Authentic Assessments

Jessica Kalra

According to “A Five Dimensional Framework For Authentic Assessment”, authentic assessment requires students to use the same competencies, or combinations of knowledge, skills, and attitudes, that they need to apply in the criterion situation in professional life (Gulikers et al., 2004).  As stated by the Teaching and Learning Centre at Queen’s: “unlike traditional assessments, authentic assessments foster disciplinary behaviours and ways of thinking and problem solving used by professionals in the field. For example, authentic assessments in engineering would demonstrate students’ increasing ability to think and problem-solve in ways that resembles how experts in the engineering field think and act.​”

Most definitions of authentic assessment will focus on the application of the task to the “real world”. The definition of authentic assessment used in this toolkit has a much broader scope. Research done by Frey et. al. (2012) shows that authentic assessments are tasks that involve “the student deeply, both in terms of cognitive complexity and intrinsic interest, and are meant to develop or evaluate skills and abilities that have value beyond the assessment itself” (Frey 2012). In this way, an authentic assessment measures student achievement by examining whether students can apply the knowledge they have gained in a direct and relevant way. Both the learning and the assessment is therefore meaningful (Concordia University, Jon Mueller 2010, Frey 2012).

Authentic assessments are a valuable tool in encouraging academic integrity in a number of ways: First, authentic assessments require students to demonstrate their capacity and competencies; Second, authentic assessments require students to do complex, unique and creative activities which can make the task itself or the performance of the task more meaningful to the learner. These tasks are likely to be rewarding, increasing student engagement, and therefore encourage academic integrity; Thirdly, by design, problems or tasks that are authentic may have many solutions. Students use their theoretical knowledge to construct responses to problems that have a level of complexity and ambiguity not seen in standardized tasks. Finally, authentic assessment speaks to universal design principles, enabling students the opportunity for multiple means of expression.

Examples of the types of assignments that can model authenticity include (Lombardi 2008, Assessing Authentically):

  • problem-based learning
  • case studies
  • role play
  • writing a publication or a letter
  • portfolio-based learning
  • designing a solution to a real-world problem
  • collecting novel data
  • analysis of existing data
  • staging a performance, conference or exhibition
  • constructing a website, tool or service
  • forensic problem solving

It is helpful to create these assessments in a student-centred way. The key to developing authentic assessments is to focus on what learners can do to demonstrate the knowledge and/or skills they have gained. We can do this by giving students choice in topics and involving students in establishing rubrics. Consider asking the students to complete a self-assessment. This type of exercise can increase metacognition and create a sense of ownership and commitment for the learner.

To help get started with designing authentic assessments, Anderson and Little of Elon University (Anderson & Little, 2001) have created a tool which consists of the following 7 questions.
  • What is the learning outcome for this assessment?
  • What is the student’s role (a specialist, a friend, a professional)?
  • Who is the audience for this task?
  • What is the problem or question?
  • Why does the audience need this information?
  • How can the student and the audience use this information?
  • How will the student communicate this information to the audience?

Modified from Paul Anderson and Deandra Little (2001)

Below are some examples of authentic assessments


Develop a marketing plan for a local small business: (adapted from UBC COMM 296)

Part 1: Effective marketing strategies can only be created after a thorough situation analysis of the current and future internal and external conditions under which a company will compete.

  1. Briefly introduce your brand (i.e. who you are and what you do). Briefly describe your scope for the report: will you focus either on the entire company or on a specific strategic business unit, geographic area, product line, or product?
  2. Situation Analysis – Research and analyze the immediate and macro environments of your chosen company/product.
  3. Based on your analysis, summarize in a SWOT table the company’s key Strengths and Weaknesses (internal) and the key Opportunities and Threats (external) it faces. You should have at least 6 items listed under each SWOT category in your table.
  4. SWOT Analysis – Highlight the most important point(s) under each of S, W, O, and T and explain if/how they all relate to each other and should shape the company’s marketing strategies. Maximum 2 paragraphs single-spaced.

Part 2: Segmentation, targeting, and positioning (STP) form the foundation for a company’s entire marketing plan – all strategies must align with these components – so clearly defining them is critical to the company’s success.

  1. Segmentation – Describe 3 worthwhile (existing or new) consumer segments for your chosen company/product, using multiple segmentation variables from multiple segmentation bases for each segment.
  2. Targeting – Choose 1 segment from Part A that you would target, and justify your choice using all five segmentation attractiveness criteria.
  3. Positioning and Explanation – Write a positioning statement for your chosen company/product, targeted to your chosen segment. Remember to include your brand name, target segment, frame of reference, point(s) of parity, and point(s) of difference. Briefly explain your point(s) of parity and point(s) of difference.
  4. Strategy Analysis – Critique the effectiveness of the company’s current marketing mix (all 4Ps). Consider what the brand is doing well and what mistakes it is making.




Plan a Behavioural Modification Project (adapted from J.Mueller):

  1. Choose a specific subject/ behaviour to modify and complete a literature search.
  2. Design a plan to complete the eight steps of behaviour modification.
  3. Collect baseline data for approximately one week. Complete the eight steps of your plan, be sure to administer the schedule(s) for at least two weeks.
  4. Write up your program:
  • Include a description of how you completed each of the eight steps;
  • Identify the specific types of consequences and schedules you used;
  • Summarize your results


Examples of authentic numeracy assessment questions (Taken from Ward et al., 2011)

  1. If 1 gallon of paint covers 250−400 square feet, how much paint do you need for a room that is 20×15 feet? There are 3 windows which are 30×60 inches. The room has a door which is 38×82.75 inches and has 8-foot ceilings.
  2. Most automobiles get about 28% more miles per gallon of fuel at 50 miles per hour than at 70 miles per hour. How much more gas will you use in a trip of 350 miles going 70 miles per hour than 50 miles per hour? How much more time will it take you to complete the trip mentioned in the previous question if you are traveling 50 miles per hour (versus 70 miles per hour)?
  3. You want to make a small cake. You plan on using ½ of a cake mix. If the box tells you to use 1/3 cup of oil, how much do you need to make your small cake?


Create a News Brief: (adapted from J.Mueller):

You are a producer for an evening television news program. Your task is to create a 5 minute news brief of the major headlines for a single day.  Focusing on national news, compile and annotate the daily news from online and broadcast feeds as well as newspapers. Select 8 stories you believe should be included in an evening newscast.  Develop news blocks and build a mini-rundown beginning with the lead story. Include the types of elements you could include in each of the news blocks (i.e. video, sound bites, text, images, interviews)

Language Class

Create a travel Brochure (Adapted from Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone,  Behling and Tobin, 2018 p. 192 )

Pick a place a Spanish speaking place and create a travel brochure. In the brochure, identify the capital, note tourist attractions, find aspects of the country, community and culture that are not well known.​

Food and Nutrition

Create an Infographic for a dietician’s office:

Choose your favourite unhealthy and healthy food. Research and compare and contrast the nutritional components of the two selected foods. Create an infographic that describes the digestive process of the main macronutrient found in each food item starting at the mouth and ending at the anus. For each organ of the digestive system, identify the type of digestion (mechanical and chemical) that occurs and the enzymes involved where applicable.



Encouraging Academic Integrity Through Intentional Assessment Design Copyright © by Jessica Kalra. All Rights Reserved.

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