Taking Assessments Deeper: Authentic and Project-Based Assessments

In this article, Desiree Alexander speaks to the power of authentic and project-based assessments in the classroom, with a special example of job readiness community interviews. Read more of her perspectives on teaching at https://www.educatoralexander.com/

Common assessments. We all know them and use them in the classroom. However, in order to bring innovation to the classroom, we also need to be innovative in our assessments. Using authentic and project-based assessments is a way to assess students’ level of learning while also teaching skills through those assessments. 

In our classrooms, we have the power to take assessments deeper by allowing the student to show they know the content while also learning skills as they are performing the assessment.

Gone are the days of the skill and drill. Students bubbling in answers through memorization should be a thing of the past. Even our standardized tests are now asking students to think and support their answers. In our classrooms, we have the power to take assessments deeper by allowing the student to show they know the content while also learning skills as they are performing the assessment. For instance, using authentic assessments helps students connect content to real life skills by asking them to perform tasks to show their learning. For example, an authentic assessment that engages student voice while gauging if the student learned content would be to use Flipgrid to allow the student to record a timed video answering how a historical event affected the lives of survivors and using 2 resources to support their argument. Then, have students respond to each other’s arguments in a timed video by supporting or arguing against their peers while using resources as support. This not only assess the content while using resources to support arguments, but this assessment also teaches technology usage, oral presentation skills, digital citizenship, debating skills, editing to stay on topic, etc. 

Similarly, using project-based assessments helps students use an extended amount of time to work on a project to prove their learning.  For example, for a unit on job readiness, the final exam wasn’t an exam at all. It was an actual interview. Students had to take what was learned about business dress, interview skills, and what to do before and after an interview to actually set up an interview with teachers at the school. Each teacher was given a fake company. Students had to look through the company’s profiles to decide which company to apply for. They then had to apply and make contact with the company (the teacher). An interview was set and the student had a formal interview with the company in the cafeteria or library during the teacher’s planning period or as someone monitored the teacher’s class. The teacher was given everything they needed (including their company’s profile, interview questions and a rubric to grade the student with specific feedback on why they would or would not hire the student). The student would then self-assess themselves to evaluate how they think they did. The student would receive all of the feedback and the assigning teacher would give the final grade based on the overall project rubric. Think of all of the skills that the students learned from this assessment while proving they learned the content in the lesson!

A tip to learning more about practical examples of authentic and project-based assessments is to attend an EdCamp. EdCamps can help because of the structure of the teacher-led events. Attend an EdCamp and tell them you want to learn about these topics or that you would like to share your own experiences! If enough educators want to learn about this topic, it will be scheduled. If enough teachers did not ask for that topic, make your own impromptu learning group about it. Ask around to see who would like to discuss and then duck away together in a space and make your own discussion group. That is the unique difference of an EdCamp; you actually learn what you really want to learn! 

So give authentic and project based assessments a try in your classroom and witness your students work harder than you may have seen them work before while they show you they learned the content, but continue to learn so much more during the assessment!

Ms. Desiree Alexander, Ed.S. is an award-winning, multi-degreed educator who has been in the educational field since 2002. She is currently the Regional Director of North Louisiana for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana. She is the Founder CEO of Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC. She consults with members of several schools/businesses and presents at conferences nationwide.