authentic assessments

Authentic Assessments

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn."

Benjamin Franklin

Authentic Assessing for Student Learning


  • What are authentic assessments?

    An authentic assessment enables students to put what they have learned into practice and requires them to use their judgment to decide what information and skills are important, and showcase how to use them. Students develop their own meanings of the material covered in the class and how it applies to their own lives, which helps them demonstrate their learned knowledge increasing both material retention and engagement. Authentic assessments are designed for students to demonstrate the application of their knowledge and for faculty to hear and see their understanding of the course concepts. They explore a variety of options (a choice), by putting what they have learned into practice.

    Assessments are essential to a course in that they are the tools instructors use to collect evidence of student growth and learning. Ideally, assessments used in a course would reflect a students true understanding of the material, they would reproduce essential objectives without imitation, and they would improve students skills and understanding of course content. Strictly speaking, an assessment would be an authentic measurement of learning and unique to each individual. An authentic assessment is a student-centered method used to demonstrate and collect evidence of student growth.

  • What is the difference between authentic assessments and traditional assessments?

    Traditional assessments are often only a measurement of one aspect of a student's understanding, and fail to inform instructors on how a student is able to apply their knowledge. Some examples of the contrast between traditional assessments and authentic assessments can be seen in the table below:

    Traditional Vs. Authentic 
    Traditional Authentic
    1. Teacher Selected
    2. One Right Answer
    3. Leveled by Grade
    4. Content Specific
    5. Sanctioned by Time and Predetermined by Space
    6. Traditional Audience of Lone Teacher
    7. Unimodal Communication
    8. Classroom applicable
    1. Student Selected
    2. Multiple Right Answers
    3. Mastery Level Determined by Student
    4. Content Weaving Across Multiple Disciplines
    5. Progress Through Multiple Steps
    6. Public Audience
    7. Multimodal Communication
    8. Real-world applicable
  • What are the theories and research behind authentic assessments?


    Constructivist Theory

    In the Branford et al. How people learn: Brain, Mind, Experience (1999) emphasized individuals learn through building their own knowledge, connecting new ideas and experiences, to existing knowledge, in creating new knowledge. Students build upon their existing understanding base by adding (or building) new experiences. Constructivist theory focuses on these life experiences at the center of a student’s education. How students learn centers on the idea that students actively construct knowledge.

    Each student that enters the classroom has a unique life perspective created by their personal experiences. If the foundation of the constructivist theory is that students build new knowledge on what they already know, then it is critical for instructors to take this information into account when designing courses. University of Illinois professor of education Serhat Kurt states that authentic assessments are essential to this process because they provide students and educators with the opportunity to build upon preexisting knowledge through collaborative activities, discussions, and a variety of other methods. It isn't enough to know the hypothesis of constructivist learning. Teachers must be able to implement it in their classrooms. The goal should be to create a welcoming environment that promotes active learning engagement, promoting collaboration, and adjusting their lessons based on the prior level of understanding of the class.

    Seven Principles of Undergraduate Education

    According to the book, Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education by Chickering and Gamson (1991), authentic assessments are a best practice for instructors in Undergraduate Education based on the decades worth of research supported by the Association for Higher Education, The Education Commission of States, and the Johnson Foundation. As seen below, authentic assessments meet every principle:

    7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
      S2 Education Assessments
    Encourage contact between students and faculty
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    Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
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    Encourage active learning
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    Give prompt feedback
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    Emphasize time on task
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    Communicate high expectations
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    Respect diverse talents and ways of learning   
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  • What are the different types of authentic assessments?

    Types of authentic assessments can include:

    • Blogs
    • Student-led Teaching
    • Debate
    • Service Learning
    • Interviews
    • Problem Solving
    • Observation
    • Portfolios
    • Summaries
    • Digital Storytelling
    • Journals
    • Designs and Artwork
    • Model Construction
    • Student-led Teaching
    • Labs
    • Presentations
    • Demonstrations/Exhibits/Performances
    • Simulation
    • Essays
  • How can I use Canvas to deliver authentic assessments?

    Canvas has many features and tools that allow you to create and deliver authentic assessments to your students. Check out the academic technologies page on .

    Most Common Authentic Assessments

    Field Research: Project-based or Problem-based assignment, conducted outside the classroom that involves the study of a subject in its environment. Often involves creating an experiment and analyzing the results captured by the student "in the field".

    ePortfolios: An ePortfolio collects and documents your students' educational projects, submissions experiences, and other work projects. ePortfolios can remain private or shared with students, instructors, or future employers. 

    Role-Playing: Role-playing is a form of experiential learning (Russell and Shepherd 2010). Students take turns acting out assigned roles often involving a pre-scripted activity. Can be done 1:1 or in a group.

    Group Work: A learning community of students who collectively work together to achieve a pre-defined learning task. Group work prompted positive affect learning experiences since it is based on problem-solving, the sharing of diverse experiences, and the use of 21st-century skills such as communication and time management.

    Peer Review: Peer Review provides a structured environment for students to evaluate and provide feedback to other students on their assignments and projects in your course. This process helps students develop important life-long skills to provide useful feedback to others as well as improve their own ability to self-assess their own learning.

    Reflective Journals: Reflective Journals are personal and detailed records of students’ own learning experiences. Journal assignments can be designed using questions about course content and students' own ideas about their thought processes. The writing can be more informal than other writing assignments, but may provide useful connections and insights to other course content.

    For help implementing any of these pedagogical practices and their related tools in your course, please contact XCITE at

  • Resources

    More resources:

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