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Authentic Assessment

What is Authentic Assessment?

Good question! Authentic assessment is a method of evaluation in which students perform real-life
tasks to demonstrate their ability to apply relevant knowledge and skills. An authentic assessment
typically includes a task for students to complete and a rubric which indicates how the task will be
graded. Criterion-reference, a term typically associated with authentic assessment, stresses the ability
of authentic assessment to evaluate a specific test or specific area of content material. In other words,
authentic assessment directly assesses a student's mastery of certain knowledge and skills. Authentic
assessment is unique to the individual experience of each student.
Authentic assessment is also known by other names:

performance-based assessment-this is this is a popular term when referring to authentic

assessments. However, some feel that this is not an appropriate term as there is not reference to the
authentic nature of the assessment, as it is possible to have the student perform a task that has no
authentic connection to the real world.

direct assessment-this refers to the direct nature of the assessment and the student shows
directly how to apply the knowledge. In contract, a student would indirectly show knowledge in a
multiple-choice type test.

alternative assessment- as it is an alternative to traditional assessment

Why do We Need Authentic Assessment? Preparing Students for the Real World
While multiple-choice tests can be valid indicators or predictors of academic performance, too often
our tests mislead students and teachers about the kinds of work that should be mastered. Norms are
not standards; items are not real problems; right answers are not rationales. Multiple-choice tests also
encourage memorization of facts, rather than acquiring specific skills standards are designed to


What most defenders of traditional tests fail to see is that it is the form, not the content of the test that
is harmful to learning; demonstrations of the technical validity of standardized tests should not be the
issue in the assessment reform debate. Students come to believe that learning is cramming; teachers
come to believe that tests are after-the-fact, imposed nuisances composed of contrived questions-irrelevant to their intent and success. Both parties are led to believe that right answers matter more
than habits of mind and the justification of one's approach and results. This type of assessment also
sends a message to students that information is learned for a test, and as soon as the test is
completed, students often do not see the importance of retaining this information.
A move toward more authentic tasks and outcomes thus improves teaching and learning: students
have greater clarity about their obligations (and are asked to master more engaging tasks), and
teachers can come to believe that assessment results are both meaningful and useful for improving
When students leave high school or even college they are expected to be able to function in our world
based on a certain standard set of skills. Those life skills often do not include knowledge on ancient
civilizations or chemical composition. It is great for students to have a well rounded education and a
plethora of content knowledge, but if they cannot apply their skills to any content or task, teachers or
schools have not prepared them for the real world.
Click on the video below to learn more about authentic assessment in "Assessment Overview:
Beyond Standardized Testing"

Basic Elements of Authentic Assessment:

Students are asked to develop responses rather than choose from a list of possibly correct

Fosters higher order thinking

Takes a direct approach to evaluate projects and the process of creating the final product

Aligns with classroom instruction

Uses student work which has been collected over time

Based on clear criteria given to students

Allows for multiple interpretations

Students learn to evaluate own work

Relates more to classroom learning


Ten Features of Authentic Assessments


Authentic activities have real-world relevance: Activities match as nearly as possible the
real-world tasks of professionals in practice rather than decontextualized or classroom-based tasks


Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks
needed to complete the activity: Problems inherent in the activities are ill-defined and open to
multiple interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of existing algorithms. Learners
must identify their own unique tasks and sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.


Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a

sustained period of time: Activities are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or
hours. They require significant investment of time and intellectual resources.


Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from
different perspectives, using a variety of resources: The task affords learners the opportunity to
examine the problem from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, rather than allowing a
single perspective that learners must imitate to be successful. The use of a variety of resources rather
than a limited number of preselected references requires students to detect relevant from irrelevant


Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate: Collaboration is integral to the

task, both within the course and the real world, rather than achievable by the individual learner.


Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect: Activities need to enable learners
to make choices and reflect on their learning both individuall and socially.


Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and
lead beyond domain-specific outcomes: Activities encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and
enable students to play diverse roles thus building robust expertise rather than knowledge limited to a
single well-defined field or domain.


Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment: Assessment of activities

is seamlessly integrated with the major task in a manner that reflects real-world assessment, rather
than separate artificial assessment removed from the nature of the task.


Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as
preparation for something else: Activities culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than
an exercise or sub-step in preparation for something else.


Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcomes: Activities

allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of an original nature, rather than a
single correct response obtained by the application of rules and procedures.


How Does Authentic Assessment Compare to Traditional Assessment?

