Authenticity in assessment, (re-)defined and explained

For a while I’ve been banging the drum of the importance of definitions and I was reminded of its importance at the weekend as I took part in the #GAFESummit at CA and the whole-school PD session on Learning Principles. We have so much language to use in the educational context that it can get confusing as terms get popular and overlap. Sometimes you get half-way through a conversation with someone (usually from another context) before realising that you’re both using the same word in different ways.

We need to define – and carefully use – terms on an institutional (or wider) level.

What is inquiry?

What does authentic really mean? How is it different to ‘real-world’ or ‘hands-on’?

What do we really mean when we say ‘meaningful’ or ‘engagement’?

Do we understand these terms in the context of someone else’s discipline?


Read on as Grant Wiggins defines ‘authentic’ in the way that we should all understand it. It is important.

Granted, and…

What is “authentic assessment”?

Almost 25 years ago, I wrote a widely-read and discussed paper that was entitled: “A True Test: Toward More Authentic and Equitable Assessment” that was in the Phi Delta Kappan. Download it here: Wiggins.atruetest.kappan89 I believe the phrase was my coining, made when I worked with Ted Sizer at the Coalition of Essential Schools, as a way of describing “true” tests as opposed to merely academic and unrealistic school tests. I first used the phrase in print in an article for Educational Leadership entitled “Teaching to the (Authentic) Test” in the April 1989 issue. (My colleague from the Advisory Board of the Coalition of Essential Schools, Fred Newmann, was the first to use the phrase in a book, a pamphlet for NASSP in 1988 entitled Beyond standardized testing: Assessing authentic academic achievement in secondary schools. His work in the Chicago public schools provides significant findings…

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2 responses to “Authenticity in assessment, (re-)defined and explained”

  1. A pragmatic approach to inquiry: my article in IS magazine | i-Biology | Reflections Avatar

    […] In the article “(re)defining” refers to clarifying the meaning of the term inquiry, so that we can give access to high-quality inquiry learning to students through the whole continuum. It builds on anecdotal experiences in discussions that ‘inquiry’ has been framed from one end as a weak, free-for-all alternative to teaching and critical reasoning. This is a misinterpretation, and the article advocates for a reminder of what inquiry is and a working definition of inquiry as “critical reflective thought“ (after Elkjaer & Dewey) that is future-oriented, but based on strong foundation of effectively-taught skills and knowledge (after Vygotsky, Hattie…). From the other end, it is important to understand that inquiry looks and feels very different as disciplinary studies become deeper and more authentic. […]

  2. Inquiry vs Enquiry | Ripples & Reflections Avatar

    […] I learning authentically in the discipline (e.g. “as a scientist”) or about the topic (e.g “about science”)? [Thinking […]

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