A Case Study of Authentic Assessment

A Case Study of Authentic Assessment

David A. Eubanks (Coker College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-667-9.ch013
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This chapter describes Coker College’s subjective performance assessment program to rate student thinking and communication skills. It uses a discussion of the epistemology of assessment to motivate an emphasis on direct observation by experts as the basis for “authentic” assessment for complex learning outcomes. Results from Coker College’s experience are given and discussed in the context of this approach. The purpose of this chapter is to give a philosophical framework and practical methods that can help institutions assess liberal arts learning outcomes. Such assessments can provide information crucial to improving programs and pedagogy and form the basis for institutional effectiveness reports to stakeholders.
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Because this is a case study, we will be interested in implementations and details and uses of data. But these are more valuable if we know the rationale behind the assessment methods, so we begin with an examination of the measurement of learning outcomes. The questions we address are in turn theoretical and practical: What can we know, and how can we know it? How does work in practice? Answers to these questions are explored in detail in the following sections:

  • • The Nature of Assessment

  • • Measurement and Reality

  • • Measurement and Probability

  • • Subjective Measurement

  • • Authentic Assessment in Practice

  • • Defining Outcomes

  • • Gathering Data

  • • Institutional uses of Assessment Data

  • • Program uses of Assessment Data

  • • FACS in the Classroom

  • • Reliability and Validity


  • • Advantages

  • • Challenges

  • • Conclusion

It can be the case that an assessment program is put into place without asking these questions, but this may invite confusion when the results arrive.

There are many options open to an institution wishing to assess general education or liberal arts skills like thinking and communication. Standardized testing and portfolio assessment are two examples at opposite ends of a spectrum of possibilities. In this chapter we will derive a kind of performance testing.

Performance testing includes such varied procedures as observing a foreign-language student having a conversation in the foreign language, requiring science students to conduct a real experiment, asking students to work together as a group and observing the interaction, and giving problems that have no answer or more than one correct answer and observing a student’s approach. (Kaplan & Saccuzzo, 2004, p. 631)

The description above makes it clear that the observer is crucial to this form of assessment. At Coker College, course instructors use normal class work to find opportunities for observing performance. As we shall see, there is a trade-off between this hands-on approach and objectivity (and hence reliability), but the results will support this decision.

We will first seek an understanding of what measurement is, and in the process reject overly deterministic models like fill-in-the-bubble tests for the purpose of assessing complex outcomes. We are not alone in this: “The ‘new’ assessment currently being called for by the National Education Association and others is performance testing.” (Kaplan & Saccuzzo, 2004, p. 631).

True performance testing tries to maximize reliability by carefully controlling testing conditions. See (Harris, 2002, pg. 81) for a list of testing components including “[…] specification of the steps or actions required to perform the test, typically in the order in which they are to be performed.” This will prove to be a bit too restrictive for our agenda of assessing educational outcomes that are not the results of a step-by-step process. We will use the term “authentic assessment” instead, although in the literature the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. In our case “authentic assessment” will depend less on rigid specifications and more on subjective judgment by experts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Core Skill: At Coker College, the core skills taken from the institutional mission are effective writing, effective speaking, analytical thinking, and creative thinking.

Complexity: The minimum length for a complete description of a process. Also called Kolmogorov complexity. In educational assessment more complex phenomena manifest themselves in more various forms.

Virtual: Existing only in the informational sense, as a combinatoric property of matter. A chess position is virtual; the arrangement of the pieces has importance, not their physical properties.

FACS: Faculty Assessment of Core Skills. A process of routinely gathering authentic assessments of core skills, based on observations taken during coursework.

Liberal Arts: Liberal arts institutions profess to place special value on general thinking and communication skills, and a broader view of education than technical or vocational training.

Authentic Assessment: Sometimes defined to be synonymous with performance testing. Here we use it explicitly to mean a subjective judgment resulting from direct observation of performance by an expert.

Event: Something that can happen with some probability. Theoretically, events belong to some sample space of possibilities. Different observers may judge events differently.

Performance Testing: Evaluating performance based on observation of the subject performing the task under controlled conditions.