With traditional assessment students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge of subject matter
based on multiple choice or true/false questions and matching. Unlike authentic assessment,
traditional assessment does not show the thought process which led students to arrive at the answer
they selected. In contrast to traditional assessment, authentic assessment is much less structured and
provides a more in-depth method of evaluating understanding in a subject area. The process is valued
just as much as the product when the assessment is complete. The chart below compares and
contrasts some characteristic of authentic and traditional assessment.
Authentic Assessment ..................................................Traditional Assessment
perform a a response
real-life task...................................................................simulated and contrived
application and original construction.................................recall or recognition
direct evidence...............................................................indirect evidence
ongoing over a long period of time....................................completed once for a specific amount of time
integrated seamlessly within learning...............................completed once learning is "finished"
Though there are differences in the two, it does not mean they cannot be used together. Sometimes,
these two types of assessments make great partners. An widely used example is how to choose a
chauffeur if there was a choice between one that has only passed the writing portion of the test and
one that has only passed the driving portion. Most would choose the chauffeur that has passed the
driving portion (the authentic assessment), however most would prefer their chauffeur has past both
parts, the authentic assessment and the traditional assessment. This would insure that the chauffeur
had basic knowledge of driving and road laws, as well as the skill to drive.

Types of Authentic Assessment:

Scoring Guides/Rubric: A scoring scale is used to assess student performance along a taskspecific set of criteria. A list of required elements are grouped together to make the scoring guide with
point specific designations.

Portfolio/E-Portfolio: A collection of a student's work specifically selected to highlight

achievements or demonstrate improvement over time (e-portfolio is electronic and usually accessible
on the Internet).

Authentic Task: An assignment given to students designed to assess their ability to apply
standard-driven knowledge and skills to real-world challenges.

Self-Assessment: Evaluating one's own performance to determine strengths and

weaknesses, as well as reflecting on what improvements can be made to enhance product

Oral Interviews: The teacher asks the student questions about the subject matter

Story or Text Retelling: Student retells main ideas or selected details of text experienced
through listening or reading.


Writing Samples: Student generates narrative, expository, persuasive, or reference paper.

Projects/Exhibitions: Student works with other students as a team to create a project that
often involves multimedia production, oral and written presentations, and a display.

Experiments/Demonstrations: Student documents a series of experiments, illustrates a

procedure, performs the necessary steps to complete a task, and documents the results of the

Constructed-Response Items: Student responds in writing to open-ended questions.

Teacher Observations: Teacher observes and documents the students attention and
interaction in class, response to instructional materials, and cooperative work with other students.

Why Use Authentic Assessment?


Highlights constructive nature of learning and education


Allows students to choose own path for demonstrating skill set


Evaluates how effectively students can directly apply knowledge to a variety of task


Legitimizes learning by completing it in a real-world context


Allows for collaboration among students and across curriculum

Authentic Assessment: Advantages and Disadvantages



Focuses on analytical skills and the integration of Time-intensive to manage, monitor, and coordinate
Promotes creativity

Difficult to coordinate with mandatory educational


Reflection of real-world skills and knowledge

Challenging to provide consistent grading scheme


Encourages collaborative work

Subjective nature of grading may lead to bias

Enhances written and oral presentation skills

Unique nature may be unfamiliar to students

Direct match of assessment, instructional

activities, and learning objectives

May not be practical for large enrollment courses

Emphasizes integration of learning over time

Challenging to develop for various types of courses

and ranges of objectives

How to Use Authentic Assessment

Follow these helpful steps to create your own authentic assessment:


Identify which standards you want your students to meet through this assessment.


Choose a relevant task for this standard, or set of standards, so that students can
demonstrate how they have or have not met the standards.


Define the characteristics of good performance on this task. This will provide useful
information regarding how well students have met the standards.


Create a rubric, or set of guidelines, for students to follow so that they are able to assess their
work as they perform the assigned task.

Creating Rubrics for Authentic Assessment

Before making a rubric teachers need to identify what they want to assess. Rubrics should be created
before the unit to ensure the students are taught the main components. In addition, it can assess
criteria from previous units. Assessments should usually evaluate no more than five elements for each
task. If too much is being assessed it is difficult to truly identify the strengths and weaknesses of a
Once the criteria for the assessment is identified, a rubric can be created. Making a rubric is simplified


with the aid of online rubric-makers. Before teachers create a rubric it is best to do a search for the
specific rubric to save time. For example, input letter writing rubrics into a search address box and
numerous letter writing sample rubrics will be displayed.
Making rubrics are time consuming in the initial stages but are worth the investment. Rubrics are a
wonderful tool to ensure a more authentic assessment of student work. The assessment tool gives
students a framework on expectations and teachers a framework on what is being graded.

