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Planning Authentic Assessments during COVID-19

Mon Apr 13, 2020 at 07:30 AM

COVID-19 updates and uncertainty have a way of disrupting our focus, including our students. Rather than struggling to divide attention between COVID and our courses, we should combine the two, directing that COVID attention in a productive direction. As you plan for Summer online teaching, consider creating authentic assignments that directly connect your course’s learning outcomes to COVID-19. Authentic assignments  provide rich, meaningful and relevant opportunities in any discipline. OU Libraries also offers an avenue for the OU community to archive and collect artifacts related to life during COVID-19, a rich opportunity for a course activity.

About Authentic Assessments

Authentic assessments (also called “alternative or performance assessments) are relevant, meaningful, practical assignments that connect “real-life” situations to the course content (Wiggins, 1998). Demonstrations, debates, field work, simulations, and other forms of problem-solving are often used authentic activities. Like any activity, these assessments are aligned with learning outcomes of course. 

How are authentic assignments different then teachable moments?

Teachable moments are unplanned opportunities that arise due to a situation in which the instructors turns the experience into a learning opportunity. Authentic assignments are planned experiences incorporating “real life” situations into the assessments.

How to Plan Authentic Assessments

  1. Create authentic assignments that align your course learning outcomes with COVID-19 topics, issues and themes. Be creative, interesting, and relevant.
  2. Develop rubrics or marking schemes for your authentic assignment.
  3. Introduce and discuss with your students how COVID-19 relates to the course. 
  4. Provide current resources and references on COVID-19 for your students to use in their assignments.
  5. Plan for additional grading time. Using the rubric will help make your marking more efficient and effective but will require more time than giving a more traditional assessment.

Examples of Authentic Assessments relating to COVID-19 by Discipline

  • Math: Have students predict the spread of the virus based on current trends and statistics 
  • History: Compare previous pandemics to this one 
  • Biology: Analyze and compare the Coronavirus with influenza or other illnesses
  • Chemistry: Explore and analyze research being done on vaccinations and treatments for COVID-19
  • Communication and Journalism: Analyze different news coverage of the illness
  • Psychology: Have students interview others (virtually) about their stress and coping mechanisms
  • Business: Analyze the economic impact of COVID-19 and potential next steps to economic recovery
  • Nursing: Develop strategies to support sick patients and their families when they cannot be together due to COVID-19
  • Nursing: Analyze the threat to COVID-19 spread when limited personal protective equipment and how to address and reduce the threat
  • Public Health: Analyze CDC updates and predictions
  • Social Work: Develop strategies and interventions to help reduce domestic abuse due to stress and “stay home orders” during COVID-19
  • Engineering: Analyze and improve the process of industries shifting to medical equipment production (e.g. automotive companies building ventilators)

For additional ideas, see these Transforming COVID-19 into Learning Activities  (developed by Nanda Dimitrov Centre for Educational Excellence at Simon Fraser University).

Turning to COVID-19 events as a source of authentic assessment may not only improve learning outcomes for students, but may boost your motivation as you teaching during this difficult and uncertain time. 

Projects from OU

References and Resources

Wiggins, G. (1998). Ensuring authentic performance. Chapter 2 in Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 21 – 42.

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About the Authors

Judy Ableser is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University. Edited and designed by Christina Moore, who works with Judy at CETL. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NCView all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips. Follow these and more on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.