Authentic Assessment: The Ultimate Guide to Proactively Prepare Learners for Career Success

Students are unprepared for careers. They enter the workforce feeling “exhausted,” “lost,” and “anxious,” according to a Harvard Business Review article. Can authentic assessment have something to do with it? 

At first glance, perhaps the weariness is generational. Millennials and young people don’t have mindsets as determined as the generations preceding them. But no.

A cultural tension exists in the transition from college to the professional world. Research finds three key dimensions reinforced throughout the educational journey ultimately disappear with the swap of a diploma and the swing of a revolving workplace door. 

Feedback. Relationships. Accountability. 

Let’s take a look at feedback and authentic assessment. For years, learners are accustomed to immediate feedback and graded assignments. These grades are understood as reflections of the caliber of students’ work. Their value is reflected in the grades.

But grading can be arbitrary. Take art. How do you grade an elementary student’s third-grade interpretation of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night? Do you dock points based on the length of oil strokes on canvas? Add points for better color composition?  

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night
Photo Courtesy of Corie Hinton's 2nd Grade Class' interpretation of Starry Night

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Graded feedback has been around for decades. And let’s be honest, the majority of current assessments reveal what schools and systems don’t measure well. Grades have their limitations.  

No matter the skill level, feedback is provided. Instant gratification in the form of letter, percentage grades, or gold stars is provided to students with hopes of improvement on future assignments.

Yet, when graduates enter the workforce, there are no letter grades. Black and white words are rarely destroyed with the single stroke of a waiting red pen. 

The paradigm shifts in the professional workforce. Early career professionals are left to fend for themselves, or at the very least adapt to the limited, or nonexistent, feedback provided.

A lack of effective assessment impacts students well beyond the confines of the classroom. How do we solve this problem?

It’s simple: authentic assessment.

What is Authentic Assessment?

Authentic assessment is the ultimate method to measuring what matters. 

Defining Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment transforms students into active participants in learning. Teachers in turn encourage their students to reflect on the relevance of their instruction to improve the learning experience for both instructor and student. 

One of the key determinants in defining authentic assessment is challenging students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills, according to Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology at North Central College and authentic assessment expert.

The Importance of Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment measures the student’s actual ability of what he or she learns. Exhibiting knowledge of a subject is one thing. But learning how to apply it is another. We want students to use the knowledge they learn in the classroom well beyond graduation. 

We need assessments that can tell us if students can adequately apply the skills they learned in authentic situations. We need an accurate means of measuring real-world skills. 

Different Types of Authentic Assessment

According to the George Lucas Educational Foundation, different types of authentic assessment include:

  • Observation
  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Performance tasks
  • Exhibitions and demonstrations
  • Portfolios
  • Journals
  • Teacher-created tests
  • Rubrics
  • Self- and peer-evaluation
  • Simulations

Looking at the list, those all sound like viable solutions to go about evaluating students in an environment you’re comfortable with. Throw that into an environment that’s brand-new and virtual… now we’ve got a problem on our hands. 

If It's So Neat, Why Don't We See It More Often?

If authentic assessment is so incredible, why don’t we see more of it?

While the different types of authentic assessment, also known as authentic assignment, are valid, implementing them effectively in an online environment is difficult. 

Most people don’t have the time, energy, or resources to build effective authentic assignments. If it’s so incredible, why don’t we see more of it?

In the transition to online, technology is the answer to enhance pedagogy and giving students more meaningful learning experiences. Creating valid exercises for students is a science, and it takes plenty of time to go about it the right way.

As instructors, you can’t and shouldn’t do it all. But you do need the right tools for the job. And we have the perfect solution for you. 

As the educational landscape continues to shift online, adding the environment is a whole new level of complexity. But we’re convinced the shift is here to stay. 

Technology streamlines the science of learning, and authentic assessment is the key ingredient baked into the process. 

What if there was an easy way to evaluate students in a real-world context?
What if you could evaluate students on their real-world responses in an email environment?

Now, there is. 

Simulations are the future of learning. They provide students with the opportunity to practice real-world scenarios (in a safe environment) and measure application within moments of submitting an experience. Immediate feedback empowers students to grow throughout the immersive learning journey. 

Capsim combines many of the types of authentic assessment in one platform. CapsimInbox encourages opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback to refine performances and products.

The platform also helps educators create their own authentic assessments personalized by their knowledge and expertise. Today more than ever, we’re looking to improve student learning, from both the educator and student perspectives. 

But, there’s great news. There are now tools and solutions to enhance the online learning experience.

Let’s take a look at how the CapsimInbox Authoring Platform stacks up against the qualities of an authentic assessment and helps educators easily create their own.

The Purpose of Authentic Assessment

Authentic Assessment asks students to “do” the subject. Capsim replicates the context in which adults are put to the test in the real-world. Individuals learn more than skills they can apply in future workplaces. 

An Adobe 2019 Email Usage study revealed respondents spend 352 minutes, or five hours and 52 minutes a day, sifting through work and personal emails. 

Email communication integrates numerous aspects of everyday work and personal life, and will continue to do so in the future.

Authentic Assessment asks students to "do" the subject. So does email!

Many users can’t even get to the bottom of their inboxes. But in Capsim simulations, learners tackle not only an influx of real-world work scenarios, but the added challenge of getting through them all. 

In CapsimInbox, learners are immersed in a role at a fictitious company and choose what they believe are the best responses to various real-world situations in a real-world environment. The authenticity creates a relevant and practical learning experience that parallels today’s workplace environment. Responses indicate proficiency levels on the skills being measured, such as communicating, prioritizing, critical-thinking, and problem-solving.

Replicating the Context in which Adults are “Tested” in the Workplace

The situations learners face and the decisions they make can be adapted into different vehicles, like email. Inboxes are the perfect vehicle for authentic assessments as it’s a crucial, everyday component of real life. 

Authentic Assessment asks students to “do” the subject. CapsimInbox is a simulated email experience that measures key career skills with every reply. It’s the easy and experiential way to engage and develop today’s learners.

Opportunities to Rehearse, Practice, Consult Resources, and Garner Feedback

Once participants complete the CapsimInbox simulation experience, they immediately receive a report containing actionable and objective feedback based on their performance:

A sample report of CapsimInbox demonstrates why educators should use authentic assessments

Getting Started with CapsimInbox

If you’re looking to transform the learning experience, there are two ways to get started with CapsimInbox.

Choose an existing version, such as Ethical Decision-making, General Management, Crisis Management (we have 15+ versions and counting)

Build a version: we recently pre-released a free, user-friendly builder to help educators personalize their teaching experience. 

We look forward to building more engaging learning experiences with you.

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