A rubric provides a teacher with a scale of where the student's current knowledge and
performance are currently at as well as what they may need to improve upon.

A rubric provides a student with their own guidelines while they are working on an
assessment. They are able to guide themselves, as well as assess their own work or the work of their
classmates using the rubric provided to them.

A teacher can work with his or her students to develop assessment criteria for a rubric. This
way, students are taking part in the evaluation process and feel more of an attachment to what they
are working on. They need to live up to their own standards (criteria) as well as that of the teacher.

Examples of Authentic Assessment Rubrics:

Web Project Rubric
Classroom Web Page Rubric
WebQuest Rubric
Middle School Research Project Rubric
*Rubric Template for creating your own rubric**

Challenges of Authentic Assessment:

Usually takes longer to plan, complete, and evaluate than other methods of assessment

Difficult to ensure assessment accurately aligns with curriculum and standards

Allows for greater margin of evaluator bias/judgments of assessment

Examples of Authentic Assessment

Funderstanding-Authentic Assessment
Authentic Assessment Toolbox


North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

Wik ED--Authentic Assessment
Park University-Incorporating Authentic Assessment

Assessment methods based as closely as possible to real world experiences are

called authentic assessment. Originally these were restricted to internship and
apprenticeship experiences but have been expanded to the arts and other
performances. The student is observed in action and the instructor provides
feedback (direction). Now authentic assessment is being applied to all areas of
the curriculum.

Real world experiences or simulations are normally complex and multi-faceted. A

system is needed to analyze the complexities and to create clear criteria for
student performance or their creation of a product. When provided with the
assignment, a rubric establishes expectations. It is an authentic assessment tool
which is growing in popularity due to its useful in assessing complex and
subjective criteria.

Advantages of using rubrics in assessment include:

allowing assessment to be objective and consistent

allowing the instructor to clarify his/her criteria in specific terms
clearly showing the student how their work will be evaluated and what is
providing useful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the instruction
provide benchmarks against which to measure and document progress
The common features rubrics share include:

delineation of primary traits of performances and products

descriptions of various levels of performance or of product quality
a range for rating performance

Why Use Authentic Assessment?

The question "Why use authentic assessment?" is not meant to suggest that you
have to choose between traditional assessments such as tests and more
authentic or performance assessments. Often, teachers use a mix of traditional
and authentic assessments to serve different purposes. This section, then,
attempts to explain why teachers might choose authentic assessments for

certain types of judgments and why authentic assessments have become more
popular in recent years.

Authentic Assessments are Direct Measures

We do not just want students to know the content of the disciplines when they
graduate. We, of course, want them to be able to use the acquired knowledge
and skills in the real world. So, our assessments have to also tell us if students
can apply what they have learned in authentic situations. If a student does well
on a test of knowledge we might infer that the student could also apply that
knowledge. But that is rather indirect evidence. I could more directly check for
the ability to apply by asking the student to use what they have learned in some
meaningful way. To return to an example I have used elsewhere, if I taught
someone to play golf I would not check what they have learned with just a
written test. I would want to see more direct, authentic evidence. I would put my
student out on a golf course to play. Similarly, if we want to know if our students
can interpret literature, calculate potential savings on sale items, test a
hypothesis, develop a fitness plan, converse in a foreign language, or apply other
knowledge and skills they have learned, then authentic assessments will provide
the most direct

Can you think of professions which require some direct demonstration of relevant
skills before someone can be employed in that field? Doctors, electricians,
teachers, actors and others must all provide direct evidence of competence to be
hired. Completing a written or oral test or interview is usually not sufficient.
Shouldn't we ask the same of our students before we say they are ready to
graduate? Or pass a course? Or move on to the next grade?

Authentic Assessments Capture Constructive Nature of Learning

A considerable body of research on learning has found that we cannot simply be

fed knowledge. We need to construct our own meaning of the world, using
information we have gathered and were taught and our own experiences with
the world (e.g., Bransford & Vye, 1989; Forman & Kuschner, 1977; Neisser, 1967;
Steffe & Gale, 1995; Wittrock, 1991). Thus, assessments cannot just ask students
to repeat back information they have received. Students must also be asked to
demonstrate that they have accurately constructed meaning about what they
have been taught. Furthermore, students must be given the opportunity to
engage in the construction of meaning. Authentic tasks not only serve as
assessments but also as vehicles for such learning.

