Authentic and authenticated assessment

Authentic assessment can add relevance to the student learning experience while also making an assessment less prone to being compromised through cheating or plagiarism.

It is in this instance that we see the correlation with authenticated assessment beyond simple digital authentication mechanisms – where students are required to submit personalised assessment items (presentations, reflection, discussion-based or group-based assessment) then the scope for and risk of non-authenticated submission is minimised. Traditional ways of assessing learning focus on transmission, memorisation and recall. These forms of assessment are necessarily more prone to outsourcing of submission, which erodes the integrity of both the student's learning experience and the institution.

This is why the course design and development process is an excellent opportunity to think in new ways about the assessment strategy for a given course.

Authentic assessments "examine student performance on worthy intellectual tasks" (Wiggins, 1990, p. 2). The goal is to align the ways of measuring learning with the ways that knowledge is used in real life, and this often requires unique solutions. Real-life scenarios are unpredictable and necessitate interpretation to arrive a resolution. The problem-solving process is as important as the solution.

Rubrics transparently communicate to learners the success criteria for each stage of learning. Sharing a rubric can further improve student performance and engage them directly in the learning process (Sheridan & Kelly, M.A., 2010). The importance of rubrics in this equation cannot be underestimated, and the skills required to produce rubrics that serve both the teacher and the learner are exceptional. Where the academic feels unsure about this, every effort should be made to support them in this process.

Below, you will find four case studies (that demonstrate my work in consulting and advising on, and supporting the design and development of authentic assessment) across four distinctive discipline areas. I should add that my experience is not limited to these examples - I have worked with numerous schools and faculties across 10 Australian universities. For any further information, please don't hesitate to contact me at

The image, below, is the final slide from my presentation. It is, admittedly, an overly simplistic representation of the variables and stakeholders that are need to work in harmony for the successful development of authentic assessment. It identifies the following:

  • Institutional support - incorporating the need for a clear vision (and associated strategy) around authentic assessment that is articulated and supported by all internal and external parties. This is particularly important for centralised functions, namely teaching and learning support services and library services, two name but two.
  • Technologies - technology needs to be embraced, but understood. Experience/familiarity with digital learning tools and resources needs to be acknowledged - be it in its presence or in its lacking. This experience should, importantly, include an understanding of the appropriate use of learning technologies. Support for the use of these technologies needs to be in place, as well as contingency planning in the event of technology failure.
  • Teaching - when considered in the context of digital learning, the above points apply, overlayed with an appreciation of how technologies can augment authentic assessment.
  • Learning - the use of digital learning tools and resources in the learning environment is contingent on a range of factors, most often relative to the student cohort. Sometimes these fall along 'binary' lines, but we need to consider outliers!

Finally, crossing these groups, are the program/unit Learning Outcomes and university/program Graduate Attributes. The latter necessarily finds its voice at the institutional level, while the former's success is defined by how it synthesises the efforts of the teaching, learning and technology teams.

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