Authentic assessment

Authentic assessment gives students a chance to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-life situations.

What is it?

Authentic assessment puts students’ knowledge and skills into practice and develops their work-related skills. Through authentic assessment, students have an opportunity to perform a task in a real-world or simulated setting and demonstrate a direct application of relevant skills, competencies, and knowledge. For example, students can practise business negotiations through a role play based on a real-world business scenario, critique a work of art by writing a blog post instead of an essay, or solve a complex legal case through a scenario-based activity. Different tasks will range in their degree of authenticity, but it is important to get students to test their skills and knowledge in the types of environments they will be likely to work in after graduation. This will not only prompt them to think holistically and employ higher-level thinking skills but will also build their self-efficacy and work-readiness.

Why is it useful?

Benefits for students

  • Encourages creative and critical thinking through exposure to unpredictable scenarios and complex environments
  • Engages students in an immediately meaningful task which highlights the value of what they are learning
  • Allows students to bring their lateral skills and competencies into an assessment task and integrate them with the developing subject matter expertise
  • Builds self-efficacy and work-readiness through exposure to real-world situations.

Benefits for educators

  • Provides you with direct evidence of students’ competencies, practical skills, and ability to put theory into practice.

How do I implement it?

To implement authentic assessment in your teaching, try these strategies:

  • Consider intended learning outcomes and the skills, attitudes, and attributes students need to acquire. If you are solely focussed on the knowledge requirement, you may be missing a great authentic assessment opportunity. For example, instead of testing students’ web development knowledge with a series of multiple-choice and short answer questions, instruct students to develop a web application. To simulate a professional work setting, students can work in teams and share their work with others for peer reviews and formative feedback.
  • Create opportunities for students to practise their skills in real-life settings. Students can work on team-based projects with clear roles and responsibilities defined. Explain to students that they are expected to negotiate any issues that arise in their teams and why this is important in their post-graduation work lives. Immediate peer learning activities, like role plays, can also help practise real-world skills, such as professional communication in business or medical settings.
  • Use scenario-based activities to expose students to unpredictable situations. Working through complex scenarios will make students think holistically and employ higher-level thinking skills, such as analysis and problem solving. Asynchronous scenario-based activities can be created using LMS pages or H5P (as described below). Students can complete them individually and come to class to discuss their solutions with their peers. Before exposing students to complex scenarios and highly unpredictable situations, model problem solving by stepping them through a sample scenario to explain your decision-making process.
  • Add authenticity to assessment by reinventing a familiar assessment task. For example, instead of instructing students to write a research essay on a predetermined question, engage students in a simulated research project by getting them to investigate the topic further and generate their own, more specific research questions. Students will narrow down the scope of their project and make it relevant to what interests them. Upon researching their question, students can write a research report to explain what they found and how they did that.

Supporting technologies

  • H5P branching tool can facilitate scenario-based activities that take students through a series of events. Get students to discuss how they completed the scenario with their peers for formative peer feedback, or submit a reflection on their own experience for assessment.
  • LMS pages can be used to design a branching scenario with embedded video, audio, and other types of rich media. Create a landing page in Modules and sub-pages in the Pages area so that the different branches cannot be accessed in a linear way while the start of the scenario is available in the Modules area.
  • FeedbackFruits can facilitate peer reviews of artifacts and performances. For example, computer science students can develop a web application, upload it to a server and copy that link into FeedbackFruits where their peers can give them feedback.
  • LMS Discussions can be a productive space for students to engage in conversations relevant to their potential future roles. Use the instruction space to introduce a clear discussion question and ask students to respond in a role of their potential future occupation. For example, in a social policy subject, you can ask students to respond to a question as a policy adviser. In LMS Discussions, students can also respond to – and exchange ideas about – situational questions to practise their problem-solving skills and get exposed to how their peers think about the same problem or situation before engaging in scenario-based learning.
  • Cadmus assessment templates can be useful in guiding students through an unfamiliar assessment task, such as a research report or a reflective journal. Cadmus allows you to create a checklist for students to follow when writing their paper in a web-based text editor. This will keep students on track and focus them on the task at hand. In addition, Cadmus allows submission of assignment drafts, which you can then use to provide cohort-level feedback before the final submission.


This page was last updated on 17 Oct 2022.

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