Authentic Assessments Integrate Teaching, Learning and Assessment


Authentic assessment, in contrast to more traditional assessment, encourages

the integration of teaching, learning and assessing. In the "traditional
assessment" model, teaching and learning are often separated from assessment,
i.e., a test is administered after knowledge or skills have (hopefully) been
acquired. In the authentic assessment model, the same authentic task used to
measure the students' ability to apply the knowledge or skills is used as a vehicle
for student learning. For example, when presented with a real-world problem to
solve, students are learning in the process of developing a solution, teachers are
facilitating the process, and the students' solutions to the problem becomes an
assessment of how well the students can meaningfully apply the concepts.

Authentic Assessments Provide Multiple Paths to Demonstrationtop

We all have different strengths and weaknesses in how we learn. Similarly, we

are different in how we can best demonstrate what we have learned. Regarding
the traditional assessment model, answering multiple-choice questions does not
allow for much variability in how students demonstrate the knowledge and skills
they have acquired. On the one hand, that is a strength of tests because it
makes sure everyone is being compared on the same domains in the same
manner which increases the consistency and comparability of the measure. On
the other hand, testing favors those who are better test-takers and does not give
students any choice in how they believe they can best demonstrate what they
have learned.

Thus, it is recommended (e.g., Wiggins, 1998) that multiple and varied

assessments be used so that 1) a sufficient number of samples are obtained
(multiple), and 2) a sufficient variety of measures are used (varied). Variety of
measurement can be accomplished by assessing the students through different
measures that allows you to see them apply what they have learned in different
ways and from different perspectives. Typically, you will be more confident in the
students' grasp of the material if they can do so. But some variety of assessment
can also be accomplished within a single measure. Authentic tasks tend to give
the students more freedom in how they will demonstrate what they have
learned. By carefully identifying the criteria of good performance on the
authentic task ahead of time, the teacher can still make comparable judgments
of student performance even though student performance might be expressed
quite differently from student to student. For example, the products students
create to demonstrate authentic learning on the same task might take different
forms (e.g., posters, oral presentations, videos, websites). Or, even though
students might be required to produce the same authentic product, there can be
room within the product for different modes of expression. For example, writing a
good persuasive essay requires a common set of skills from students, but there is
still room for variation in how that essay is constructed.



In Step 1 of creating an authentic assessment, you identified what you wanted your students to
know and be able to do -- your standards.
In Step 2, you asked how students could demonstrate that they had met your standards. As a
result, you developed authentic tasks they could perform.
In Step 3, you identified the characteristics of good performance on the authentic task -- the
Now, in Step 4, you will finish creating the authentic assessment by constructing a rubric to
measure student performance on the task. To build the rubric, you will begin with the set of
criteria you identified in Step 3. As mentioned before, keep the number of criteria manageable.
You do not have to look for everything on every assessment.
Once you have identified the criteria you want to look for as indicators of good performance, you
next decide whether to consider the criteria analytically or holistically. (See Rubrics for a
description of these two types of rubrics.)

Creating an Analytic Rubric

In an analytic rubric performance is judged separately for each criterion. Teachers assess how well
students meet a criterion on a task, distinguishing between work that effectively meets the
criterion and work that does not meet it. The next step in creating a rubric, then, is deciding how
fine such a distinction should be made for each criterion. For example, if you are judging the
amount of eye contact a presenter made with his/her audience that judgment could be as simple
as did or did not make eye contact (two levels of performance), never, sometimes or always made
eye contact (three levels), or never, rarely, sometimes, usually, or always made eye contact (five
Generally, it is better to start small with fewer levels because it is usually harder to make more
fine distinctions. For eye contact, I might begin with three levels such as never, sometimes and
usually. Then if, in applying the rubric, I found that some students seemed to fall in between never
and sometimes, and never or sometimes did not adequately describe the students' performance, I
could add a fourth (e.g., rarely) and, possibly, a fifth level to the rubric.
In other words, there is some trial and error that must go on to arrive at the most appropriate
number of levels for a criterion. (See the Rubric Workshop below to see more detailed decisionmaking involved in selecting levels of performance for a sample rubric.)
Do I need to have the same number of levels of performance for each criterion within a
No. You could have five levels of performance for three criteria in a rubric, three levels for two
other criteria, and four levels for another criterion, all within the same rubric. Rubrics are very
flexible Alaskan Moose. There is no need to force an unnatural judgment of performance just to
maintain standardization within the rubric. If one criterion is a simple either/or judgment and
another criterion requires finer distinctions, then the rubric can reflect that variation.
Here are some examples of rubrics with varying levels of performance......
Do I need to add descriptors to each level of performance?
No. Descriptors are recommended but not required in a rubric. As described in Rubrics,
descriptors are the characteristics of behavior associated with specific levels of performance for
specific criteria. For example, in the following portion of an elementary science rubric, the criteria



are 1) observations are thorough, 2) predictions are reasonable, and 3) conclusions are based on
observations. Labels (limited, acceptable, proficient) for the different levels of performance are
also included. Under each label, for each criterion, a descriptor (in brown) is included to further
explain what performance at that level looks like.





