Using Authentic Assessment in Your K-12 Classroom

Minds in Bloom is pleased to welcome guest blogger Charity Preston, M.A. She’s writing about authentic assessment and how it can be used in all grades K-12, not just in primary classrooms. Enjoy!


Authentic assessment is an excellent way to determine students' levels of understanding and mastery, but we see it used with less and less frequency after the primary grades. Instead, assessment through standardized testing or multiple choice tests is used. Authentic assessment, on the other hand, can be in the form of projects, portfolios, running records, and other such interactive assessments. Read more about how authentic assessment can be effective in all grades K-12 in this guest post on Minds in Bloom.
Authentic assessment is basically any type of assessment that is not paper-and-pencil type of testing. It can include projects, portfolios, or running records. I first really used authentic assessment when I student taught in a preschool program for my undergraduate degree. It was used mostly because traditional assessment becomes much more difficult for that age bracket. But now, as I work mostly in elementary and middle school levels, I realize that many assessments in the classroom can also be authentic, though it is rarely used.


Most teachers would justify the idea of not using authentic assessment more because of time constraints.  The trick to authentic assessment is not to take on too much at one time. One type of authentic assessment per chapter or unit is fine to begin. As long as the project sheet and rubric are kept in a safe place for retrieval, adding another the following year is simple. Eventually, as more is added to your toolbox, portfolios will be available to be included as a culminating assessment.


When starting out, think of the essential learning goals for the chapter or unit (or just look at the state standards being taught). Always have the end in mind first. After knowing that the project is geared toward those end goals, begin by creating a project that will reflect a student having knowledge of those end goals. Great ideas to keep in mind include using multiple intelligences and Bloom’s taxonomy, as well as a variety of learning style formats to present the end result. Always leave an option for the student to create a project of choice, with teacher permission, as long as the project matches the learning goals set for all. Another fantastic idea is to create a sample project that shows students the level that is expected, or keep exceptional projects from the previous years (with permission) to show current students examples of grades at each level so all are more acutely aware of expectations.


After designing a great project idea, make sure students (and parents) know what is expected to be turned in for a grade. If a rubric is unclear, then there will be a lot of negative feedback from all involved. If the grading criteria is crystal clear, then there is no room for argument, and the final projects will be much better. There are several websites that offer free rubric creations, along with examples that others have created for inspiration. I suggest starting there when first beginning. Make sure the rubric is complete, but do not include more than five or six categories, or the assessment becomes overwhelming.


Authentic assessment is a great way for students to really showcase talents and knowledge level of the material that has been presented. Give them a chance, and chances are you will be blown away by what students can show.

By guest blogger and K-12 teacher, Charity Preston, M.A. Areas of expertise include curriculum development, technology integration into content areas, and data-driven instruction. Find Charity at Organized Classroom and on Facebook.
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