What are the merits and drawbacks of traditional assessment and authentic assessment? Which one should you choose for your students? We’ve got the answers right here!
What Is Assessment?
Assessment is not the same as testing.
Assessment involves collecting information to judge what a student does and does not know regarding content and what the student can and cannot do regarding skills.
Testing is a formal and standardized assessment tool, but it is not the only tool.
What Is a Traditional Assessment?
Traditional assessment involves the long-practiced assessment tools of the classroom: written tests (often multiple choice, matching, or short answer), quizzes, and homework.
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Examples of Traditional Assessment
Not all tests, quizzes, and homework fit the criteria for traditional assessment.
To qualify as a traditional assessment, the questions should involve asking for definitions.
They may also start with words like “How,” “When,” or “Where.”
Traditional assessment takes stock of the student’s ability to memorize and recall the subject’s content.
In testing terminology, these are called “low-level questions” (although that is not a mark against them; it is just the category).
A traditional assessment quiz on the food web could involve matching the species with the type of consumer (omnivore, herbivore, carnivore, or decomposer).
A traditional assessment in history might have these types of short answer questions:
- Where is the Northwest Passage?
- Who is John Cabot?
- When did Cabot explore the Northwest Passage?
- What is a compass, and how does it work?
Benefits of Traditional Assessment
Traditional assessments help determine if students know the content of a lesson or chapter.
They are objective; it’s easy to grade multiple-choice questions as right or wrong.
They are efficient. Grading tests with a key is fast. Using Scantron sheets, you can grade tests or quizzes in almost no time.
Traditional assessment tools will quickly slot students. You will see at a glance who is mastering the content and who is not.
When to Use a Traditional Assessment
You can’t shy away from content learning in the classroom.
If you want to multiply, you must learn your math facts.
You must memorize some names and dates to learn about the Civil War.
Traditional assessment can indicate if your students are learning the basics. They are a quick and straightforward tool.
What Is an Authentic Assessment?
An authentic assessment seeks to gauge the student’s intellectual accomplishments.
It typically asks the student to apply what she has learned in terms of content.
It typically requires her to grow new skills or synthesize information.
Examples of Authentic Assessment
Authentic assessment may include higher-level questions like “why” and “compare/contrast.” (Such as comparing traditional assessment vs. authentic assessment!).
Authentic assessment may involve hypothetical thinking, analysis, and analogies.
Typically, an authentic assessment showcases the application of the content within a skill.
This could involve leading a demonstration. For example, the student could explain and show how a compass works using magnets.
Authentic assessment could be in the form of an essay or research paper.
It could involve public speaking: such as role-playing, debating, or interviewing.
An authentic assessment also includes evaluating work from a student portfolio.
Benefits of an Authentic Assessment
One benefit of an authentic assessment is that it requires building on an existing skill or learning a new skill.
For example, to debate the causes of the Civil War, the student needs to learn or build the skills of research, organization, persuasive language, and delivery skills.
Authentic assessment can allow multiple types of learners to succeed, not just those who excel at memorization.
Authentic assessment is how adults are assessed in the real world (presentations, memos, briefs, person-to-person communication of ideas, etc.), so it’s skill-building.
Authentic assessment often asks students to engage in higher-level thinking, something they enjoy as they mature.
When to Use an Authentic Assessment
Authentic assessment is perfect for cross-curricular learning.
It’s also a great balance if you already grade homework and give quizzes that are traditional assessments.
Authentic assessment works well when the student has enough content to summarize and synthesize (such as at the completion of a unit, section, or book).
Authentic assessment lends itself well to the humanities (writing and speaking), but you can use it in STEM subjects (for example, performing and writing labs, doing demos, and solving math problems differently).
You are likely to use more authentic assessments if you are in a child-led learning model such as Montessori or Waldorf.
Traditional Assessment Vs. Authentic Assessment
When considering traditional assessment vs. authentic assessment, you don’t have to choose between the two.
You will likely have to use traditional assessment tools as a classroom teacher. They are more efficient and objective.
But you can balance those multiple-choice quizzes with authentic assessment tools like projects, presentations, and writing assignments.
These engaging activities will not only engage your students, but they will grow them as well.