made good

observations are observations
absent or vague are clear and

all observations
are clear and

made good

predictions are
absent or

predictions are

all predictions
are reasonable


conclusion is
absent or

conclusion is
conclusion is
consistent with
consistent with

As you can imagine, students will be more certain what is expected to reach each level of
performance on the rubric if descriptors are provided. Furthermore, the more detail a teacher
provides about what good performance looks like on a task the better a student can approach the
task. Teachers benefit as well when descriptors are included. A teacher is likely to be more
objective and consistent when applying a descriptor such as "most observations are clear and
detailed" than when applying a simple label such as "acceptable." Similarly, if more than one
teacher is using the same rubric, the specificity of the descriptors increases the chances that
multiple teachers will apply the rubric in a similar manner. When a rubric is applied more
consistently and objectively it will lead to greater reliability and validity in the results.
Assigning point values to performance on each criterion
As mentioned above, rubrics are very flexible tools. Just as the number of levels of performance
can vary from criterion to criterion in an analytic rubric, points or value can be assigned to the
rubric in a myriad of ways. For example, a teacher who creates a rubric might decide that certain
criteria are more important to the overall performance on the task than other criteria. So, one or
more criteria can be weighted more heavily when scoring the performance. For example, in a
rubric for solo auditions, a teacher might consider five criteria: (how well students demonstrate)
vocal tone, vocal technique, rhythm, diction and musicality. For this teacher, musicality might be
the most important quality that she has stressed and is looking for in the audition. She might
consider vocal technique to be less important than musicality but more important than the other
criteria.So, she might give musicality and vocal technique more weight in her rubric. She can
assign weights in different ways. Here is one common format:
Rubric 1: Solo Audition

0 1 2 3 4 5 weight
vocal tone
vocal technique






In this case, placement in the 4-point level for vocal tone would earn the student four points for
that criterion. But placement in the 4-point box for vocal technique would earn the student 8
points, and placement in the 4-point box for musicality would earn the student 12 points. The
same weighting could also be displayed as follows:
Rubric 2: Solo Audition

NA Poor Fair Good



vocal technique 0







vocal tone

In both examples, musicality is worth three times as many points as vocal tone, rhythm and
diction, and vocal technique is worth twice as much as each of those criteria. Pick a format that
works for you and/or your students. There is no "correct" format in the layout of rubrics. So,
choose one or design one that meets your needs.
Yes, but do I need equal intervals between the point values in a rubric?
No. Say it with me one more time -- rubrics are flexible tools. Shape them to fit your needs, not
the other way around. In other words, points should be distributed across the levels of a rubric to
best capture the value you assign to each level of performance. For example, points might be
awarded on an oral presentation as follows:
Rubric 3: Oral Presentation





makes eye contact

volume is appropriate

enthusiasm is evident

summary is accurate

In other words, you might decide that at this point in the year you would be pleased if a presenter
makes eye contact "sometimes," so you award that level of performance most of the points
available. However, "sometimes" would not be as acceptable for level of volume or enthusiasm.



Here are some more examples of rubrics illustrating the flexibility of number of levels and value
you assign each level.
Rubric 4: Oral Presentation





makes eye contact

volume is appropriate

enthusiasm is evident

summary is accurate

In the above rubric, you have decided to measure volume and enthusiasm at two levels -- never or
usually -- whereas, you are considering eye contact and accuracy of summary across three levels.
That is acceptable if that fits the type of judgments you want to make. Even though there are only
two levels for volume and three levels for eye contact, you are awarding the same number of
points for a judgment of "usually" for both criteria. However, you could vary that as well:
Rubric 5: Oral Presentation





makes eye contact

volume is appropriate

enthusiasm is evident

summary is accurate

In this case, you have decided to give less weight to volume and enthusiasm as well as to judge
those criteria across fewer levels.
So, do not feel bound by any format constraints when constructing a rubric. The rubric should best
capture what you value in performance on the authentic task. The more accurately your rubric
captures what you want your students to know and be able to do the more valid the scores will be.

