Assessing ELLs Part 4: Using Authentic Assessment

These next few posts will discuss assessing ELLs: the purpose of assessment, challenges of assessment, and working language/learning objectives into assessments.


Welcome back to my mini-series on assessing ELLs! You can view post one here. You can view post two here. You can view post three here. This fourth post focuses on using authentic assessment in the ELL classroom. Let’s begin!

What is authentic assessment?

A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills — Jon Mueller

“…Engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field.” — Grant Wiggins — (Wiggins, 1993, p. 229).

“Performance assessments call upon the examinee to demonstrate specific skills and competencies, that is, to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered.” — Richard J. Stiggins — (Stiggins, 1987, p. 34).

(*Retrieved from on 07/29/2016)

Basically, authentic assessment is a form of assessment that requires the students to apply practical uses of their skills and abilities in situations that mirror real-life.

Authentic assessment uses multiple forms that reflect student learning, achievement, motivations, and attitudes on instructionally relevant classroom education.

How does authentic assessment differ from traditional assessment?

“Traditional” assessments are generally paper-and-pencil type of tests. They could be multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, or short answer/essay. Traditional assessment mostly relies on rote memorization of answers, and discussing theories involved in learning.

“Authentic” assessment, in contrast, provides opportunities for students to put the theory into practice. It complements traditional assessment methods. Students will have to perform a task to demonstrate understanding of knowledge and language mastery.

What are some examples of authentic assessment?

Authentic assessment can take the form of experiments, demonstrations, interviews, portfolios, projects, and self or peer evaluations.

One form I used in the past was a project. In my science lesson, we were studying light and refraction. I gave my students the task of doing a science project on light refraction and creating a poster board presentation. They had to present their project in front of the class when they were finished.

Why use authentic assessment?

Authentic assessment reflects classroom practices, requires students to use higher-level thinking skills, and practical applications of language acquired. It also provides a more diverse picture of the students’ abilities, and allows them to demonstrate mastery of content knowledge – not just English language limitations.


Google images

Resource: The Authentic Assessment Toolbox

This site has a lot of useful information on authentic assessment techniques and excellent examples. Check it out here!

I hope this post was helpful for you!

Thank you!

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Filed under Assessment, EFL, ELL, English, ESL, Second Language, Teaching

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