Address the originality of student work and emerging trends in misconduct with this comprehensive solution.
Deliver and grade paper-based assessments from anywhere using this modern assessment platform.
This high-stakes plagiarism checking tool is the gold standard for academic researchers and publishers.
This robust, comprehensive plagiarism checker fits seamlessly into existing workflows.
Give feedback and grade assignments with this tool that fosters writing excellence and academic integrity.
Improve program outcomes with instant data insights from secure digital exams taken offline.
Uphold academic integrity, streamline grading and feedback, and protect your reputation with these tools.
Improve student writing, check for text similarity, and help develop original thinking skills with these tools for teachers.
Publish with confidence using the tool top researchers and publishers trust to ensure the originality of scholarly works.
Discover the Turnitin Partner Program that offers flexible solutions for integration and commercial partnerships.
Get inspired by educators who are transforming assessment into meaningful learning while maintaining integrity at its core.
Follow our progress on detection initiatives for AI writing, ChatGPT, and AI-paraphrasing
Authentic learning centers student needs and in doing so, fosters original thinking and original ideas, while...
With the ongoing scenario of remote and blended learning faced by many higher education institutions in the...
We recently had the privilege of conversing with Major and Miller via Zoom to discuss assessment challenges,...
Turnitin blog posts, delivered straight to your inbox.
Authentic assessment is an approach that can enable learning by measuring additional components of knowledge. Assessment, as we know, is a crucial part of the learning process, where educators can see what students know and don’t know, as well as why students do or don’t understand a particular concept. As Dylan Williams says: “Assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning—it is only through assessment that we can find out whether what has happened in the classroom has produced the learning we intended” (2011).
Prioritizing the learning experience for students doesn’t conclude with the end of an activity, lecture, or course module; it is part of a continuum. Assessments, too, can be a part of the process when teachers understand how to supplement student learning and when students receive feedback on next steps.
Assessments come in different forms. Traditional assessments are typically time-bound and require students to choose or offer a response. They test the recall and recognition of knowledge. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that authentic assessment not only enhances academic integrity, but is a more effective way to assess student learning. Authentic assessments, in turn, are typically iterative and ask students to perform a task, calling for the application of knowledge.
But what is an authentic assessment? And what does it entail? In this post, we dive into the definition of authentic assessment and its benefits. Furthermore, we offer examples of authentic assessment that can be used in a variety of grades or subject areas to reflect the depth of authentic learning.
When determining how best to assess student knowledge, most educators would choose an assessment that not only accurately measures a student’s learning, but simultaneously helps to improve their understanding of the skills taught in that course and their relevance beyond the classroom. Such assessments would be considered “authentic” because they involve the application of knowledge in situations beyond the classroom.
Authentic assessment is a type of assessment that requires learners to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world context. It measures what students know by demonstrating how they can apply their knowledge. This type of assessment is designed to measure students' ability to think critically, solve problems, and communicate effectively.
In constructivist philosophy, learning is optimized when the students base their understanding on their own concrete experiences gleaned from relevant learning. John Dewey, an educational reformer and one of the forefathers of constructivist theory, valued real-life contexts and problems as an educational experience. As Saul Mcleod, Ph.D. goes on to say: “[Dewey] believed that if students only passively perceive a problem and do not experience its consequences in a meaningful, emotional, and reflective way, they are unlikely to adapt and revise their habits or construct new habits, or will only do so superficially.”
Through a constructivist lens, authentic learning leads to deeper understanding and authentic assessment explicitly measures that understanding. When instructors can create tasks that mirror the very challenges faced by that discipline in the real world, then students can adequately transfer what they’ve learned to various contexts, scenarios, and situations.
In this way, authentic assessment helps learning go beyond memorization and helps deepen understanding and relevance of course content.
There are a variety of ways to approach creating an assignment or assessment that is authentic. According to Grant Wiggins, an assignment is authentic if it:
Conventional tests and conventional test questions such as those in standardized multiple-choice exams are often an indirect measure of a student's ability to apply the skills and knowledge gained in the classroom. While students may know the facts, do we know if they can apply them? And how deeply do they understand concepts? While conventional tests play an important part in curriculum–and are frequently easier to grade and create—there is value in considering an authentic assessment over a conventional assessment for many reasons.
Firstly, students are often more engaged in authentic assessments because they involve real-world tasks, which makes them more interesting and motivating. Next, instead of rote memorization, these assessments require high-order thinking and problem-solving, asking students to choose which skills to apply, how, and where. If instructors can provide a rubric that details the specific criteria by which the assessment will be graded, oftentimes the challenge of grading authentic assessments can be mitigated.
Consider the table below, drawn from Wiggins and created by Indiana University Bloomington (USA), which illustrates the differences between typical tests and authentic assessments:
Authentic assessments can be contrasted with conventional test questions, which are often indirect measures of a student’s ability to apply the knowledge and skills gained in a course. Conventional tests have an important place in courses, but should be coupled with authentic assessment wherever possible.
Authentic assessment can take many forms, some with a lighter lift than educators may expect. In fact, there can be robust opportunities for students to illustrate their learning with projects, oral presentations, and other hands-on options that ultimately makes grading less tiresome for an instructor and possibly more enjoyable for students.
Below are a just a few ideas for authentic assessments that can be adapted for different grade levels and subject areas:
Instructors in university or graduate programs may be interested to see how Indiana University Bloomington approaches authentic assessment with the diagram below:
The University of New South Wales (AUS), maintains that “Authenticity is a fundamental characteristic of good assessment practice” and that “students usually value it highly.”
When a nursing student is asked to participate in, say, a simulation or role play of a scenario in place of writing an essay on “The benefits of good bedside manner,” the student must contextualize their learning and react to the real-world unpredictability and complexity that a scenario presents. Instead of merely writing about how they would try to soothe a nervous patient in the operating room, they would have to engage in role play, apply what they have learned in their courses, and solve problems in real-time. In this situation, both the instructor and the students themselves will see the competency they have gained through study.
In addition to motivating students to learn and engage, the benefits of authentic assessment include:
Overall, the benefits go both ways: students glean a meaningful amount of information and can showcase their knowledge effectively when assessed authentically; educators can acquire a more accurate understanding and measurement of their students’ learning and see very clearly what they know and where they have potential to grow.
In one study, researchers discovered that authentic assessment tasks that include interactive orals help prevent academic misconduct: “The more relevant the assessment to real-world scenarios, the less likely students are to engage in misconduct.” The study goes on to say that “interactive oral exams enabled students to develop their professional identity and awareness, and communications skills, and help promote employability” (Sotiriadou et al., 2020).
In another study, a group of 18 students in New Zealand worked together to develop focused community projects to affect sustainable change. Upon reflection, the students themselves reported many benefits of authentic assessment including, “workplace realism, a greater level of personal investment and opportunities to draw on diverse skills” (Asgarova et al., 2023).
Authentic assessment is deeply tied to authentic learning, an approach to education based deeply in constructivism, which theorizes that learners ought to take an active role in building their own understanding rather than passively receiving information. When a student can participate in activities that not only require their presence of mind and involvement, but also connect to real-world scenarios, their learning then hinges on concrete skills that they can readily apply to their lives.
In sum, authentic assessments are valuable for students and teachers alike. The complexity of tasks requires students to use a variety of skills and knowledge to complete the assessment. They are realistic because they simulate real-world situations that students will encounter outside of school. And they provide a more accurate picture of students' learning to help educators improve their instruction and students to develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom, the workforce, and life.