Creating a Holistic Rubric

In a holistic rubric, a judgment of how well someone has performed on a task considers all the
criteria together, or holistically, instead of separately as in an analytic rubric. Thus, each level of
performance in a holistic rubric reflects behavior across all the criteria. For example, here is a
holistic version of the oral presentation rubric above.
Rubric 6: Oral Presentation (Holistic)

Oral Presentation Rubric




usually makes eye contact

volume is always appropriate

enthusiasm present throughout presentation

summary is completely accurate


usually makes eye contact

volume is usually appropriate

enthusiasm is present in most of presentation

only one or two errors in summary


sometimes makes eye contact

volume is sometimes appropriate

occasional enthusiasm in presentation

some errors in summary


never or rarely makes eye contact

volume is inappropriate

rarely shows enthusiasm in presentation

many errors in summary

An obvious, potential problem with applying the above rubric is that performance often does not
fall neatly into categories such as mastery or proficiency. A student might always make eye
contact, use appropriate volume regularly, occasionally show enthusiasm and include many errors
in the summary. Where you put that student in the holistic rubric? Thus, it is recommended that
the use of holistic rubrics be limited to situations when the teacher wants to:

make a quick, holistic judgment that carries little weight in evaluation, or



evaluate performance in which the criteria cannot be easily separated.

Quick, holistic judgments are often made for homework problems or journal assignments. To allow
the judgment to be quick and to reduce the problem illustrated in the above rubric of fitting the
best category to the performance, the number of criteria should be limited. For example, here is a
possible holistic rubric for grading homework problems.
Rubric 7: Homework Problems

Homework Problem Rubric

++ (3 pts.)

most or all answers correct, AND

most or all work shown

+ (1 pt.)

at least some answers correct, AND

at least some but not most work shown

- (0 pts.)

few answers correct, OR

little or no work shown

Although this homework problem rubric only has two criteria and three levels of performance, it is
not easy to write such a holistic rubric to accurately capture what an evaluator values and to cover
all the possible combinations of student performance. For example, what if a student got all the
answers correct on a problem assignment but did not show any work? The rubric covers that: the
student would receive a (-) because "little or no work was shown." What if a student showed all
the work but only got some of the answers correct? That student would receive a (+) according to
the rubric. All such combinations are covered. But does giving a (+) for such work reflect what the
teacher values? The above rubric is designed to give equal weight to correct answers and work
shown. If that is not the teacher's intent then the rubric needs to be changed to fit the goals of the
All of this complexity with just two criteria -- imagine if a third criterion were added to the rubric.
So, with holistic rubrics, limit the number of criteria considered, or consider using an analytic

Final Step: Checking Your Rubric

As a final check on your rubric, you can do any or all of the following before applying it.



Let a colleague review it.

Let your students review it -- is it clear to them?

Check if it aligns or matches up with your standards.

Check if it is manageable.

Consider imaginary student performance on the rubric.

By the last suggestion I mean to imagine that a student had met specific levels of performance on
each criterion (for an analytic rubric). Then ask yourself if that performance translates into the
score that you think is appropriate. For example, on Rubric 3 above, imagine a student scores

"sometimes" for eye contact (3 pts.)

"always" for volume (4 pts.)

"always" for enthusiasm (4 pts.)

"sometimes" for summary is accurate (4 pts.)

That student would receive a score of 15 points out of a possible 20 points. Does 75% (15 out of
20) capture that performance for you? Perhaps you think a student should not receive that high of
a score with only "sometimes" for the summary. You can adjust for that by increasing the weight
you assign that criterion. Or, imagine a student apparently put a lot of work into the homework
problems but got few of them correct. Do you think that student should receive some credit? Then
you would need to adjust the holistic homework problem rubric above. In other words, it can be
very helpful to play out a variety of performance combinations before you actually administer the
rubric. It helps you see the forest through the trees.
Of course, you will never know if you really have a good rubric until you apply it. So, do not work
to perfect the rubric before you administer it. Get it in good shape and then try it. Find out what
needs to be modified and make the appropriate changes.
Okay, does that make sense? Are you ready to create a rubric of your own? Well, then come into
my workshop and we will build one together. I just need you to wear these safety goggles.
Regulations. Thanks.
(For those who might be "tabularly challenged" (i.e., you have trouble making tables in your word
processor) or would just like someone else to make the rubric into a tabular format for you, there
are websites where you enter the criteria and levels of performance and the site will produce the
rubric for you.)

