I find myself having a rather immature emotional reaction to this subject. It stems from experiencing years of inauthentic assessment at a grammar school during the 70s when the only thing that mattered was memory. This also is pretty much the only thing I don’t have, as I have intelligence in bucket loads! (I’m not saying this to blow my own trumpet, only in order to try to throw light on how frustrating, and damaging, experiencing false assessment can be.)
So from a deeply personal perspective I am hyper-aware that assessment of knowledge is a very different thing than assessment of memory. When I finally discovered the joy of learning, it came hand in hand with being assessed for work I was doing, whether that was simply writing an essay (in the peace of my own room) or producing a film in a group of like-passioned people.
Therefore I am tempted to define authentic assessment as judgement of students’ knowledge and learning through means other than memory.
However, it is clear from reading Whitelock and Cross (2012) and Mueller (1993) that this requires a far more thoughtful and positive response! The former demonstrate that the argument over its definition has raged for many years but the latter produces quite a simple definition:
“A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.”
Having taught KS3 & KS4 the problems of authentic assessment are very obvious; sheer numbers of students requiring frequent reporting of progress; the simplest and quickest way to get information is to set a summative computer marked test. Nevertheless changes in use of materials in exams are certainly a move in the right direction, for example in English language and literature, students are supplied with texts to analyse and are not required to quote by rote. This differs hugely from my experience in the 70s having to memorise poems, novels and Shakespeare plays. Unfortunately our current government seems intent on returning to this type of testing and eradicating coursework.
Whitelock, D. and Cross, S. (2012) ‘Authentic assessment: what does it mean and how is it instantiated by a group of distance learning academics?’, International Journal of e-Assessment, vol. 2, no. 1 [Online]. Available at http://journals.sfu.ca/ ijea/ index.php/ journal/ article/ view/ 31 (accessed 30 June 2014).
Mueller, J., (1993). What is Authentic Assessment? (Authentic Assessment Toolbox). [Online] Available at: http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm (Accessed 30 Jun. 2014)