Let’s Make It Authentic: Designing Authentic Assessments for Authentic Learning

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Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

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  • train and educate their internal staff in Instructional Systems Development.

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We described in Part 1 of the Let's Make It Authentic Tip that Authentic Learning is a relatively new term that describes learning through applying knowledge in real-world contexts and situations. We suggested that you start to create more authentic learning by writing Authentic Learning Objectives – that is, learning objectives that reflect real-world situations.

In part 2 we focused on authentic learning activities that can help our learners realize those Authentic Learning Objectives we have created – activities that reflect the challenges and situations our learners will face as they do their jobs.

In part 3 – Designing Authentic Assessments for Authentic Learning, we suggest you review your authentic objectives and again think of the real world situation. What will your learners actually need to be doing on the job?

Here's an Example

In a project DSA once did with HP, we were faced with needing to train people new to the job of Order Processing. You know – the people that would be taking your order for a computer or printer as well as very large orders from businesses, non-profit organizations and the government.

So what will the learners be doing on the job? They must process orders completely and accurately! So what should be required for an authentic assessment of their having learned to process orders correctly?

What we did was to get real orders that had been received in the past by HP order processing centers and required learners to first practice each type of order and then do one more for their final assessment for each type (approximately 30 different types).

We had computers for learners and in a separate training, they were taught how to maneuver through the real order processing software and learn what all the fields were used for.

OK, so let's just have them process orders using the real software. But wait a minute! We don’t want to have them actually place these past orders for shipment.

So our client went to the IT folks and asked for their help. They were able to allow the trainees to use the real software, but lock them out from sending the order.

So how can we check that they did the order completely and correctly? Simple actually…The participant processed their orders and then printed them out for the instructor to review to be sure they were complete and accurate before letting them go on to the other types of orders.

So, you have to get creative sometimes to put together authentic assessments, but in crucial situations, like this one you need to know the learners will be up to speed right away back on the job.

The next time you want to make sure your learners will be up to speed quickly without a lot of on the job coaching, try to make the assessments as authentic as possible.

See you next time,