Definition & Types of Authentic Assessment

Definition & Types of Authentic Assessment

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the traditional methods of assessing students’ knowledge and skills have been transforming. As educators strive to provide meaningful and relevant learning experiences, authentic assessment has gained prominence.

In this article, we will delve into the definition of authentic assessment, explore the differences between traditional and alternative assessment methods, delve into various types of alternative assessment, and provide practical examples of how authentic assessment can be implemented in the classroom.

Whether you are an educator looking to revamp your assessment strategies or a student eager to understand these innovative approaches better, this article aims to shed light on the exciting world of authentic assessment.

Definition of Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment is introduced by William and Thompson (2008) as a newer paradigm as a shift from the forms of traditional assessment. It is often referred to as performance assessment or alternative assessment. Authentic means an alternative to standard tests and exams. It evaluates what the student has learned, going beyond acquired knowledge to focus on what the student has learned by looking at the application of this knowledge (Indiana University, n.d.).

These assessment forms allow you to see what students can and cannot do versus what they do and do not know. They tend to evaluate applied proficiency rather than measuring knowledge (Brigham Young University, n.d.), allowing for problem-solving and reflection rather than merely providing facts as answers to specific questions (Indiana University, n.d.).

The general features of alternative assessment include requiring students to perform, create, and produce something (Herman et al., 1992), using real-world contexts or simulations, focusing on processes as well as products (Aschbacher, 1991), and providing information about both the strengths and the weaknesses of students (Huerta-Macias, 1995).

Characteristics of Authentics Assessments

Brown & Hudson (1998, p. 654–655) summarize twelve characteristics of authentics assessments as follows:

  1. Require students to perform, create, produce, or do something;
  2. Use real-world contexts or stimulations;
  3. Are nonintrusive in that they extend the day-to-day classroom activities;
  4. Allow students to be assessed on what they normally do in class every day;
  5. Use tasks that represent meaningful instructional activities;
  6. Focus on processes as well as products;
  7. Tap into higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills.
  8. Provide information about both the strengths and weaknesses of students;
  9. Are multi-culturally sensitive when properly administered;
  10. Ensure that people, not machines, do the scoring using human judgment;
  11. Encourage open disclosure of standards and rating criteria;
  12. Call upon teachers to perform new instructional and assessment roles.

Alternative assessments also pointed to performance tests being employed to decide what students can and cannot do, contrary to what they do or do not know. However, an alternative assessment measures applied proficiency more than measure knowledge; it provides direct evidence of the application of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. It has been described variously in the literature and labelled as the outcome of the 20th century.

Differences between Traditional and Alternative Assessment

The table below provide a clear and concise comparison between authentic and traditional assessment methods. This table highlights the distinct characteristics of each approach, allowing educators and stakeholders to easily discern how these assessment methods vary in their design, purpose, and application.

Authentic assessmentTraditional assessment
Perform a taskSelect a response
Real-life experience/scenarioContrived by the instructor
Focuses on inquiry (higher-level Bloom’s)Focuses on bits of information (lower-level Bloom’s)
Assumes knowledge has multiple meaningAssumes knowledge has a single meaning
Treats learning as active (student-structured)Believes learning is passive (teacher-structured)
Direct evidence of learningIndirect evidence of learning

Types of Alternative Assessment

Brawley (2009) stated that Authentic assessment has various types: portfolios, projects, diaries, etc. The phrase alternative assessment points to “almost any assessment type other than the test of standardization”.


  • Aschbacher, P. R. (1991). Performance assessment: State activity, interest, and concerns. Applied measurement in education4(4), 275-288.
  • Brawley, N., & Education, E. C. (2009). Authentic assessment vs. traditional assessment: a comparative study. Bachelor of Science Honors, Coastal Carolina University.
  • Brigham Young University. (2018). Using Alternative Assessments. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
  • Brigham Young University. (n.d). Using Alternative Assessments. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
  • Brown, J. D., & Hudson, T. (1998). The alternatives in language assessment. TESOL Quarterly32(4), 653–675.
  • Herman, J. L. (1992). A practical guide to alternative assessment. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1250 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
  • Huerta-Macıas, A. (1995). Alternative assessment: Responses to commonly asked questionsTESOL Journal, 5, 8-11
  • Indiana University Bloomington. (2018b). Authentic Assessment. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
  • Linn, Robert L and Miller, M. David. 2005. Measurement and Assessment in Teaching. The University of Michigan.
  • Queen’s University. (n.d.). Assessment Strategies – Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Retrieved from
Tenry Colle
Tenry Colle

Hi! My name is A. Tenry Lawangen Aspat Colle. I am a motivated and resourceful English educator. In addition, as the owner of @rymari.translation17 has shaped me to be a punctual and dependable translator of Indonesian to English and vice versa.

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