Laurillard on authentic assessment

In her widely acclaimed book Rethinking University Teaching (now in 2nd edition), Diana Laurillard has arguably provided the most persuasive theoretical case to date on how the various learning technologies might be effectively employed in the tertiary education sector. This is what she has to say about assessment:

‘There is an ongoing debate about whether we should assess what students know, or what they can do. The traditional modes of assessment of knowledge are seen as inadequate because they fail to assess students’ capability in the authentic activities of their discipline. The authentic assessment movement would instead reflect the complex performances that are central to a field of study; e.g. writing a position paper on an environmental issue, investigating a mathematical concept. The debate continues, questioning the validity of the claim that authentic assessment is a true measure of students’ capacity to generalise their learning to new situations. Given that students orient their study towards their perception of the assessment, the solution offered is to find more challenging forms of assessment. They must link to the learning aims and reveal what students have learned at a general level, rather than simply assess the technicalities, which leads to a more instrumental form of learning.’

– Diana Laurillard, Rethinking University Teaching (2002, p. 204).