written by: Xiaoxiao Feng

Authentic assessment requires students to prove their effective learning in terms of the knowledge that they have learned. O’Malley and Valdez Pierce (1996) defined “authentic assessment” as “the multiple forms of assessment that reflect student learning, achievement, motivation, and attitudes on instructionally-relevant classroom activities” (as cited in Atac, 2012, p.7). Atac (2012) states that “authentic assessment refers to the procedures for evaluating learner achievement or performance using activities and tasks that represent classroom goals, curricula and instruction, and in real-life situations” (p. 9). Atac also points out that the essential parts of authentic assessment are teachers’ professional criteria and accountability to improve student learning. The common names for “authentic assessment” are “performance assessment, alternative assessment, and direct assessment” (p. 10). Richard Sittings (1992) defined “performance assessment” as “performance assessment call upon examinee to demonstrate specific skills and competencies, that is, to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered” (as cited in Atac, 2012, p. 10). In language learning, O’Malley and Valdez Pierce summarized 8 basic types of authentic assessment, which includes “oral interviews, story or text retelling, writing samples, projects and exhibitions, experiments and demonstrations, constructed response items, teacher observation, and portfolios” (p. 10). Moreover, Atac summarizes the reasons to use authentic assessment. Authentic assessments could provide direct evaluation for students, evaluate whether the students can construct the acquired knowledge, and allow for much more variability in evaluation.

            Svinicki (2004) thinks that the authentic assessment should be based on students’ activities. Wiggins (1998) summarizes six characteristics of qualified authentic assessment: Firstly, the authentic assessment is realistic; secondly, the authentic assessment is based on the informative answers; thirdly, “the authentic assessment asks the students to ‘do’ the subject, that is, to go through the procedures that are typical to the discipline under study;” fourthly, students are required to perform tasks that is situated; fifthly, students are required to resolve complicated problems in terms of their acquired knowledge; Finally, authentic assessment requires reviews and evaluation information (as cited in Svinicki, 2004, p. 23). Newmann, Secade, and Wehlage (1995) summarized the components of authentic assessment as “construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, and value beyond the school” (as cited in Svinicki, 2004, p. 25).

            The people in different area have various perspectives on the authentic assessment. Svinicki (2004) states that “from a technical psychological perspective, authentic assessments are likely to produce a great deal of transfer from the classroom to the real world after graduation” (p.27). According to the perspectives of measurement, the reliability and validity issues exists in the part of grading.

            Palm (2008) considers that most of the definitions of performance assessment and authentic assessment are “subject-independent” (p.2). Palm analyzes most of the definitions of authentic assessment and summarizes that “authentic assessment is often associated with assessment emulating real life task situations, but also possesses meanings such as assessment aligned with curriculum and assessment that effectively supports learning” (p. 9).

            Mueller (2011) defines “authentic assessment” as “a form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills” (cited as in Eddy & Lawrence, 2013, 253). Eddy and Lawrence (2013) indicate that the authentic evaluation is to evaluate how students could put their acquired knowledge into practice. Eddy and Lawrence also create a concept map for authentic map, in which it includes four basic parts: “evaluation as process, experimental evaluation, multiple evaluators, and learner choice” (p. 257).

            Whitelock and Cross summarize (2011) the key components of authentic assessment:

  • A range of assessment tasks rather just the “traditional” ones
  • Collaboration that is similar to the experienced by practitioners or experts in the field
  • Problem tasks that are like those encountered by practitioners or experts in the field
  • Resources taken specifically from real-world case studies or research
  • Simulations of role-play or scenarios. (cited in Osborne, Dunne, and Farrand, 2013, p.2)



            Authentic learning is different from traditional learning. Therefore, the teachers could not use traditional tests to get authentic outcomes of students’ performance in learning. The authentic assessment could be various in different learning subjects. The instructors should design effective authentic assessment in terms of the knowledge type and learning goals.