessments begin with the identification of performance standards.  Then, course-specific learning objectives are designed to reflect essential components of these standards.  At this point, instructors must identify target performance or skills that would indicate successful achievement of the learning objectives.  While identifying target performance, it is equally important to develop a set of criteria that differentiate between various levels of mastery.  These criteria are then used to develop a detailed scoring rubric.  The key to this procedure is that instructional activities are not designed until AFTER a complete assessment is in place.  This criterion-referenced approach sets a clear set of standards, objectives, and performance measures to be targeted by the instructional activities.  At the completion of the instructional sequence, the authentic assessment process begins.

1. Identify standards

Standards should be meaningful with real-world applicability.

2. Develop learning objectives

Learning objectives should identify specific, measurable components of the broader standards.  Generally, each standard will have several learning objectives

3. Identify target performance or skills

Performance or skills must match the target learning objectives.
Generally, authentic assessments promote activities requiring higher order cognitive skills.

4. Develop performance criteria

Performance criteria should be clear, concise, and openly communicated to students.

5. Create scoring rubric

A detailed, clear scoring rubric provides guidance for students as well as ensuring consistent, fair grading procedures.

6. Design instructional activities

Instruction should directly guide students toward desired performance.

7. Implement authentic assessment

Assessment should be a reiterative process of applying knowledge, understanding basis for knowledge, and demonstrating relevant skills.
Quality authentic assessments emphasize both process and product.
A compilation of multidimensional, varied assessments provide a more accurate and valid measure of student learning than a singular assessment.
Authentic assessments should include opportunities for self-assessment and revision.

Resource Links:

Authentic Assessment Toolbox

Authentic Assessment Overview

What is Authentic Assessment?

Approaches to Authentic Assessment

Integration of the Disciplines: Authentic Assessment (Oregon State University)


Aiken, L. R. (2000). Psychological testing and assessment (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Chatterji, M. (2003). Designing and using tools for educational assessment. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Gronlund, N. (2003). Assessment of student achievement. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Huba, M., & Freed, J. (2000). Learner-centered assessments on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2002). Meaningful assessment: A manageable and cooperative process. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Popham, W. J. (2000). Modern educational measurement: Practical guidelines for educational leaders. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Trice, A. (2000). A handbook of classroom assessment. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.



Questions concerning the Park University CETL Quick Tips website should be directed to