Workshop: Writing a Good Rubric

find Workshop here

Step 1: Identify the Standards

Step 2: Select an Authentic Task



Step 3: Identify the Criteria for the Task

Step 4: Create the Rubric

TECHNIQUES in assessment
Learning is . . . a dynamic process in which learners actively construct knowledge
. . . the acquisition and organization of information into a series of increasingly
complex understandings . . . influenced by context (Holt 1992). Educators who
view learning in this way realize that quantitative methods of evaluating learners
do not "measure up." Authentic forms of assessment present a more qualitative
and valid alternative. Authentic assessments (AAs) incorporate a wide variety of
techniques "designed to correspond as closely as possible to `real world' student
experiences" (Custer 1994, p. 66). They are compatible with adult, career, and
vocational education. After all, apprenticeship is a time-honored form of
authentic learning: skills taught in context. "High-performance workplaces"
demand critical thinking, self-directed learning, and individual responsibility for
career development (Borthwick 1995; Jones 1994)-which the process of AA can
develop. This Practice Application Brief describes types of authentic assessment,
explains some of the advantages and challenges they present, and highlights
some best practices in design and implementation, with specific examples from
adult, career, and vocational education.

What Are AAs?

Assessments are authentic when they have meaning in themselves-when the

learning they measure has value beyond the classroom and is meaningful to the
learner. AAs address the skills and abilities needed to perform actual tasks. The
following are some tools used in authentic assessment (Custer 1994; Lazar and
Bean 1991; Reif 1995; Rudner and Boston 1994): checklists (of learner goals,
writing/reading progress, writing/reading fluency, learning contracts, etc.);
simulations; essays and other writing samples; demonstrations or performances;
intake and progress interviews; oral presentations; informal and formal
observations by instructors, peers, and others; self-assessments; and
constructed-response questions. Students might be asked to evaluate case
studies, write definitions and defend them orally, perform role plays, or have oral
readings recorded on tape. They might collect writing folders that include drafts
and revisions showing changes in spelling and mechanics, revision strategies,
and their history as a writer.
Perhaps the most widely used technique is portfolio assessment. Portfolios are a
collection of learner work over time. They may include research papers, book
reports, journals, logs, photographs, drawings, video and audiotapes, abstracts of
readings, group projects, software, slides, test results; in fact, many of the
assessment tools listed earlier could have a place in a portfolio. However, the
hallmark of a portfolio used for assessment is that the contents are selected by


the learner (Hayes et al. 1994). The items are chosen according to a set of
standards or objectives connected to the curriculum or learning event. They
should represent a documented history of learning and an organized
demonstration of accomplishment. Portfolios can serve as a catalyst for
reflection on one's growth as a learner and a means of identifying areas for
improvement (ibid.). They can serve as a tool for presenting oneself to potential
employers (Borthwick 1995; MacIsaac and Jackson 1994).
What's Good about AAs?

Many of these methods are worlds away from traditional tests and grading. What
advantages do authentic techniques provide? Well-designed AAs demonstrate a
rich array of what learners know and can do; they display both the products and
the processes of learning, making learners aware of the processes and
encouraging ownership. Authentic assessments are adaptable, flexible, ongoing,
and cumulative, depicting learner growth over time (Custer 1994; Holt 1992).
Because they should be closely aligned with the curriculum, they connect
thinking and doing, theory and practice, in authentic contexts. Assessment
should become an integral part of teaching and learning; other learning
opportunities may arise during assessment. "The process of assessment is itself
a constructivist learning experience, requiring students to apply thinking skills, to
understand the nature of high quality performance, and to provide feedback to
themselves and others" (Rudner and Boston 1994, p. 7). The feedback and
results enable teachers and learners to consider the next steps for improving
both teaching and learning.
Although they raise concerns about subjectivity, AAs allow multiple human
judgments of learning. Teachers, peer reviewers, and community members may
all be involved in various performance ratings, and-a critical element-learners
evaluate and monitor themselves. Alternative assessments can accommodate
varied learning styles and serve the purposes of instruction, not other reasons
for evaluating students (comparing individuals, comparing programs,
demonstrating accountability, etc.).
Authentic assessments do pose certain challenges. They require abandoning
traditional notions about testing and evaluation and they change teacher and
student roles. They are time consuming for teachers to prepare and implement,
because they require clarity in goals, outcomes, criteria, and expectations and
assurance that all stakeholders understand (Hayes et al. 1994). To ensure that
evaluation standards are applied consistently, teachers and other raters need
careful training (Borthwick 1995). Students need to be prepared for selfmonitoring and reflection (Jones 1994). Some may be more comfortable with the
traditional boundaries of grades and testing at set times.
AAs are potentially more equitable in accommodating learning styles and
acknowledging multiple ways of demonstrating competence. However, not all
schools and districts may have access to some of the resources needed to
develop them, and they impose demands that may challenge some students
(Rudner and Boston 1994). Authentic assessments do not necessarily have to
replace other forms of evaluation but can be used to augment and broaden the


picture of learner progress. Jones (1994) cautions, however, that it is a mistake to

use authentic techniques such as portfolios while still teaching primarily through
traditional methods such as lectures and assigned textbook readings.
Adult, Career, and Vocational Education Applications