Measurement: Producing a numerical value with a meaning most observers will agree with. Measurements are usually in units that aggregate, but may be virtual or real.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Christopher S. Schreiner
Christopher S. Schreiner
Chapter 1
Melissa A. Dyehouse, John Y. Baek, Richard A. Lesh
This chapter describes a model for evaluating complex organizations or systems. The design assessment model the authors propose is a response to... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Design Assessment in the Development of Complex Organizational Systems
Chapter 2
Hedva Lewittes
In this chapter critical thinking is assessed using two critical thinking learning outcomes that were required for the State University of New... Sample PDF
A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum
Chapter 3
Suzanne Pieper, Erika Edwards, Brandon Haist, Walter Nolan
The purpose of this chapter is to review literature over the past ten years regarding technology tools that are being used in higher education to... Sample PDF
A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning
Chapter 4
John Baer, Sharon S. McKool
The Consensual Assessment Technique is a powerful tool used by creativity researchers in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the... Sample PDF
Assessing Creativity Using the Consensual Assessment Technique
Chapter 5
Christine Charyton, Zorana Ivcevic, Jonathan A. Plucker, James C. Kaufman
This chapter discusses creativity assessment as a means for evaluating skills required in higher education. Creativity is assessed in the context of... Sample PDF
Creativity Assessment in Higher Education
Chapter 6
Asao B. Inoue
This chapter articulates writing assessment as a technology, theorized with three aspects (power, parts, and purpose), accounting for the ways in... Sample PDF
The Technology of Writing Assessment and Racial Validity
Chapter 7
Sheila S. Thompson, Annemarie Vaccaro
The purpose of this chapter is to address epistemological and methodological approaches to assessing assessment. The authors’ intent is to show how... Sample PDF
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods as Complementary Assessment Tools
Chapter 8
Teresa Flateby
The development of the Cognitive Level and Quality of Writing Assessment online system is described in this chapter. Beginning with needs identified... Sample PDF
Effects of Assessment Results on a Writing and Thinking Rubric
Chapter 9
Barbara D’Angelo, Barry Maid
Outcomes-based assessment provides data for programs to demonstrate student learning as a result of their enrollment in the program and to assess... Sample PDF
Assessing Outcomes in a Technical Communication Capstone
Chapter 10
Sonya Borton, Alanna Frost, Kate Warrington
As Jacqueline Jones Royster articulated at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication, English departments are already assessing... Sample PDF
Assessing the Composition Program on Our Own Terms
Chapter 11
Joan Aitken
This chapter uses a case study to exemplify one approach to assessment of three instructional delivery formats: (a) online, (b) distance, satellite... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Instructional Delivery Formats
Chapter 12
Victor W. Brunsden
The author present a case-study of a classroom technique that allows assessment and some remediation of several shortcomings of college student... Sample PDF
Inverting the Remedial Mathematics Classroom with Alternative Assessment
Chapter 13
David A. Eubanks
This chapter describes Coker College’s subjective performance assessment program to rate student thinking and communication skills. It uses a... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Authentic Assessment
Chapter 14
P. Tokyo Kang, David Gugin
This chapter reports an outcomes assessment study conducted at the University of Guam. The assessment project was conducted during the 2006-07 and... Sample PDF
Outcomes Assessment in Japanese Language Instruction
Chapter 15
Barika Barboza, Frances Singh
This chapter describes an outcomes assessment study completed in a basic composition course at a small urban open admissions community college. The... Sample PDF
Assessing the Effectiveness of a Basic Writing Course
Chapter 16
Lorraine Gilpin, Yasar Bodur, Kathleen Crawford
Peer assessment holds tremendous potential to positively impact the development of preservice teachers. The purpose of this chapter is to describe... Sample PDF
Peer Assessment for Development of Preservice Teachers
Chapter 17
Charlotte Brammer, Rhonda Parker
In 2002, Samford University began working on a long-term learning assessment plan designed to evaluate its undergraduates’ competencies in written... Sample PDF
Workshops and E-Portfolios as Transformational Assessment
Chapter 18
Daniel F. Chambliss
This chapter describes how the trend favoring assessment initiatives of a system-wide scope such as program review and collegiate learning... Sample PDF
A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis
Chapter 19
Deirdre Pettipiece, Timothy Ray, Justin Everett
Perhaps due to its applicability as a performance of skill sets in virtually all disciplines, writing as a mechanism for measuring student success... Sample PDF
Redefining Writing Reality Multi-Modal Writing and Assessment
Chapter 20
Sean A. McKitrick
This chapter introduces methods that can be used to engage faculty in the assessment process, working within a shared governance structure in... Sample PDF
Engaging Faculty as a Strategic Choice in Assessment
Chapter 21
Steven M. Culver, Ray VanDyke
There is much in the assessment literature about the necessity of developing a culture of assessment and mandates from accrediting bodies include... Sample PDF
Developing a Receptive and Faculty-Focused Environment for Assessment
Chapter 22
John Wittman
This chapter argues that as primary stakeholders in writing program assessment, students and instructors need to be included proactively in... Sample PDF
New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment
Chapter 23
Mya Poe
The study of racial-ethnic group differences on educational tests has yielded a substantial body of research internationally in the last decade. In... Sample PDF
Reporting Race and Ethnicity in International Assessment
Chapter 24
Joan Hawthorne, Tatyana Dumova, April Bradley, Daphne Pederson
In this chapter the authors describe a method developed to assess the outcome of a “cultural familiarity” general education goal. Challenges in... Sample PDF
Method Development for Assessing a Diversity Goal
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