As state and local policymakers develop valid assessments, as proposed by Secretary Duncan, I suggest they incorporate criteria of “authentic assessment.” Unlike traditional tests of factual recall, authentic assessments are designed to examine students’ performance on real-world tasks. Authentic assessments require active learning and involvement on the part of students who construct their own understanding and apply what they have learned. Students may use digital tools to interpret and evaluate complex information while considering multiple perspectives and alternative solutions. Students use ideas and methods of inquiry that are central to the discipline, e.g., doing the work of policy makers, historians, geographers, and economists. Tasks are open-ended and allow for collaboration and divergent thinking so that students may use multiple strategies to arrive at varied conclusions. Authentic assessments may require students to share their learning in global or cross-cultural contexts. As students submit work for feedback and revision, they reflect and set goals for their own learning.
Thieman, G. (2011). The need for authentic assessments. Social Education, 75(3), 129. Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies.