In learning design, while we focus our attention on the content, we should also consider assessment as an essential component of a course. By assessment, I’m not referring to mini quizzes which are built in the courses. Most of these quizzes merely focus on knowledge retention not application or synthesis. To make an assessment more authentic, we need to think beyond multiple-choice, true/false, drag and drop, and so on.
I’d mentioned briefly in my previous posts that knowing the skills learners are to demonstrate in industry/workplace after completion of a course can help us build a more authentic course. Having this in mind, we can also design authentic assessments. The only important point is having our SMEs’ buy-in. Further, you might have to look into the whole course design from the end to the beginning. This will somehow be like backward design. In this model, the desired results are identified; hence, the course design as well as the assessment will be aligned with the expected results. I have also heard of eLearning institutions which design the assessments first and then create the content.
There are a few strategies which you could consider to achieve a more authentic assessment:
1) Indicating Desired Outcomes
Addressing the expected outcomes for a task or activity which is to be assessed will help you create more real-based ones.
2) Design with the End in Mind
A course design which is centered on the learning outcomes and starts with the assessment rather than the content can provide more authentic assessment which is tied directly to the content.
3) Giving Choice
It can be more real-based and motivating if learners had a choice of doing certain assessment tasks given the fact that they have different abilities and styles in performing their knowledge. Moreover, allow them to take different approaches to achieve the same results.
4) Knowledge Sharing
Similarly to increase their depth of learning, we should provide an opportunity for them to disclose their understanding of what they have learned and have their sharing assessed.
5) Making Connections
An authentic assessment should allow the learners transfer their knowledge from a known context to a less familiar one. By being familiar what challenges they might face in industry, we can provide this opportunity for them. You can always ask your SMEs what challenges they might encounter at work and then create the right assessment to make connections between what they have learned in the content and what they need to tackle with.
An authentic assessment should certainly tap on the underlying skills that learners need to possess or demonstrate in the future. The fact that we are all aware of as highlighted by Terry Doyle is that not a single employment recruiter has ever required their job candidates to be great at multiple-choice tests. There are other types of skills that the industry requires which learners might not have even experienced during their studies. The obvious point is that the skills learners need for industry are often not the skills they spend a great deal of time in their courses.
All in all, authentic assessments help learners see the effectiveness of a course. In addition, they will certainly increase the learners’ motivation as they see clearly how the assessment can benefit them; thus, they get more engaged in the course content.
And now I end my post with Professor Wilford Cockroft’s remark:
“Nobody ever got taller by being measured.”