Adult educators, especially adult literacy teachers, find authentic assessments

especially appealing as an alternative to the problematic use of standardized
tests with adults. Workplace literacy programs are particularly rooted in the
context of the job site; Bousquet et al. (1994) describe a workplace assessment
in which participants are given a scenario depicting a work-related situationchoosing among two job offers-and must make a choice, explain their strategy
for choosing it, give supporting facts, and state why the alternative was not
chosen. The scoring rubric has five major categories: understands scenario,
demonstrates strategy, performs calculations, arrives at solution, writes
response. Each category has subcriteria that are scored on three levels; e.g.,
under "understands scenario" are distinguishes relevant/irrelevant facts,
identifies relationships among facts, draws inferences, mentions external factors.
A career education example is the Employability Skills Portfolio (Stemmer, Brown,
and Smith 1992) used in Michigan schools. The portfolios contain evidence of
students' attainment of academic skills, personal management behaviors such as
meeting deadlines and working without supervision, and teamwork skills such as
listening and compromise. Students update their portfolios throughout high
school in consultation with parents and counselors, and local business
representatives review them and provide feedback that helps students identify
and improve weaknesses in their employment potential.
Vocational education has a long tradition of activity-based learning and product
assessment (Custer 1994). In a business communication course (Fitch 1993),
high school students define and create a business and are evaluated on
innovation, creativity, following directions, writing, and format. Each student
prepares a scenario describing the business; a spreadsheet showing products
and profit; a job description and resume for a prospective employee; a database
of positions and salaries; a letter of complaint and response letter (on studentdesigned letterheads with logos); and a biweekly company newsletter. Fitch
shows how this ambitious project enables assessment of integrated skills, allows
both high- and low-ability students to succeed, and draws upon the resources of
the business community.
Some Advice for Implementation

It should be clear that authentic assessments must be carefully designed and

evaluation criteria rigorously selected. Among the characteristics of good AAs are
the following: (Custer 1994; Rudner and Boston 1994):
Engaging, meaningful, worthy problems or tasks that match the content and
outcomes of instruction
Real-life applicability


Multistaged-demonstrations of knowing, knowing why, and knowing how

Emphasis on product and process, conveying that both development and
achievement matter
Rich, multidimensional, varied formats, both on-demand (in-class essays) and
cumulative (portfolios)
Opportunities for learner self-evaluation
Cognitive complexity-requiring higher order thinking skills
Clear, concise, and openly communicated standards
Fairness in scoring procedures and their application
To ensure that assessment and instruction are linked, they should be planned at
the same time. The following questions can guide planning (Reif 1995; Rudner
and Boston 1994): What should learners know and be able to do? What cognitive,
affective, and metacognitive skills should they demonstrate? What types of
problems or tasks involve those skills? What concepts or principles should be
applied in performing those tasks? What are the reasons for the assessment?
What use will be made of the results? By whom? What criteria should be used?
One type of performance evaluation criteria are rubrics. Rubrics are scoring
devices or tools that specify performance expectations and the various levels to
which learners should perform (Custer 1994). Rubrics provide a framework that
helps raters to be consistent, focuses the attention of assessor and assessee on
important outcomes, and establish benchmarks for documenting progress.
Rubrics feature (1) a stated standard, objective, behavior, or quality; (2) a rating
scale; and (3) specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating
the degree to which the standard has been met. Custer gives an example of a
performance scenario or "design brief" used in technology education. The learner
is asked to design an environmental control system for a room. The rubric lists
eight criteria: number and quality of sources of information, number and quality
of sources of supplies, ingenuity and creativity, use of design criteria, quality of
documentation, workability of the system, quality of futures thinking, quality of
the systems model, and remaining within budget. Each criterion is rated as
exemplary, acceptable, or not yet acceptable.
Because alternative assessments take time to prepare, and because at best they
should be learner centered and individualized, teachers should collaborate
whenever possible in their development. Collaboration with employers and
community members helps ensure the real-world authenticity of the tasks.
Collaboration with students prepares them to be peer assessors and helps them
develop responsibility for their learning. Before assessment, students can
suggest creative alternatives and possible criteria; during assessment, teacherlearner interaction can bring out deeper understanding; and afterward, teachers
and learners can reflect on the results to identify individual patterns of progress
and new directions.