What is Authentic Assessment?

Assessment is an integral part of education and plays a vital role in determining students’ strengths, learning preferences, instructional needs, and conditions for success in any type of learning situation. Educators can use a wide variety of methods to evaluate student skills, learning needs, and academic progress.

Authentic assessment is one type of method that integrates teaching, learning, and assessment to evaluate student knowledge and skills. In authentic assessment, students demonstrate their knowledge of essential skills and competencies by performing a task or producing a product in a real world environment. This type of assessment is particularly beneficial for students with more complex support needs because it enables students to show what they know in a variety of ways outside of the classroom.

Overview of Authentic Assessment:

When determining how to assess students in an employment setting, most would agree that an ideal assessment tool would be one that evaluates students’ knowledge and skills when performing real world tasks. Traditional assessment practices, such as standardized tests, may not enable educators to accurately identify students’ skills, strengths, and support needs that will contribute to employability. However, authentic assessment provides engaging and meaningful learning over a period of time to assist with skill and behavior attainment in preparation for work. When thoughtfully designed, authentic assessment in employment settings can assist educators to identify appropriate learning standards and competencies, gather data, and provide instructional interventions to increase independence in real life work situations.

The following video provides an overview of authentic assessment and the benefits for using this type of method to measure the progress of students with disabilities in applying knowledge and skills.

Planning for Assessment in Employment

Conducting an authentic assessment for employment, like other forms of assessments, takes planning. Start with the end in mind and align the assessment with student goals, interests, and skills to tasks in a work environment. Collaborate with the business to develop and implement the assessment. The outcome of this assessment will provide real world information regarding student interests, strengths, skills, and conditions for success.

The following video provides an overview of the steps to effectively plan for an authentic assessment in the workplace.

Creating a Task Analysis

Teaching a new skill, especially in an employment setting, can be a daunting task. The difficulty of teaching a new skill may also be complicated by not knowing what a student can do independently, on what tasks the student may require training, or if the student is able to chain tasks together. Fortunately, a task analysis can be used as an objective and measurable tool to help educators break down a skill into teachable parts while assessing a student's learning and growth.

The following video provides an overview describing what a task analysis is, and how to create and use one.

Collecting Baseline Data using a Task Analysis

Assessment is key to effective and individualized instruction. When teaching new skills in an employment setting, it is important for an instructor to know where to begin instruction and to have a tool for collecting data. A task analysis is an effective data collection tool to both capture baseline data and student progress.

The following video provides an overview on how to use a task analysis to collect baseline data through either single or multiple probes.

System of Prompts

Providing instruction in the workplace has its own unique challenges compared to instruction in the classroom. In particular, it is critical that all students work towards a goal of completing work tasks independently. Failure to plan for independence on the job site means that a student may become prompt dependent and employment staff may never be able to fade from the work environment. Using a system of prompts as an instructional strategy offers educators a way to provide systematic and individualized instruction with a built-in fading process.

The following video provides an overview on how to use a task analysis to collect baseline data through either single or multiple probes.

Data Analysis

Analyzing data collected during the authentic assessment is an essential part of the assessment process. Data can provide a vast amount of information beyond whether or not a student can complete a task or behavior independently. The analysis will highlight trends, gaps, strengths, conditions for success, and support needs to inform instruction and IEP planning.

The following video provides an overview on how to analyze the data collected from a task analysis and how to use it to inform instruction, goals, and future planning.

Instructional Interventions

Instructional strategies are specific techniques, steps, or supports that are implemented to help an individual improve performance in various environments. Educators use instructional strategies to assist students in making progress to reach goals and standards. These strategies are also used to assist students with meeting the standards for completing authentic tasks in an employment setting. While employment and classroom strategies serve similar purposes, instructional strategies in the workplace often are formatted and implemented differently from classroom strategies.

The following video provides an overview on how to use instructional strategies that lead to skill growth and independence in an employment environment.

More Resources

For more information about Authentic Assessment, please see our additional resources.