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Authentic conditions for authentic assessment: Aligning task and assessment

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Despite major discussion and consideration of authentic assessment through the 1990s, little progress appears to have been made towards its widespread adoption in higher education. Universities often serve to limit the use of authentic approaches in learning tasks and assessment, through restrictive policies. In this paper, we briefly review the literature and summarise the characteristic elements of authentic assessment, and argue that task, assessment and university policies must be aligned for truly effective use of authentic assessment to occur in higher education. Authentic assessment in higher education: A major issue If exploring alternative approaches to assessment was 'one of the major issues of the decade' in the 1990s (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1993), it could be argued that higher education teachers in the current decade are scarcely more informed when it comes to the practical implementation and use of alternative, authentic assessment methods. Innovative and appealing ideas about a range of alternative assessment methods have been espoused over the last decade, perhaps in response to the challenges and opportunities offered by new technologies, in particular, online learning (Reeves, 2000). Because online courses are not constrained by the requirement for fixed and regular timetabled classes, they allow teachers to use more complex and sustained, product-based assessments. As is often the case with technology-based learning (Mioduser, Nachmias, Oren, & Lahav, 1999), just as these doors were opening, further developments were reducing opportunities, with the widespread adoption of course management systems. Such systems, most noticeably in their early years, enticed teachers to design their courses in weekly segments with regular assessments that were often easily marked on a computer, such as multiple choice tests. While innovative teachers have always been capable of finding ways around these limitations, the overall movement to more authentic forms of assessment has clearly been compromised, or at least delayed.
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