Authentic assessment is defined in the following way:
- It engages students and is based in content or media in which the students have a genuine interest.
- It asks students to synthesize information and use critical-thinking skills.
- It is a learning experience in and of itself.
- It measures not just what students remember but what they think.
- It helps students understand where they are academically and helps teachers know how best to teach them.
Authentic assessment has to be planned for - starting with the end in mind:
- Identify the goals, skills and knowledge you want students to acquire.
- Determine what the learning will look and sound like.
- Devise the summative assessments that will demonstrate student learning.
- Devise the formative assessments to help you know how to teach them.
- Create lesson plans/projects to promote the learning.
Edutopia focuses on the School of the Future in New York and explains that the school culture is vital in facilitating the planning process. It includes weekly grade level team meetings, 2-5 common planning times per week and one half day per week where all teachers can plan and meet.
One of the most interesting articles about authentic assessment was this one: What You Can Do In 5 Minutes, 5 Days, 5 Months, 5 Years ..... There is so much information here I'm not even going to attempt to summarise it. However it is clear that in 5 minutes you can determine what students are thinking, in 5 days you can determine what students know, in 5 weeks you can assess if students are making progress, in 5 months you can reflect on and refine the curriculum and in 5 years you can completely realign the vertical curricula.
Small reflection: At my last school, in my last year there, we did a complete vertical realignment of the PYP units of inquiry. Before this we had devoted staff meetings to discussing inquiry, questioning and writing good central ideas. The realignment involved all teachers and some students. I worked on 2 of the transdisciplinary themes (Where We Are in Place and Time, and How We Organise Ourselves), though most teachers only actually were part of a team looking at one of these. I have to say it was an exhilarating (and sometimes stressful) process, especially the staff meeting where we laid all the units down on the floor and looked at them both vertically and horizontally and made some adjustments as necessary. Unfortunately leaving at the end of that year I didn't see how this worked the following year when all the new units were actually taught. However I would love to be part of a similar process again and would like to actually stay and see it working.
Photo Credit: Free Child Coloring with Baby Blue Color Crayon by Pink Sherbet Photography