What does authentic assessment mean?
This is a question that I personally ponder as I’m sure many experienced and new teachers do. How do we effectively assess our students in a meaningful way that allows us as teachers to feel confident in our students knowledge but also our students to feel that they have been given the best opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge?
I recently read a blog post by Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher on Twitter) titled “I’ve got 99 problems but a test aint one“. This is an extremely interesting post that challenges what most of us know to be the norm. Nick went the entire semester without giving his students a quiz or unit exam – that sounds fantastic, right? I highly encourage you to visit his posting and give it a read.
This post has really left me to feel intrigued! So much so, that it’s been a few days since I read his post and I am still thinking about it and now reflecting on it in my own blog. As a pre-service teacher, we have discussed the implications of test writing on student learning – does it really allow a student to demonstrate their full knowledge? Perhaps not. The flip side, all standardized assessments mandated by the government are in the form of an exam. By not teaching our students how to effectively write a test are we doing a disservice to them, even though we are limiting the scope of knowledge that they can demonstrate to us? There is a fine line to be walked and unfortunately tight rope walking is not included in any of the courses we take in teacher training.
For me, authentic assessment is getting to know your students and allowing them to demonstrate their knowledge to you in the best way that fits them, as a learner. Perhaps for some this is a test, others it’s a skit or interpretive dance, a song, a video, a monologue, who knows. Right now, where I am in my teaching career I feel that there needs to be a balance.. however that balance doesn’t mean that the exam has to be weighted the heaviest, which is where I think we fall into the trap as teachers. During units, students often engage in projects to develop real world connections to the topic being learned. Unfortunately, often it ultimately comes down to the heavily weighted unit exam and the “meaning” then becomes negligible to the student. Instead, authentic assessment is giving the most weight to which ever piece of work allows the student to showcase their knowledge the best. Administer the unit exam to teach necessary test writing skills, but why have that hinder a students ability to prove their knowledge by having it weighted the highest?
I of course, do not have the answers. But I welcome discussion on the topic as I feel it is important for all educators, students and parents.
Until next time,