Authentic Performances and Authentic Assessment

“Methods of assessment are determined by our beliefs about learning. According to early theories, complex higher-order skills had to be acquired bit-by-bit by breaking learning down into a series of prerequisite skill, a building-blocks-of-knowledge approach. However, evidence from contemporary cognitive psychology indicates that all learning requires that the learner think and actively construct increasingly complex mental models.” Robert Dietel


Traditional definitions of authentic assessment generally include the following indicators:

  • Replicates challenges of real life
  • Demonstrates mastery
  • Displays skills and knowledge
  • Realistically applies learning
  • Performs a task
  • Duplicates day to day problems and tasks
  • Uses real world skills
  • Solves real problems
  • Answers realistic questions
  • Responds to real problems that individual face on a daily basis

In sentence form it looks like this:
Demonstration of mastery of a real-life task through a performance that replicates the challenges and standards of the real world and displays competencies in a context that individuals could face on a daily basis.

Authentic assessment is sometimes called alternative assessment in that it is something other than a traditional measure of learning. Traditional assessments include choosing a response (true-false, multiple choice, matching) or putting information into a given structure (fill-in, completion). These require recall of knowledge, disassembling learning into parts, and providing indirect evidence. All of these are generally teacher planned, structured, and directed.


Authentic performances include the following actions and activities:

PRODUCTS: Puzzles, games, time lines,  simulations, primary research,

WRITING/PUBLISHING: Script, headlines, catalog, press release, discussion board

ORIGINAL DESIGNS: Artwork, music, cartoon, book cover, illustration, replica, graphic design

DEMONSTRATIONS/PRESENTATIONS: Show how it works, teach another, simulations, lab

PERSUASIONS: Debate, defense, advocacy, advice, editorial, soapbox

MULTIMEDIA: Infographic, video, storyboard, e-zine, newscast, quiz-maker

But, the performance is not the assessment
If I were teaching you to play tennis, I would watch your movements and make recommendations for improvement. If I were a sous chef, I would taste the food during cooking to check progress and ensure proper taste, texture, and temperature.


RUBRICS: Scoring scales used to assess student performance along a defined set of criteria

CHECKLISTS: A register of essential targets and desired outcomes using during or at the completion of learning.

LEARNING CONTRACTS: Agreements between students and teachers that describe the shared learning outcomes, strategies for achieving them, and a time frame.

SELF ASSESSMENT: Includes opportunities to review learning, identify lingering confusion, provide evidence of learning, evaluate progress, and define explicit criteria for planning next steps and improving outcomes.

PEER REVIEW: Provides an alternative perspective on learning. May rely on rubrics, checklists, or open ended prompts.

OBSERVATIONS: Standard-based, written or oral review of student’s actions, thought processes, or engagement in learning that can be anecdotal or rubric based.

LEARNING LOGS: Tracking of learning in relation to benchmarks that are verified through documentation and reflection.

CONCEPT MAP: Graphic models of learning that illuminates the progression of knowledge from basic content, to applications, and creative/constructive processes of learning.

JOURNALS: Provide a window into students learning and thinking through responses to prompts or opened-ended formats.

QUESTIONING: Planned or spontaneous probing into all levels of students’ abilities along Bloom’s Taxonomy, Webb’s DOK, and 21st century skills.