Traditional vs. Authentic Assessment

Assessment has been one of the main focuses in education for as long as I can remember. From elementary school onward, there was always some big state exam on the horizon, in addition to the nearly constant steam of other kinds of evaluations. Does this focus on assessment actual increase students’ abilities to learn? What about long-term retention of knowledge? Alfie Kohn suggests, citing many sources, that our obsession with assessment may actually be counterproductive. It causes students to focus on the wrong aspect of being in school. Rather than trying to “make the grade” students should be encouraged to enjoy the process of learning itself. The inherent enthusiasm for learning that most people have is not harnessed by a grades-centric approach. Kohn suggests that usually it is the instructors and administrators, not the students, that benefit most from a focus on assessment. Shouldn’t education at all levels ultimately be about the students? As  Diana Oblinger lays out in “Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning,” traditional assessment methods miss the mark . Authentic assessment is a superior alternative to traditional assessment. It focuses on students’ learning of concrete, real-world skills and critical thinking over time. Memorization of facts and adherence to rubrics is not found in authentic assessment regimes. Ideally, at the end of such a program, students would be prepared to creatively handle complex situations. Putting such a program into practice is difficult however, given the current status quo and funding difficulties. Perhaps over time enrollment in institutions that do not focus on grades will become more commonplace, but for now, the focus on grades remains.

5 thoughts on “Traditional vs. Authentic Assessment”

  1. This sentence just highlighted the main problem of assessments:

    “rather than trying to “make the grade” students should be encouraged to enjoy the process of learning itself.”

    I personally believe that assessments cause stress in students that can be avoided, and can be replaced by other interactive ways that both the instructor and the students can enjoy. Personally, when I look back at the many years I spent in the systemized learning process, I was simply just trying to do best at my studies (and not enjoying the process). Once I became an instructor myself, I started marking those endless papers and grading students. This feels like a continuous cycle that needs to stop at some point, and divert to different horizons. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! Do you think it would be different if the instructor wasn’t the only one assigning the grades? If more peer evaluations were involved and we focus more on providing feedback throughout the semester with a final grade at the end? What kind of effect do you think this would have on the learning environment?

  3. I agree with you that putting authentic assessment practices into place is exceedingly difficult in our current situation. Sadly, I think it will only become more difficult with Trump and his clowns at the helm. I’m certain that “making America great again” will entail a more exclusive focus on quantitative assessment. As Heidegger liked to say, “Only a God can save us now.”

  4. I hundred percent agreed with you that “students should be encouraged to enjoy the process of learning itself”. When students themselves enjoy the learning process, they will study for themselves, for their curiosity, their understanding, and NOT for grades.

  5. I truly believe standardize tests do not improve students’ abilities to learn. Most of the time, teachers focus on feeding students with the information on the standardized exams, but often forget to encourage creative and critical thinking. Thus, once the standardized exams are over, the information is often lost as it was only memorized to pass the exam. How can we combat this?

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