A Return to Doing: How Authentic Assessment Changes Higher Education

A Return to Doing: How Authentic Assessment Changes Higher Education

Karen M. Mattison (Capella University, USA), Heather Schroeder (Capella University, USA), Stacy L. Sculthorp (Capella University, USA) and Jaclyn Zacharias (Capella University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0932-5.ch010
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Abstract

Elements that define competency-based education are provided, and followed by a history and evolution of this educational philosophy that has become increasingly attractive and necessary to both institutions and learners. Authentic assessment is introduced as the heart of competency-based education and as the instrumental element that differentiates competency-based education from traditional approaches. Examples of authentic assessment are provided from field-specific domains. Drivers from industry, government, and learners are described and linked with the progression of authentic assessment. The design and evaluation of authentic assessment is explored with a thorough explanation of the ways in which properties of reliability and validity are established. The chapter concludes with a forecast for the change that authentic assessment will bring in competency-based education.
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Background

In June 2015, The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) put forth the following definition of CBE:

In general, competency-based education (CBE) is an outcomes-based approach to earning a college degree or other credential. Competencies are statements of what students can do as a result of their learning at an institution of higher education. While competencies can include knowledge or understanding, they primarily emphasize what students can do with their knowledge. Students progress through degree or credential programs by demonstrating competencies specified at the course and/or program level. The curriculum is structured around these specified competencies, and satisfactory academic progress is expressed as the attainment or mastery of the identified competencies. Because competencies are often anchored to external expectations, such as those of employers, to pass a competency students must generally perform at a level considered to be very good or excellent.

C-RAC is explicit about CBE as outcomes-based, stating that the focus of CBE is on what learners can do rather than on knowledge they gain. In addition, however, there are three additional factors that lead to successful CBE.

First, to be successful the CBE’s curriculum must be professionally aligned to link theory to practice. It must include measurable knowledge, skills, and abilities; something that may appear obvious, but cannot be emphasized enough. The development of a CBE curriculum must be deliberate to ensure a clear and meaningful connection—often called alignment—between current field requirements, academic activities that support learning, and the assessments that measure the learning. As this chapter will discuss, the most efficient and sound way to create a professionally aligned curriculum is by employing the assessment-first philosophy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Outcomes: Expected knowledge, skills, or dispositions that result from educational experiences.

Mastery Learning: Level of expected performance on evaluation criteria defined by subject matter experts.

Scoring Guide: An evaluation tool used to measure learner performance.

Assessment-First Philosophy: Method of creating a curriculum where assessments are designed before supporting materials are selected.

Validity: The extent to which an assessment tool accurately measures the domains for which it was intended to measure.

Alignment: The documented relationship between an evaluation criterion to a competency, a competency to an outcome, or a competency to an external standard, that allows for accurate measurement of different levels of a curriculum.

Reliability: The extent to which an assessment tool produces consistent results among individuals in similar settings.

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