A three steps model for designing authentic assessment.

Based on the latest researches in this field, I created a three steps model to build authentic assessments in higher education. The model is based on research done by Villaroreal et al. 2018 and Mueller 2018.

Step 1 – Standards

Standards is about the graduate profile. What learners must know after finishing their course and what are they able to do?

Therefore there are two main areas needs to be considered by the educators for this step. The first is the professional standards and competences, and the second skills that students need to acquire for employment. 

Villaroreal et al. 2018 suggested educators to answer the following two questions for to design this step:

  • How does the module I teach contribute to achieving the competences of the graduation profile that this course is committed to develop in students?
  • How the skills and knowledge that students gained in my module related to real world problem solving situation?

Step 2 – Designing Authentic Assessment Tasks

In this step the educators have to select/design the tasks which allow students to work on – individually or in group – to acquire the skills and knowledge that a professional in that module need to know to be able to solve real work problems. To do so, educators have to consider the following areas:

  1. Links to world problem-solving situations or simulation of real world problems – this will allow students to develop skills they needed for future professional performance.
  2. Going beyond classroom and think about competences and skills needed in real life
  3. Cognitive challenge and higher order thinking

Authentic tasks/assessment have to cognitively challenge students and promote higher order thinking and cognitive skills. That means the tasks have to provide students with opportunities to apply, evaluate, judge, criticise, analyse, decide, innovate, propose or invent something related to the knowledge they gain. Educators can do this by contextualisation of the real world problem and link it to the levels of Bloom’s or SOLO taxonomies.

The questions that educators should answer when they are designing the authentic tasks is:

Acquiring this skill or learning this knowledge by my student is important to whom?

This cause educators to think about the third parties – clients, employers, etc. and also provide students with a purpose/goal for their learning and make the task meaningful for them.

Step 3 – evaluative judgement and feedback

Through this step educators support students to improve their learning and develop their evaluative judgement. To complete the learning cycle they also need to provide sustainable, continuous and effective feedback.

To improve students’ evaluative judgement, educators have to follow the following route:

  1. Create Rubrics
  2. Communicate with Students
  3. Self & Peer assessment

Authentic assessments need clear and transparent assessment criteria and rubrics. Educators have to identify characteristics of acceptable, good, and excellent performance for each assessment criterion. This rubrics then has to be communicated with students as part of their assessment task to show the how could they gradually improve their performance to higher levels.

Villaroreal et al. 2018 believe that actively engaging students “in marking using assessment criteria and exemplar assignments can significantly improve their performance.” (p. 849)

Involving students as co-creators is another alternative which helps them to develop their evaluative judgement.

Obviously, providing effective and sustainable feedback and feedforward is crucially important through this process.


Post by Mojtaba Ammari-Allahyari. Coventry University’s Academic Development Team

Photo by Reid Zura on Unsplash