Make Assessments Authentic

An assignment or assessment is “authentic” if it resembles what a person might do in the real world with the knowledge and skills that you aim to teach students in your course. For example, if your course aims to teach students research methods, then an authentic task might involve students preparing a research design. In the real world, a person with expertise in research methods will likely design, carry out, and evaluate research projects, so an assignment requiring students to do any or all of these things would be authentic. In contrast, many multiple-choice exams tend to be relatively inauthentic. When, perhaps outside of a professional certification process, are people in your field given a limited time period, and no access to resources, and asked to select correctly from a set of available options? If often, then a multiple-choice exam may be the best choice in your course. If not, then think about how you can design assignments that come closer to resembling the real-world circumstances your students will likely encounter in the future. These types of assignments tend to involve high levels of student engagement – they get students thinking, creating, problem-solving, consulting with each other and the instructor, etc. They also tend to contribute to community-building: In the real world, people often work on projects collaboratively, or they at least solicit feedback from peers. If your assignments provide opportunities for this type of collaboration, then they will be more authentic, and the sense of community in your course may also benefit.